The Inky’s Poor Handling of the Lead-Up to the 2008 Election; Its Continued Inability to Confront Major Issues

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Readers of the Inky will have noticed that the editors endorsed Barack Obama on October 19th, but ran a dissenting editorial along with the endorsement. This is significant. It had never done this before, and as several letter respondents noted the “dissent” consisted of a series of Republican campaign slogans of little intellectual merit [Oct. 22]. It is hard to avoid the suspicion that the dissent reflects the input of Publisher-Owner Brian Tierney, whose rightwing views and marketing orientation are well-known.

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Inky Notes, November 3, 2008:  The Inky’s Poor Handling of  the Lead-Up to the  2008 Election; Its Continued Inability to Confront Major Issues
Edward S. Herman
Readers of the Inky will have noticed that the editors endorsed Barack  Obama on October 19th, but ran a dissenting editorial along with the endorsement. This is significant. It had never done this before, and as several letter respondents noted the “dissent” consisted of  a series of Republican campaign slogans of little intellectual merit [Oct. 22]. It is hard to avoid the suspicion that the dissent reflects the input of  Publisher-Owner Brian Tierney, whose rightwing views and marketing orientation are well-known. Contrary to his initial promise of no editorial intervention, he was surely important in bringing  Rick Santorum and probably Smerconish onto the editorial page, and the dissent has a Tierney-Ferris aroma. He has pulled the paper to the right and degraded it. No respectable paper could give lots of space to Kevin Ferris, who is a pathetic rightwing hack, ignorant and witless. He joins Krauthammer, Last, Smerconish, and Santorum to give the Inky a solid rightwing cast, supplemented with occasional inputs from John Lott, Jonah Goldberg, Claudia Rosset,  and even John Yoo (“Who will be a good president,” Oct. 26), the torture regime’s legal apologist and spokesperson who has had three appearances in the Commentary section (more, I believe, than any leftwimger in America—but I forget, we have Trudy Rubin and the liberal editorial page editors, who endorsed the nominations of  John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court!).
Readers will note that the Inky coverage of the Phillies triumph was very extensive—many dozens of pages. But how about political issues of urgent importance—for example, how about a single page of real quality describing the difference in impact on the income distribution of  Obama’s and McCain’s tax plans? The Inky hasn’t had that one page. Larry Eichel , one of their main reporters on the election, did have an article that dealt passingly with the tax plans, but without serious details, and like most of  the Inky’s election coverage it was about horse-racing: what strategies were being pursued to win voters and how they were likely to impact voter images—not substance.  And the Inky didn’t have a single Commentary column that analysed the alternative tax programs and their incidence.. The Citizens for Tax Justice has had repeated analyses and tables of incidence of these taxes,  but the Inky editors never pick these up. In Appendix 1 I give the CTJ’s recent materials on these tax plans, which indicates that the Obama plan would give most of the tax cut to the lowest 60%, whereas McCain would give 43 times as much as Obama to the top 1%. Isn’t this, and McCain’s continuity with the Bush class war program, worth substantial Commentary attention?
The Inky did run a Commentary column by Santorum on “Chicago Robin Hood’s Plan” (Oct. 23), that makes the Obama tax plan into a “class war,” adding a “trillion” to the financial bailout program. As compared to McCain “Obama  wants to shift the tax burden further to higher income individuals and businesses.” Note the lying implication that we have been in the process of shifting the tax burden upwards (“further”), and his outright lies that “most” of the $260,000-plus couples “are small businesspeople,”  and that the Obama plan would send checks from honest taxpayers to the bottom 40 percent of  taxpayers who “don’t pay federal income taxes.” Only a poor newspaper would run this kind of  intellectual and moral garbage on a regular basis.
 When Bush, after his 2004 victory, tried to privatize Social Security, the editors patted him on the back for raising the issue and chided the Democrats for failing to provide their own solution. This was complete hogwash as SS presents no problem over the next 50 years that can’t be resolved with a tax change smaller than that of 1983.  Medicare and Medicaid have genuine fiscal problems, but not Social Security. But the editors and Santorum have never grasped this, and the Inky now offers another answer to the mythical threat in Theodore Marmor and Jerry Mashaw’s “Shoring Up Social Security” (Oct. 29th).
