campaigns Rule: Cite The Basis Rule: Cover The Topic Rule: False Choice Rule: Focus Issues Not Politics Rule: Mischaracterization Rule: Mountain Out of Molehill Rule: Sin of Omission

Election 2020 (& General) Pet Peeves

The third Democratic debate is coming up, so it’s a good time to weigh in on some of my long-standing campaign and political news coverage pet peeves, many of which have been driving me crazy for years.  (Apologies for not precisely citing the basis for each one–calling myself out, shame on me!)

“When you’re ‘explaining’, you’re losing.”
This refers to politicians who are correcting or clarifying a position or statement of theirs, usually after it has come under attack from an opponent, or the press.  

News Hour, July 8, 2019 – Politics Monday (video)

Amy Walter (News Hour) invoked it in July when assessing Joe Biden’s explanation of his own comments about working with segregationists to get bills passed, and his ensuing clash with Kamala Harris over busing policy in the first Democratic debate.  Walter referred to the phrase as a “classic line in politics”.  It’s definitely not the first time I’ve heard it.  Certainly, excessive ‘splainin’ by a candidate can take on a pleading quality and grow old quickly–a case of ‘methinks thou dost protest too much’–especially if the explanation is unconvincing.  But the critique can come too quickly or, as in this case, after the media itself has been hammering on the issue, forcing more response by ‘keeping it alive in the news cycle’ which is unfair.  In fierce elections, where attacks are the weapon of choice and the media has a habit of capitalizing on them, how is a candidate supposed to respond? By letting the mischaracterization or inaccuracy go unchallenged?  Methinks not.  Media: Focus on clarifying the issue involved, and let us decide who’s right.  I’m calling this a Mountain Out of a Molehill.  (For more on Kamala & Joe, see my [intlink id=”2248″ type=”post”]previous blog[/intlink].)

“No overarching message.”
I last heard this one from David Brooks (also News Hour).  It is yet another overworked trope of the punditry and concerns a candidate’s lack of concision or ‘branding’ in their messaging on what they stand for.  As above, it is primarily about campaign style, so does not, technically, break the Focus on Issues, Not Politics Rule since it is okay to comment on politics.  But given the media’s predominant ‘cover-the-horse-race’ DNA, I think we’re justified in at least paring down some of the (what seems like incessant) drivel.  Sure, messaging is important, but, for the amount of play this gets, not at the expense of content.  We are long past the point of needing to reduce the many massive, and massively complex, issues we face, to pithy soundbites.  Let’s trade that for a deeper examination of things that really matter.  That is the only way we will be able to shape policy to improve our lives.  I’m calling this out as an OverSimplification and Mountain Out of Molehill.

“message hardened” & “window closed”
Both of these were used in reference to the Special Prosecutor Investigation on Russian interference in the 2016 election, and possible Trump connections to it.  The first phrase was offered as the reason for concluding that there is no recourse to Attorney General William Barr’s pronouncement that Robert Mueller “found no wrongdoing on the part of Trump” in his (Mueller’s) report on the investigation, despite substantial evidence (in the report) to the contrary and multiple, available paths for pursuing that evidence, because Barr’s “message had hardened [in the public’s mind]” and, so, continuing would not be politically viable.  That assessment was repeated by many news outlets as laid out in Margaret Sullivan’s Washington Post piece, which critiqued it. 

The second phrase was used by Bill Maher on his political satire show, Real Time.  Maher, though not a journalist, echoed the oft-used sentiment by others when he said: ~“Mueller failed to be decisive, so the window closed [on getting the true findings of the report].”

This particular type of False Choice really sticks in my craw because it clearly prioritizes a veneer of ‘political viability’ of the issue (unsupportive polls) over its’ underlying substance and importance–in this case, getting to the bottom of potential serious wrongdoing via real, existing legal paths.  The result?  A press short-circuiting the Democratic process, de facto anointing itself as the ultimate arbiter of the decision, rather than the public!

This continues the insidious trend of slowly, incrementally stripping the electorate of their power, ‘dumbing them down’, by sending a message that there is nothing they can do, when, in fact, there is (several congressional & other investigations continue).  It is particularly confounding coming from a press and punditry that relentlessly exposes Trump’s (and others’) lies, digging the public out from under them, only to heap misleading notions like these back on.  Arrgh–have we gone mad?  Call Outs: False Choice (decide quickly, or opportunity is gone) and Focus on Issues, Not Politics.

Campaign strategy: Attack Trump or focus on issues?
This question, posed by The New York Times on 2020 Democratic campaign strategy, is yet another familiar False Choice the press routinely offers up in their parlor game of ‘horse race’ politics. Suggesting the candidates must choose one strategy or the other, but not both, is an OverSimplification.  To be fair, the article uses the question as a ‘jumping off point’ to examine Trump’s divisive racial rhetoric, and how (or whether) it plays in primary vs. general election Democratic strategies, plus, it is answered by strategists and candidates who say: ‘do both’.  (Yea!)  Certainly, Trump’s rhetoric, its affect and importance, are well understood at this point and merit covering. But, again, not at the expense of issues, which continue to get short shrift in our ever increasingly complex world.  I’m just really tired of this emphasis, but we’re going to be seeing a lot more of it, I’m afraid.  Call Outs: False Choice, OverSimplification and Focus on Issues, Not Politics.

Exclusive MSNBC coverage of SC Democratic Convention
The South Carolina Democratic Party granted exclusive rights for video coverage of their June convention to MSNBC over the protestations of 5 other major networks, according to the AP.  The reason given: the candidates would get equal time since their full speeches would be aired.  More than 150 journalists were also credentialed, but–whoa! Is this legal?  It doesn’t seem like it should be.  Call Outs: MSNBC, in the name of journalistic integrity and fairness, you should have refused the offer of exclusive rights and allowed the other networks to Cover the Topic of the SC Democratic convention, along with yourself.


Rule: Focus Issues Not Politics

Craven Media: We Have Met The Enemy And He Is Us

There is a saying in the tech industry: garbage in, garbage out. It refers to computers and the fact that, because they cannot differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ input, simply process everything and produce commensurate results. In its description of the phrase, Wikipedia adds: “The principle applies to other fields as well.”

Yes… like our political system, perhaps?

Historically, the media has long favored covering ‘the horse race’ over actual issues in elections. It has been particularly pronounced this year, making Focus On Issues, Not Politics the biggest Rule break of the political season, by far.

On top of that, the disingenuousness of the media in their own acknowledgement of this failing—feigning shame with their mea culpas, while making excuses to continue doing the same thing—nominal cover in the past, is on especially high display this year.

Consider this Charlie Rose interview on the presidential election with Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, journalists and co-hosts of MSNBC’s With All Due Respect.

(no ad)

Craven Media: garbage in, garbage out

About 13 minutes in, Mark Halperin broaches the subject: (paraphrasing) ~”On our show, we asked the Trump campaign regularly: ‘We want to to do a segment on healthcare, or on tax cuts, or ISIS, could you give us an expert?’ They won’t give us anyone, and the Clinton campaign often doesn’t either. That problem from the candidates notwithstanding, the press has failed, we have everyday followed the drama that Trump and, to some extent, Clinton creates.”

Charlie Rose: ~”Why don’t you take, and we should do this too, take 10 minutes [to cover issues]?”

Mark Halperin: ~“We should, … it’s hard to do at the end [of a campaign]. … The problem is, he has almost no policies, and she has few specifics [in hers]. … It’s not an excuse, and I wish I could turn the clock back six months and do ten minutes on policy a show.”

John Heilemann adds: “Or even just ten minutes a week.”

So, you couldn’t cover issues for the past year because the candidates wouldn’t cooperate, and now it’s too late.


Nineteen minutes in, picking up on Halperin’s comment on why Trump’s 42 million followers are unconcerned about his temperament, Heilemann offers: ~“Many [of them], for 25 or 30 years, watched establishment politicians come in, promise to change things, and didn’t, and their life prospects got worse. … The core of Trump supporters are fed up with establishment politicians, the financial establishment and the media establishment, and say: ‘I’m willing to roll the dice on this guy. … He’ll throw a stick of dynamite in there.’ ”

Hmm. Candidates won’t supply experts, so the media can’t cover issues. Trump supporters are fed up with the establishment (media & other), so they want to blow it all up.

I think I see the problem, Messrs. H: We have met the enemy, and he is you!

Mr. Halperin, if you report on the issues, the public will demand policy solutions from the candidates, forcing them to supply experts and position details to you …and us!

Mr. Heilemann, people have disdain for the media establishment because you don’t report facts or cover things that actually affect them.


In short, Messrs. H: The more informed the public is, the more levers of knowledge they have to pull. And the more they pull those levers, the more responsive the candidates, and the less need for dynamite.

I identify as Democrat on this website, but this blog is about exhorting the media to report facts and cover issues without regard to ideology—indeed, do facts/issues even cohere to ideology?—so I call ‘em as I see ‘em, political affilation, notwithstanding. But Halperin and Heilemann, whose show is on Democratic leaning MSNBC, are far from the only ones failing here. The problem is pervasive in the extreme. This AP article cites 2 studies that show how little substance was covered in this election—1 of them says it’s the lowest amount in almost 3 decades.

Certainly Trump’s inciting rhetoric and (alleged) predatory behavior, and Hillary’s emails and political dualities merit coverage, but not to the exclusion of issues. With Heilemann’s acknowledgement of frustration with the media establishment, and Halperin’s defense of it’s practices (however sheepish), can we expect this to change? It certainly doesn’t look that way. This problem has been around forever and will not go away until we demand it, that is the reality. And if we don’t demand it, who then is really the ‘us’ of ‘the enemy’?

ATD Rule break: Focus On Issues, Not Politics!

economy minimum wage Rule: Ask The Question Rule: Cite The Basis Rule: Correct Inaccuracies Rule: False Argument Rule: Focus Issues Not Politics Rule: Out of Context Rule: Sin of Omission

Minimum Wage Increase & Jobs

Over the past year, debate over raising the minimum wage has converged on 3 points:

    o its effect on employment  (particularly, on teens)
    o its effect on consumer prices
    o whether the Earned Income Credit (EIC) is a better solution for the poor

The non-partisan CBO’s February 2014 report, which analyzes the impact of raising the MW to $10.10 by 2016, paints a clear picture on the first point- employment, or jobs lost.

The CBO report states:

    . 16.5 million people (10% of total employment) will get a raise*
    . revenue will increase by $31 billion
    . 19% of the 16.5M, are from families below the poverty line
    . 2M of the 16.5M, are teens
    . 500,000 jobs could be lost** (0.3% total employment), the majority by teens

So… 10% with higher wages vs. 0.3% with lost jobs.

Not intending to be insensitive on the jobs number, but that is a difference of 33X of people who will gain vs. lose if the MW is raised.  Focussing on lost jobs without representing the larger number with pay gains, constitutes the biggest running Rule break on this issue- a giant Sin of Omission.

It is true that, in addition to the negative of lost jobs, the overall economic impact of raising the MW is murky.  The CBO says: the deficit will decrease in the short term (good), while the long term is unclear; and factoring in the negative effects of lost jobs, lower business profit, and higher prices, reduces the $31B economic infusion to $2B.  But heavily emphasizing the negative side, to the detriment of the positive (as well as any subtleties coloring either), obscures the full impact of raising the MW on the economy and peoples lives.

Other Rule breaks:

On Feb 18, Eamon Javers & Steve Liesman of CNBC, covered the just released CBO report, and though both, technically, represented the main points correctly, they placed emphasis on jobs lost. Mr. Javers glossed over the highly qualitative nuances of the number (see ** note below), and though Liesman didn’t, he characterized it as the second CBO “slap in the face” on jobs (the first being ACA‘s labor disincentive).  In addition, they each, seperately, broke the Focus on Issues, Not Politics Rule by predicting political controversy over the number.

(No ads;  if no video below, click here, short ad)

True, it was offered as a mere observation by both, but is there anyone left out there who needs reminding of how deadlocked our political process is?  Will giving more play to a self-serving strategy for inaction in Washington benefit us?  Or will we benefit by having as much light as possible shed on solutions to problems that are sinking our country- in this case, the continued destruction and decimation of the middle & lower classes?  This Rule is an important one! Stick to the facts you guys. I looked you both up online- you’re journalists, it’s your job.

*          *          *          *          *          *

On CNBC, March 6, after guest Ron Unz made a compelling case for raising the MW, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera insisted that “the vast % of people on minimum wage are teenagers”.  Kelly Evans should have Corrected that Inaccuracy, coming a full 2 weeks after the report release (she left it to Mr. Unz to do that). A 2009 EPI Report also pegged the % of teenage MW earners low- 20%.  It is hard to know why so many (all on CNBC) have made the claim about teens.  They should all be called on to Cite the Basis!  Even if Caruso-Cabrera intended to say ‘the vast % who will lose their jobs are teens’, a true statement, it would still be Out of Context and misleading since teens comprise only 12% of MWers, and 1.2% of total employment.

(No ads;  if no video below, click here, short ad)

Further, Ms. Evans didn’t Ask the Question:  Why shouldn’t pay increases go predominantly to adults given the chronic wage stagnation that has helped to hollow out the middle class since the 1980‘s?  The CBO says: “employers facing an excess of workers or job applicants tend to favor adults over teenagers”.

To be fair, Mr. Unz did not Cite the Basis for his claim that a higher MW would save $250B in social welfare program spending. A 5 year (2007–2011) Berkeley study of fast-food workers found the cost of public assistance for those families to be $7B a year. Given that and the fact that only 19% of MWers are below the poverty line, it would be nice to learn where that $250B figure comes from.

Finally, consensus on devolving MW decisions to states, though not cited in the CNBC segment, has support from a study described in this NYT article. The case is made for setting MW’s based on regional cost of living standards, citing a 25-30% difference between bigger cities and smaller, more rural ones.

*          *          *          *          *          *

In many news segments, advocates for the MW cited studies, such as the 1990’s neighboring towns study referenced in these Economist & NYT articles and a University of Chicago study mentioned on Charlie Rose (22 min. in), that showed job losses were minimal.  Critics, on the other hand almost never cited specific data to bolster their case, and resorted over and over again to tired, economic supply & demand theory, like guest Lindsey Piegza on CNBC.

(No ads;  if no video below, click here, short ad)

This CNBC seg, the NYT article and many others do refer to ‘mixed studies’. But by detailing one side of the argument while only passively acknowledging the other, we, the public, are implicitly asked to ‘trust the press’s judgement’ and assume the other side is insignificant.

On CNBC though, Kelly Evans is a bit more definitive, saying: “in studies that do show harm [to jobs], the harm doesn’t seem to be massive”.  To that, Ms. Piegza concedes, but then claims that studies are “tempermental, based on the assumptions” and, referring to the Feds recent Beige Book, adds ~“Calif. business owners are very concerned about the MW hike and having to lay workers off”.  Characterizations & anecdotal data like “mixed studies”, and ‘concerned business owners’, are somewhat informative (I don’t doubt the anguish of employers), but these news outlets really need to Cite the Basis for claims of big job losses.  Failure to do so perpetuates a False Argument if the data is not there (CNBC’s case?), or masks a biased press if it is (Sin of Omission by NYT?).  In any case, laying the data out, pro & con, lays the issue to rest.

