Monday, February 28, 2011

Framing the story to shape reality - how Republicans are telling economic lies to the Nation

I was planning to start the week with a lambaste at the Right side of the aisle for(at best) dissembling on a number of important issues - and doing some pattern analysis when doing that.

But then I read this, and it just makes my blood boil:
The key problem is that journalists are assuming that statements by Gov. Scott Walker have basis in fact. Journalists should never accept the premise of a political statement, but often they do, which explains why so much of our public policy is at odds with well-established principles.
The question journalists should be asking is "who contributes" to the state of Wisconsin' s pension and health care plans.

The fact is that all of the money going into these plans belongs to the workers because it is part of the compensation of the state workers. The fact is that the state workers negotiate their total compensation, which they then divvy up between cash wages, paid vacations, health insurance and, yes, pensions. Since the Wisconsin government workers collectively bargained for their compensation, all of the compensation they have bargained for is part of their pay and thus only the workers contribute to the pension plan. This is an indisputable fact.
So, once again, we see a compliant press willing to take a politician at his word, even when the political speaks half-truths in support of a radical and potentially economically damaging agenda. Fourth estate my a$$. Door mats more like.

Come to think of it, this actually fits in rather nicely with my original idea. Especially when you read this:

By falsely describing the situation the governor has sought to create the issue as one of the workers getting a favor. The Club for Growth, in broadcast ads, blatantly lies by saying "state workers haven't had to sacrifice. They pay next to nothing for their pensions."

And then there's this, echoing something I have written about before:

Simplistic coverage has also resulted in numerous reports that Wisconsin state workers make more than workers in Wisconsin' s private business sector. This is true only if you compare walnuts to tuna fish.

America has roughly the same number of food preparers, who can be high school dropouts, as registered nurses, who require a college education. But the nurses make on average $66,500, compared to just $18,100 for the food service workers. The food service workers collectively made less than $50 billion, while the registered nurses made almost $172 billion in 2009, my analysis of the official data shows.

Business and government hire both food service workers and registered nurses, but you are much more likely to work for the government as a registered nurse than as a food preparation worker.

When you control for the education required to be a prosecutor or nurse, government workers get total compensation that is less than those in the corporate sector. This may reflect the fact that fewer and fewer private sector workers are in unions, about 7 percent at last count. As economic theory predicts, as fewer workers can bargain collectively the overall wage level falls. Effectively wiping out public employee unions would only add to downward pressure on wages, standard economic theory shows.
Yep, when you compare wages for Wal-Mart employees (I used to be one part-time) and NASA Satellite construction program managers, those NASA boys sure are overpaid!

When you add it to this from the Washington Post, it becomes clear the that Party of Jobs (as some Republicans have cast them selves) is NOT into anything resembling employment in the public sector:

Zandi, an architect of the 2009 stimulus package who has advised both political parties, predicts that the GOP package would reduce economic growth by 0.5 percentage points this year, and by 0.2 percentage points in 2012, resulting in 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of next year.

Zandi also had bad news for liberal Democrats who are resisting sharp spending cuts: Bringing deficits down to sustainable levels will require more than a growing economy. Even if the economy recovers as expected, he writes, lawmakers will have to cut about $400 billion a year through the rest of this decade to narrow the gap between spending and revenue, and stop adding significantly to the national debt.

"Significant government spending restraint is vital, but given the still halting economic recovery, it would be counterproductive for that restraint to begin until the economy is creating enough jobs to bring down the still very high unemployment rate," Zandi writes. "Shutting the government down for any length of time would also be taking a big chance with the recovery, not only because of the disruption to government services, but also due to the potential hit to the fragile collective psyche."

Now I know that political rhetoric is just that, and usually carries no intellectual weight. But at the statehouse, and the U.S. House, politicians are putting forward proposals that will eliminate government jobs at a time when the national unemployment rate continues to flirt back and forth across 10%. In order to fulfill campaign promises, and make a point about "how big government should be" they are willing to threaten the size and stability of the economic recovery. The same politicians do not have any idea if or whether these folks will ever by re-employed, nor (if you read the recent remarks of Mr. Speaker Boehner) do they care. They are also seeking to break the last of the powerful unions, who presumably stand in the way of further privatization of government services. In short, a semi-manufactured financial crisis (caused at its heart by lax financial regulation at the federal level) is being leveraged to dismantle the last vestiges of worker protection in our economy, and to convulsively and without thought destroy much of the social service infrastructure of the nation.

And lest anyone think my ire is directed completely at Republicans, let me be clear - Democrats are playing into their hands because they have no spine, no will, and no wish to upset the corporate donors who have captured them just as surely as they captured Republicans a political generation ago. If Democrats were really in opposition, they'd be fuming about bias in the Wisconsin coverage; they'd be willing to allow the government to shut down again to prove Republicans wrong, and they'd have a budget on the table that tackles entitlement and tax reform in a way that eliminates the deficit while dealing with the real culprits of significant government spending growth. That the President did none of those things is shameful, and as a Democrat, I am quickly loosing faith.

No comments: