money in politics Rule: Cover The Topic solutions

Campaign $pending: Mayday! Democracy Is Flatlined!

An all time high of $4B in political spending was reached this past election, with another $200M in dark money, even though less people donated than in previous elections.  And money got results. Of the biggest spenders for House elections, 94% won; in the Senate it was 82%.  All this, according to a Nov. 10 News Hour report.

At the risk of stating the obvious, here are 2 things you probably know:
   There is too much money in politics.
   The news media reaps huge financial rewards from campaign ads.

And 1 you may not know:
   There was virtually no TV news coverage of Senate debate on an
   amendment that would curtail political spending and reverse rulings
   like Citizens United.

Anyone see a conflict of interest here?

The amendment, known as Senate Joint Resolution 19 (SJR 19), or the “Democracy For All” Amendment, was overwhelmingly approved to proceed in the Senate (71-18) in September, but then failed cloture to end debate and go to vote (54-42).  On the major news outlets, other than CSPAN, only a single mention was made- 1 highly politicized ‘discussion’ on FOX News.

To research coverage, I, again, used TVNews Archive*, as I did for my carbon tax blog. The results showed a similar pattern.  For the 3 broadcast networks, ABC, CBS & NBC, there were search hits for “money in politics” and “Citizens United”, but none for “Democracy For All Amendment”, “Joint Resolution 19”, or other variations of those terms.  In other words, again, they reported on the problem, but not on a solution.  

Cable didn’t fare much better.

Nor was there any reporting on either activist & Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig’s “Mayday PAC”, or this summers “California March for Democracy” by the group 99Rise, both of which target money in politics.

In this fascinationg interview with Bill Moyers, Lessig and Zephyr Teachout, who ran for NY governor this November and managed to get a third of the vote despite spending only $1.57/vote vs. Andrew Cuomo’s $60.62/vote, make powerful arguments for campaign finance reform. Lessig, whose Mayday PAC funds candidates commited to eliminating big money, cites a Princeton study that shows a high correlation between political policy that gets made and what economic elites and interest groups want, and no correlation- ie. ‘flatline’- between policy and what average American citizens want.


A San Jose Mercury News editorial by Common Cause cites similar data. For the last 16 years, “the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector has dumped more money into federal elections than any other”, hitting $400M this year.  The result was weaker banking rules and the sub-prime mortgage meltdown.

The California March for Democracy last May involved a 480 mile march from LA to Sacramento that culminated in the occupation of the CA state capitol, calling for an amendment to outlaw big money in politics.

But you didn’t see that in the news, they were too busy selling our democracy, right out from under us. The PEW’s latest State of the News Media report that covers political spending for 2012 says: “Political advertising alone hit a record $2.9 billion, up 38% from 2010 and almost double the $1.5 billion spent on local TV in 2008.”

Polls and support for the amendment are unequivocal.  The SJR 19 proposal itself cites a Washington Post-ABC News Poll taken after Citizens United which found “80% of Americans opposed the Court’s ruling, with 65% `strongly opposed to unfettered corporate spending in elections.’”

PRWatch offers more data: 16 states and 500 cities, including NYC, LA & Chicago, passed resolutions supporting the amendment; the Republican base favors it 2-to-1; and 3M have signed petitions. It further cites a Democracy Corps survey showing 73% in favor of overturning Citizens United.  In reaction to 2012 spending data (32 Super PAC donors outspent 3.7M who gave less than $200 each), it quotes Elizabeth Warren:  “When 32 people can outspend 3.7 million citizens, our democracy is in real danger”.

The Senate bill, Mayday PAC and March for Democracy are but a few examples of individual and group efforts striving to wrest control back from monied interests. There is a whole parallel universe of such activities in this country, all trying to make change- Move to Amend, Wolf PAC, Government By the People & many others mentioned in the SJ Merc article above. But you’d never know it from the media.  Broadcast and cable news are not only NOT fullfilling their mandate as the Fourth Pillar of Democracy, they are also ensuring their own continued increasing profits in the bargain!  And we are being total pawns.

Demand otherwise! Support ATDs mission and fight for facts. A robust press which serves the people will not only level the playing field of Democracy, it will raise it as well.

ABC, CBS, NBC, and all the others:

Cover the Topic of solutions to getting money out of politics. It’s. Your. Job.