Another piece of  news worthy of much commentary is the huge giveaway to the big boys in the Bush-Paulson bailout and the lack of help to the foreclosure victims. The conflict of interest here is staggering, with Goldman Sach’s Paulson actually giving billions to Goldman Sachs and other corporate financial giants in an awful deal for taxpayers (who get much poorer terms than Warren Buffet just received for his investment in Goldman Sachs). As William Greider argues, "The swindle of American taxpayers is proceeding more or less in broad daylight, as the unwitting voters are preoccupied with the national election. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson agreed to invest $125 billion in the nine largest banks, including $10 billion for Goldman Sachs, his old firm. But, if you look more closely at Paulson's transaction, the taxpayers were taken for a ride - a very expensive ride. They paid $125 billion for bank stock that a private investor could purchase for $62.5 billion. That means half of the public's money was a straight-out gift to Wall Street, for which taxpayers got nothing in return." (“Paulson's Swindle Revealed,” http://www.truthout.org/110208D .) This kind of  larceny can only thrive when the media like the Inky let it pass by without the close attention and the passion they display for a Phillies triumph or  a  policeman shot on the street (or back in Clinton’s years, his lie on Lewinsky and pardon to Marc Rich).
Some people, from Eisenhower’s “farewell address” in 1961 onward, have considered the militarization of the United States, and the absorption of enormous resources by the military-industrial complex (MIC) to be maybe the biggest problem and threat this country faces. At the same time as Bush and congress passed the $700 billion bailout bill, the congress passed a $650 billion military budget bill, almost without debate or notice. The real military budget, including military aid and subsidies and veterans and other programs now exceeds a trillion a year. This has nothing to do with “national defense” or “national security” and everything to do with power projection and serving the needs of  the vested interests of the MIC. Some very good analysts keep focusing on this, like Chalmers Johnson, Andrew Bacevich, and Winslow Wheeler, but they never show up in the Inky and their books are not reviewed. This despite the fact that polls regularly show that the public wants less war, more diplomacy, and more funds allocated to civil society and away from the military.. The Inky fails badly on this crucial subject and in the process shows its true colors as an establishment entertainment and status-quo-supportive vehicle. (See Chalmers Johnson on this issue: http://mondediplo.com/2008/02/05military .)
You would hardly know it from reading the Inky, but McCain is a war-monger and militarism enthusiast in the Bush –Cheney tradition, so that voting for him is really a vote for more money for the military and more Bush-Cheney- “power projection” (i.e., more war, and probably nuclear war). You will not see in the Inky Commentary page anything like Elliot Cohen’s “Hell to Pay” which contends that "Sen. John McCain's ideological ties to the Bush-Cheney administration have mostly passed beneath the radar of the mainstream media, but if McCain loses the presidential race to Barack Obama, his neoconservative legacy could erupt into the open with a force that should not be underestimated" (http://www.truthout.org/103108D ).
The Bush cabal has been subverting the Constitution as far as it has been able, and doing its service to its business base by deregulation and easing looting the environment as much as it has been able to do.  Each week it commits some anti-public welfare crime in the business interest.  A good newspaper would feature this, but the Inky doesn’t. It doesn’t even have a good review of the history of  deregulation of  the financial industries, with Alan Greenspan in the lead, leading to the present debacle. A news article in the Washington Post of October  31 by R. Jeffrey Smith on “The Last Push to Deregulate,” notes that “The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January” (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-yn/content/article/2008/10/30/AR2008103004749.html<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-yn/content/article/2008/10/30/AR2008103004749.html> ). This is of huge public importance and interest, but it is passed by in the Inky.