Other examples of this pattern include a NYT, Great Divide series piece by Arindrajit Dube (an excellent, comprehensive article on MW), who cites his own collaborative study using 2 decades of data that showed ~”no detectable impact on employment”. Another by Gregory Mankiw, claims ~”many studies suggest a higher MW costs jobs” without citing the studies. Argh!

The one concrete exception came from David Neumark on the Feb. 19 News Hour, who cited his own 2007 survey showing negative impact on jobs.  He did not quote statistics from his study (& I did not read it), but he defended it as “empirical” when Thea Lee implicitly Mischaracterized it as “theoretical”, and not “real world”.  Even if the bulk of studies show raising the MW has minimal negative impact on jobs, it is still mandatory for them to be fairly represented & characterized. Cutting corners on some data, compromises the integrity of all.  It, further, erodes trust and promotes apathy, a scourge of our time.

*          *          *          *          *          *

The most overwhelming, real life data supporting a MW increase was reported by the San Jose Mercury News on San Jose, CA’s own year-old, $8 to $10, wage hike.  The numbers tell the story:

    . unemployment was reduced to 5.8% (from 7.6%) ***
    . 40,000 MW workers spent $100 million in local economy
    . 4,000 new MW jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry were created
    . average weekly hours remained stable at 36.5 (vs. 36.9 in 2012)
    . overall business growth was 3%
    . retail business growth rose to 19% (from 15% in 2012)
    . 84,000 new businesses were registered (vs. 75,000 in 2012)

San Jose is in the heart of Silicon Valley, which rebounded from the recession more quickly than many other parts of the country.  Such striking economic data more than piques my curiosity on what other factors contribute to this kind of success.


* The CBO assumed a threshold wage of $11.50 for additional workers who would also be affected by a $10.10 MW increase in order to maintain employee pay differential.

** The margin of error for jobs lost is +-0.5M, giving a range:  negligible to 1M, with a “2/3’s chance” assigned to those estimates.

*** At end of 2013, unemployment rates in CA were: Statewide- 8.3%, East Bay- 6.5%, Santa Clara County- 6%, San Francisco-San Mateo-Marin- 4.8%

The second & third MW issues- the EIC & consumer prices- are continued in Part 2.

economy Rule: Ask The Question Rule: False Argument Rule: Focus Issues Not Politics Rule: Mischaracterization Rule: Out of Context

Budget & Debt Limit Stalemate- The Media As Enabler?

“Insanity is repeating the same mistake over and over, and expecting a different result.” That saying is often used in reference to politics, but maybe in the current political climate, the converse is true.  Maybe Republicans are applying a proven strategy- repeating an untruth over and over- and, via a feckless press, expecting, …and getting, the same result: appearing to be in the right on ‘willingness to negotiate’, thereby prolonging the debate on debt reduction, their goal. In other words, ‘insanity’, as in, ‘crazy like a fox’.

(30 second ad, 2 minute video; if no video below, click here.)

Tuesday, on CNBC’s Closing Bell , Maria Bartiromo, in an interview with Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY), said: “The idea that the President continues to reiterate ‘I will not negotiate’, isn’t it the responsibility of the President to negotiate? At what point does it look like the obstacle to progress is the President, rather than congress?”

‘The President won’t negotiate’: that is the familiar refrain from the Republicans as channeled through the media these past days. The answer to the question of it being his responsibility to negotiate is, yes, of course it is. The point is, he has done that, as well as be specific and clear on his position, which is also his responsibility, as it is the other side’s.

Ms. Bartiromo’s first Rule break was in quoting the President Out of Context. His true position is: ‘I will not negotiate under threat of government shut down.’ Her second mistake relates to the first. By posing the question of the Presidents responsibility to negotiate as she did, she implies he is shirking that responsibility which he is not. He is simply holding firm on his position as the Republicans are on theirs; thus, she breaks the Mischaracterization Rule. In this, she also forgoes the opportunity to recap and educate the public on the true state of talks, and to keep the focus on the more important issues- the budget agreement and debt limit. Isn’t that the responsibility of the media? This breaks the Focus on Issues, Not Politics Rule.

As for the second Question, Ms. Bartiromo Asked the wrong one. Instead of: “At what point does it look like the obstacle … is the President?”, she should have Asked: “At what point is the obstacle the President, and at what point is it Congress?”

Failure to check this type of routine downfall in the media allows agenda seeking partisans to continually game the system, repeating the cycle over and over, as it has across too many news programs, for too many days.

Using opposing parties in debate format, as in this case, can, despite badly worded questions, still bring clarity if those parties know the facts, and present them honestly. In the case of Rep. Yarmuth, assuming he was factually correct, we got some: “The President’s had about 20 conversations with the Republican leadership in the House about the budget since March. The Republicans in the Senate have consistently blocked the conference there, Speaker Boehner has refused to appoint conferees on budget from the House side. There’s been every opportunity to have negotiations on budget levels for the last 6 months, and Republicans have refused to do that.”

Tuesday night on Charlie Rose, when asked if “there was anything new [in the Presidents speech]?”, Chuck Todd (NBC News) said: “The President will support anything Boehner sends him that is ‘clean’, without any of those extraneous, politically charged amendments on both a spending bill and a debt limit, and he will take it for any length of time, so 6 weeks, 8 weeks… The President essentially agreed that, in that period, they’d be locked in some form of negotiation. … Boehner took that offer and called agreeing to that, ‘unconditional surrender’.”

Also on that show, Al Hunt (Bloomberg News) said the effective positions of the two sides have not changed in two years- Republicans want entitlement change, Democrats say no.

So it would appear that both sides have been equally ‘negotiating’, or– more accurately, equally maintaining their respective positions– and for some time. Such prolonged back and forth highlights the need for recaps. Recapping would cut through the dissembling and make crystal clear the absence of progress and the amount of time that’s been wasted ‘reporting’ on it in an endless loop of recriminations and False Arguments. Recapping clarifies things: it leaves the Emperor with no clothes, neutralizes strategies that ‘play the media’, and forces the Dialog to Advance.

And Advancing the Dialog, advances solutions.

This is a tool people, use it. There is simply too much work to do to waste this kind of time, over, and over, and over, and…..

economy Rule: Cite The Basis Rule: Contradiction Rule: False Argument Rule: False Choice Rule: False Comparison Rule: Focus Issues Not Politics

Paul Krugman & Joe Scarborough: Debt vs. Growth- A Question of Priority & Timing?

The current hot button debate over our two biggest fiscal problems- debt and growth and how to deal with them, has devolved into yet another needless stalemate in the media.  This time it has come in the form of False Argument, cast as a vitriolic and polarizing ‘either/or’ proposition, rather than a more fact and reason based- ‘both, but when’ one.  In other words, an argument that disregards the element of policy timing which, after months (actually, much sooner), has become clear is key in the discussion.

The Krugman-Scarborough debate began on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and was later excerpted, and continued on Charlie Rose.  It is not surprising that Mr. Rose, with his 50 minute format, can get to the nub and establish as minor differences between two people, what are otherwise often characterized as ‘explosive’ ones on shorter formats. Still, format brevity is not sufficient excuse to not zero in more quickly on the simple, obvious ‘difference’ here- that of the timing of policy- and to begin debate there.

The first 10 minutes of Mr. Rose’s show (including MJ excerpt) contains 3 Rule breakers and, though most are addressed as the show proceeds, those 10 minutes are representative of how this has played out on many others I’ve seen.