                *                *                *                *                *                *                *

*Note: The TVNews Archive database may have data gaps, though none were uncovered in the use of it for this blog. [intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_CCGaps”](more info)[/intlink]

Additional Links:
[intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_NW2014″]TVNews Archive Network List[/intlink]

carbon emissions climate change Rule: Cover The Topic solutions

Tax on Carbon: Do Solutions Stand a Chance If the Media Never Covers Them?

Planet’s burning up, and I’m seeing red.

In the last 5 years, not one of the broadcast networks–ABC, CBS or NBC–Covered the Topic of carbon tax on their nightly news shows, and only CBS reported on cap and trade, with a single segment in that entire period. The concept behind both–putting a price on carbon emissions as incentive to curtail them–is favored by many as the best method to reduce emissions and help slow global warming.

That’s right.  On the major network’s news: carbon tax 0, cap and trade 1.  In 5 years.

Meanwhile, there was no shortage of footage on extreme weather–floods, fires, tornadoes, snowstorms, etc.–on those same shows.

Those reports, along with a sprinkling of others on climate change, have, no doubt, increased awareness that it is real. But repeated coverage of a problems effects will not, alone, lead to policy change. So in my opinion, the answer to the question in the title is no, solutions don’t have a chance if the media doesn’t cover them, especially given the current intractability of congress.

Think about it. Without coverage of solutions to problems, a void of information is created. That opens the door wider for legislators to politicize and hijack discussion of solutions, something they’re already good at. Then, when polls reflect fragmented opinion of an uninformed public, politicians use that as cover to do nothing, and nothing gets done.

In June, there was a stir when former treasury secretary Henry Paulson came out in favor of a carbon tax in a NYT Opinion piece.  This was news because Paulson is a republican who was appointed by President Bush and republican legislators have been against taxing carbon.  He isn’t the first prominent republican to call for one though, there have been many from George Shultz (sec. of state under Reagan) to Christine Todd Whitman (former EPA head).  And the economic case has been solidly made–from revenue-neutral, efficiency/cost benefits cited, to 2.1M new jobs / 33% polution reduction / in 10 years (REMI study), to the proven successes of cap-and-trade programs.

And yet, despite the fact that May and June were the hottest months on record for the planet and the steady stream of storms, heat waves and extreme weather raged on, congress has done nothing.

Having recently discovered a great news video search tool, Internet TVNews Archive, I decided to use it to evaluate coverage of this topic by the broadcast networks.

I don’t typically watch the ABC, CBS & NBC news shows (except maybe on weekends), and had been ignoring them for lack of time and to the detriment of ATD project integrity.  They are important because, according to Pew Research, “over the course of a month”, 65% of US adults watch network news, and “an average of” 22.6 million tune in nightly to 1 of the big 3, — higher numbers than for any other station. Needless to say, I am ecstatic over finding TVNews Archive*. (See Pew & TVNews Archive links below.)

So, after putting the search tool through some paces to satisfy me that it works*, I cast a deep net.  For each of the 3 networks, I plugged in the terms “carbon tax” and “tax on carbon”, going back 5 years to July 2009, the earliest archive year.  The results:

Search:  “carbon tax”, “tax on carbon”;  5 years
ABC   5 hits:    2-GMA, 1-This Week, 1-Breaking News, 1-Nightline
                                (2013 most recent)
CBS   5 hits:    all local news (2013 most recent)
NBC  12 hits:    mostly local news (2014 most recent)

Thus, in the past 5 years, not 1 of the major broadcast networks covered the subject of carbon tax on their signature nightly show- the shows that garner those 65% and 22.6M viewership stats.

I then widened the net to include the terms “cap and trade” and “carbon sequestration”, other proposed emissions remedies, and again searched the same stations and period of time.

“Carbon sequestration” got 0 hits for ABC & CBS, and only 1 on NBC for local news. So, again, 0 hits on the nightly news shows for all 3 networks.

“Cap and trade” had many more (ABC-106, CBS-97, NBC-115) but spread across other news shows, with none on the big nightly news except for CBS, which scored a single hit with its interview of Al Gore in 2009.  (**Note below.)