I’ve pointed out time and again how the Inky bends over backwards to protect Bush-Cheney. This is the Inky and “liberal media” tradition, in which the media provide “balance” in correcting errors and reporting scandals when there is real world imbalance. This is what has made the media “lapdogs” of the rightwing administration, as well described in Eric Boehlert’s  book entitled Lapdogs. This was well illustrated in the media’s swallowing of  the assault on the service of  Vietnam War veteran John Kerry while glossing over George Bush’s Vietnam war service evasion and actual violation of his terms in the Air National Guard during the 2004 election campaign.  Their treatment of  Clinton’s and Bush’s lies, the latter vastly more numerous and costly to the nation, is classic. In the Spring of 2008 Bush, having denied that we use torture, admitted that he had given it his approval. Was this worth some editorial and Commentary space? Helen Thomas wrote a nice piece on the subject, “Bush admits he approved torture,” picked up on May 2, 2008 by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/05/02/8671 ), but not by the Inky.
Appendix 1:
New Reports on McCain, Obama, and Tax Cuts from Citizens for Tax Justice
Citizens for Tax Justice has recently released several reports on the tax issues being debated during this presidential election season.
1. The Tax Proposals of Presidential Candidates John McCain and Barack Obama<http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=teFaKO3Rl4a01NLa5aSFlqnjSfsFFMZY>
Last week CTJ released this 15-page report on the tax plans offered by the two candidates. The report includes estimates of the distributional and fiscal effects of both candidates' plans in 2012, a year when almost all of the provisions of either plan would be in effect if enacted. These estimates include the effects of making the Bush tax cuts permanent (partially, in Obama's plan, and almost entirely, in McCain's plan) as well as their proposed changes to the AMT, corporate tax, and the other tax changes they propose.
The report finds that Obama's tax plan would give a larger tax cut, on average, to taxpayers in the bottom 60 percent of the income distribution than McCain's plan. Interestingly, while Obama's plan would give a small tax cut, on average, to the richest one percent, McCain's plan would give this group an average tax cut that is 43 times as large.
2. Obama and McCain Propose New Stimulus Plans, Including More Tax Breaks<http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=fYDh%2B4lqPg4CYqRTAJFwQ6njSfsFFMZY>
In addition to the tax plans that both candidates have been promoting for months, McCain and Obama both have recently proposed new, temporary tax cuts as a way to stimulate the economy and help people avoid the consequences of the downturn in the market. As this report explains, neither of the candidates' tax cuts seem very promising when it comes to helping Americans who are genuinely struggling, but McCain's proposals are particularly alarming because their benefits would be heavily targeted to the rich. He proposes to slash the capital gains rate, which would further bias the tax code against work and in favor of people who live off their wealth, and we estimate that over three fourths of the benefits would go to the richest one percent.
McCain also proposes that withdrawals of up to $50,000 from 401(k)s and IRAs, which are currently taxed as ordinary income, be subject to a top income tax rate of 10 percent. This obviously does nothing for a senior whose income is too low to trigger income tax liability or whose taxable income does not exceed the 10 percent bracket. But it would be a real boon for a very rich senior who would otherwise pay income taxes at a rate of 35 percent on such a withdrawal.
3. McCain's Proposal to Increase the Tax Loophole for Capital Gains Would Be Unfair and Counterproductive<http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=8Z5xbj%2BBv3oai1jK1xIobqnjSfsFFMZY>
This report explains in more detail why lawmakers should not take up McCain's proposal to expand the existing loophole for capital gains, and why they should move in the opposite direction and start taxing investment income just like any other income. Anyone who thinks that doing away with the lower rates for capital gains and dividends is too radical an idea is reminded that Congress has done it before -- under the leadership of President Reagan.
4. Does Joe the Plumber Need a Tax Break?<http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=agmEu3vitNNELARWi48H%2FKnjSfsFFMZY>
No discussion about this presidential race would be complete without some mention of Joe the Plumber, the man who asked Obama about how he would be affected by Obama's tax plan if he became a small business owner. Obama responded that someone like Joe needs a tax cut now, when he's working his way up and saving money, rather than later on when he's joined the ranks of the very richest Americans. We also note the oddity of McCain professing to be worried about a tax code that punishes this man's hard work while proposing to expand the very loopholes that bias the tax code against work.