The first exchange has Mr. Krugman proclaiming that debt is not an immediate problem, which Mr. Scarborough counters, saying Medicaire and Medicaid are growing too fast.  To this, Krugman aquiesces, allowing for the need for cost containment, but cites the Affordable Care Act as having many pilot projects designed to be testbeds for just that.  Scarborough rejects that solution with: “you and I know that Washington DC is not capable of doing that on a micro level” citing “1993-94 and 2009-10” as examples. This breaks the Focus on Issues, Not Politics rule since it cuts off a politically legitimate and much needed debate (given Krugman disagrees with him) on health cost reduction via delivery efficiencies vs. benefit cuts.  In addition, though Scarborough gets credit for Citing the Basis with his 90‘s & 00‘s references, the False Argument rule is breached since those years seem to refer to healthcare proposals that failed to get passed into law, as opposed to programs that, once passed, failed due to bad administration (or some other reason)- two very different things.

Resuming discussion on Mr. Rose’s show, Scarborough observes: (paraphrasing: ~) “maybe Paul is more focussed on the short term & I’m more focussed on the long term” acknowledging the time frame issue, and seems to reject the either/or (debt vs. growth) premise that had heretofore shaped the debate, as a False Choice.  Progress!

Scarborough then asserts a bigger difference between them: ~“Paul thinks congress can’t do two things at once- grow the economy & focus on the long term.”, then quotes Mr. Krugman from the 90’s: ~”It is irresponsible for government to run deficits because of the aging baby boomers.” (ie. entitlements). Krugman, explaining himself: ~“It was irresponsible to be running deficits when the economy was at full employment, … we missed that window.”, continues with: ~”we should have paid down debt when economy was strong, … now economy is weak”, ~“for every federal $1 cut, GDP falls by $1.50, …will lead to higher unemployment”.  Scarborough responds: ~“The problem of aging boomers & exloding entitlements still exists.”, then issues a 2005 quote by Krugman on the danger of debt & asks Krugman if he’s been wrong for 15 years?  With his use of those quotes, the False Comparison rule is broken by implicitly equating the economic circumstances of the 90’s and 2005, with those of now, when they are clearly different.

As the debate proceeds, it is established that both agree on the importance of growth in the short term, Scarborough contrasting his emphasis on type of jobs programs, with Krugman’s- size. Thus, the false ‘debt vs. growth’ framing of the debate is rendered null, and the real difference clarified:

Scarborough:  Debt planning is needed now.
Krugman:  Any cuts now will hurt job growth.

The debate progresses, becoming more substantive and focussed, with both Citing the Basis of their claims to varying degrees of efficacy (one more than the other, in my opinion).  It is interesting to note that, throughout, the time frame in question (short vs. long) has centered on 10 years, yet when Scarborough is asked if he is concerned about the deficit in the short term, his answer is: ~“not for 3-5 years, but Medicare/Medicaid planning is needed right now”.

This flushes out subtle vagueries that have been lurking beneath the surface and now beg to be dealt with. First, while Scarborough already seems to have softened his position on the time issue with his statement above, by the ‘planning .. now’ part, does he mean congress should take it up, discuss it and maybe even pass legislation now, but not actually cut anything till later?  If so, as far as the notcut part, he is in more apparent agreement with Krugman on that too.  As far as the ‘congress taking it up now’ part, another anomoly arises. Since Scarborough concurs that focus on growth is also needed in the short term, and has called on congress to act and even admitted to Mr. Rose: ~”congress can’t do anything .. look at the sequester”, why did he goad Krugman for not thinking congress can do two things at once, when he apparently agrees with that?  Hmm, a Contradiction?

This was dense going, but my take is that something as complicated as economic policy absolutely requires getting into details, and failure to do so has a high cost. If watching the whole debate doesn’t make that clear (and I hope you do, as it is chock full of information), then at least view the first 10 minutes plus the disappointing backsliding Scarborough did on his own show the next day in [intlink id=”110″ type=”page” anchor=”VoW_Scar_v_Krug”]this Video of the Week[/intlink].  Progress made, only to be lost!

We have to remain vigilant, people.