Summary of entire broadcast networks search (except last line), last 5 years:

Search term  (last 5 yrs.)                    ABC           CBS           NBC
“carbon tax”, “tax on carbon”                5                5               12
“cap and trade”                                  106              97             115
“carbon sequestration”                          0                0                 1
All above terms, nightly news only       0                1                 0

Narrowing the search to the last 1.5 years (since January 1, 2013) yielded:

Search term  (last 1.5 yrs.)                  ABC           CBS           NBC
“carbon tax”, “tax on carbon”                 1                1                2
“cap and trade”                                     12              18                8
“carbon sequestration”                           0                0                0
All above terms, nightly news only        0                0                0

To get a sense of context and scale for the ABC, CBS & NBC numbers, I searched all 24 archived stations (see list at end), for the last 5 and 1.5 years respectively (***Note below):

Search term                                     All (5 yrs.)             All (1.5 yrs.)
“carbon tax”/“tax on carbon”             2,307                     1,042
“cap and trade”                                  9,796                     1,172
“carbon sequestration”                         150                          41

For a more direct comparison, I narrowed the networks down to 2 specific ones (CNN, PBS), and searched for just the last 1.5 years, getting:

Search term  (1.5 yrs.)                          CNN               PBS
“carbon tax”/“tax on carbon”                 20                  79
“cap and trade”                                       25                  91
“carbon sequestration”                             0                    2

So, on the subject of taxing carbon, both CNN and PBS had substantially more coverage in a 1.5 year period, than the broadcast networks over a much longer, 5 year period.

Careening to the other end of the spectrum from specific carbon solutions, I went general.  I searched for “carbon emission”, “greenhouse gases”, “global warming”, “climate change” and “extreme weather”, non-solution environmental terms.  And this time I limited it to just the nightly news shows of the 3 networks, again for the last 1.5 years.

Search (1.5 yrs.)    ABC World N   CBS Evening N   NBC Nightly N
“carbon emission”          1                         2                        3
“greenhouse gases”       2                         8                        3
“global warming”          10                         5                        9
“climate change”          17                        34                      43
“extreme weather”       102                       20                      28

The numbers show a clear pattern: the more general the search term, the more hits on network news.  Nothing beats dramatic videos of torrential downpours, raging fires, highway pileups, tornado swaths of destruction and other heartbreaking stories of loss, to make a point. And, again, no doubt they have some impact.

But when it comes to reporting on solutions, 1 news segment for 3 major networks, in 5 years, is beyond outrageous.  How can we form an opinion, make our positions known, and change our lot in this democracy if the media doesn’t report on actual, workable solutions–solutions that need to be enacted by congress, whose members we elect?

Information drives people.  People vote and drive polls.  Polls and voting drive action.

Reader, resist the temptation to remain cynical, assuming there is nothing you can do. Little by little, we citizens have seen the only power afforded us in the Constitution, our vote, erode. It is time we demand the media live up to their duty as The Fourth Estate. It is time to make them understand–they do not work for corporate interests, they work for us!

ABC, CBS and NBC:  Cover The Topic of solutions to climate change.

It’s.  Your.  Job.

*                *                *                *                *                *                *

*Note: The TVNews Archive database may have data gaps, though none were uncovered in the use of it for this blog. In addition, emails were sent to each network informing them of the content in this blog, and requesting verification of it.  [intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_CCGaps”](more info)[/intlink]

**Note: This “cap and trade” archive search produced 4 hits for each networks nightly news- all mere references in the context of either political campaigns or the legislative environment, so I did not count them.

***Note: There was some overlap with the 2 ‘carbon tax’ terms, and also with the same show being re-aired in 2 time zones, but both seemed infrequent for the non-broadcast networks.  Any such overlaps for the broadcast network news 1.5 year search results were caught and filtered out, as well as the 5 year, “carbon tax”/”tax on carbon” results. Also, except for the broadcast networks, no attempt was made to verify the actual substance of topic coverage- there were just too many.

Additional Links:
[intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”PEW_2013-2014″]PEW Data[/intlink],
[intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_NW2014″]TVNews Archive Network List[/intlink]

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.

healthcare Rule: Ask The Question

Vote on Ask The Question: Affordable Care Act

With the media’s focus on cancelled plans, higher premiums and the website launch, ATQ Poll turns its attention to other ACA issues:  Medicaid expansion, access to doctors and hospitals, and employer sponsored plans.

What benefits and costs (coverage, financial) do states weigh when deciding whether to opt in vs. out of ACA Medicaid expansion?

The goal of this question is to expose the decision making process that states use in determining whether to opt-in or out of Medicaid expansion, and to do so in clear, monetary/human, cost/benefit terms.

At last update, 27 states have opted-in for MC expansion, 21- out, and 2 (PA, TN) are on the fence.  The decision pivots on 2 considerations: the cost of expanding MC vs. not, and additional people covered with the expansion vs. not.

The terms of cost in ACA are:  the government pays 100% for 3 years, 90% thereafter.
Coverage:  CBO estimates 3 million people will be left uncovered in states that opt-out.

With such favorable terms for opting-in, and the high human cost of not, why are so many states choosing to opt-out?  It seems to come down to a cold assessment of whether the 10% saved in states that opt-out (starting year 4), will more than cover the ER expenses incurred by those left uninsured.

Some states claim that additional 10% will strain their budgets. Others (PA, AR) have requested funds for private insurance, leading one to Ask if that is more cost effective for them than MC, and how.  In this NYT article, the reasons against opting-in in Tennesee are left vague: Republicans are against it (why?), and a previous state system failed.  Groups in favor of opting-in include Democrats, the Chamber of Commerce, poverty & health groups, one of which claims 400,000 will remain uninsured and drive costs up with ER visits.

A refrain heard in the news and echoed by TN’s Governor, is that Medicaid does not control costs.  With at least as many claiming otherwise along with a plethora of other hotly contested issues, the media must start invoking Cite The Basis, Ask The Question, and other Rules if we are ever to resolve these disparities and further our knowledge on what specifically is good, and what is not, about Medicaid.

The News Hour provides an example in this discussion which, comprehensive though it is, still hilights such points of disagreement or lack of specifics where an ATQ or CTB could have illuminated so much more.

(30 sec. ad)

Why are insurers dropping hospitals & doctors from their plans?

There have been numerous stories on doctors and hospitals being ‘dropped from plans’ but nothing explaining why.  The obvious guess is that it has to do with negotiated payment apportionment between doctors and insurance companies, the assumption being- they are less favorable to doctors under ACA.

In this CNN video, Tom Harris explains that he’ll have to find a replacement for his allergy doctor of 20 years, who is being dropped from his plan, and is too expensive without the coverage.

(30 sec. ad)

His doctor, Robert Eitches says he doesn’t know “which, if any, insurance plans he’ll accept”, and “has already stopped taking Medicare” (for which the reimbursement rates to doctors have been lowered).  As for the insurance, his admission that he is considering “not taking any insurance at all” despite regretting the loss of patients he has bonded with, makes no sense whatsoever and is not followed up with additional questions or information from CNN.

Was Dr. Eitches ‘dropped’ from the plan by the insurance company?  Or were the terms changed that caused either Dr. Eitches to drop the insurance, or Mr. Harris to drop the doctor due to higher out-of-pocket expenses for him?  And if Dr. Eitches takes ‘no insurance’, does he not deny other patients his services?

In a CNN debate moderated by Candy Crowley, Sen. (& Dr.) Barrasso, states: “in New Hampshire, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield is excuding 10 of 28 hospitals”.  Howard Dean’s response: “that’s the insurance commissioners fault”, is the only explanation given.  There is no follow up query from Ms. Crowley on what role insurance commissioners have, or what the “fault” of NH’s is.

How many businesses are reducing employee hours to part time levels and how many workers will lose healthcare coverage due to that?

Stories of employers reducing workers hours, or the workforce itself, to avoid having to insure them under ACA have been anecdotal and remain unquantified.  In an economy of high unemployment and where many of the ‘job gains’ have, in fact, been either low wage or part time, this is an important question.

In this CNBC segment, 2 surveys were compared.  One with 400 people participating showed a negative effect, the other with 60,000, showed no effect.

The impact of ACA on small businesses is shown from the business owner’s perspective in this interview of two of them.

(30 sec. ad)

Matt Tyler, of Vickers Engineering, employs 175 people and says his insurance cost in 2014 will increase by 50% (11% taxes & fees, the rest ACA changes), and will be shared with employees.  He is further concerned about the lack of flexibility and growth of healthcare in future years.  Beezer Molton, of Half Moon Outfitters, has 120 employees, 90 of which are part time. He says they will adapt by pushing for still more part time employees to mitigate risk going into 2015.

*   *   *   *   *   *

So, the initial impact of ACA is just beginning to be discovered.  One expert says it will take 3 years for ACA to ramp up.  Given the many testbeds in it for cost control, it will take that, and years more, for the system to settle out.  The issue of overall health costs is not dealt with in this poll, but it is one of the most important elements that will ultimately determine the success or failure of ACA. As with many complex issues, the consideration of time and long term thinking is critical in evaluating policy solutions, mandating the incorporation of it into any media discussions deemed honest.

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…..