This clip of Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman debating economics with two British conservatives on BBC Newsnight has been making the rounds:
A couple of thoughts here. First of all, there’s really no difference between the British argument for austerity and what we hear from American conservatives. It’s the exact same argument with the exact same faulty analogy (“families have to live within their means and so should the government …”). That old warhorse has been debunked five ways to Thursday and I’m not going to get into it here, but one thing that’s really been overlooked is Krugman’s central thesis, which is: it’s not about being all-austerity or all-big spending. It’s a matter of knowing when to do which. The time for austerity is during a boom. The time for government spending is during a recession, when consumers are cutting back and the private sector is dealing with a lack of demand. It’s not all one or all the other, it’s both — but timed properly.
We never talk about that because a) conservatives have been exploiting our current economic woes to achieve their long-cherished dreams of dismantling unions and the New Deal; and b) the American discourse is in complete disarray. It’s been corrupted by politics and a ratings-hungry media which has lost sight of the reason it exists (to inform the public ya big fat dopes, not to make money!). The result is that we can’t have a grown-up conversation about anything.
Watching that BBC clip I was amazed by several things:
A) everybody got to complete not just a sentence but a full thought!
B) the host didn’t keep butting in to show the audience how important he is;
C) the conversation actually went on, uninterrupted, for almost 9 minutes, instead of the 2-3 minutes cable outlets like CNN devote to a segment before cutting away to ads hawking financial services and penis pills;
D) everybody got to speak, there was no one panelist hogging the mic;
E) there was no rhetorical neutron bomb dropped by one side followed by the host chuckling, “well that’s all the time we have, we’ll have to leave it there!”
Did this segment lack fireworks? Yes, it did. But I don’t want fireworks. I don’t want to see right and left acting like kids on the schoolyard, taunting each other and talking over each other. This isn’t The Real Housewives, we’re talking important issues here. The American news media needs to stop acting like a kid with ADD, jumping from one topic to the next, letting people yell at and over each other. And invariably there’s one asshole hogging all the airtime — usually the conservative, and usually it’s a woman, and if you’ve ever watched Liz Cheney on a roundtable y’all know I’m right because that chick never comes up for air.
And yes, both sides do it. I can barely watch Bill Maher’s show anymore, because invariably there is one Dana Loesch-type who recites every GOP talking point as if she’s reading from a script (which she is), but is unable to have an actual conversation about the topic at hand because she doesn’t know jack shit about it. She just knows the Luntzified version of it, and she won’t say her piece and then shut up and let others on the panel have their say, because the point of putting her on a panel in the first place is to obstruct dialogue, not enable it. See, this is how our politics has ruined absolutely everything.
Last week while we were traveling Mr. Beale put the TV on CNN, a channel we don’t normally watch. It was Wolf Blitzer and let me say: it was about 30 seconds before I wanted to throw something at the television. Honest to God I don’t even remember what the discussion was about, but I do remember we had the usual right vs left pundits, and the right winger never shut up and the left winger got maybe three words in and Blitzer never interjected or “moderated” but spent as much time with his fat yap open as the right winger and finally it ended with some outrageous comment along the lines of, “well it’s true that President Obama eats aborted fetuses which Michelle cooks for him at the Solyndra Welfare Fetus Farm,” and then Blitzer jumps in his with patented “well, we’ll have to leave it there!” Har har.
I mean, Jesus. No wonder CNN is in the ratings graveyard.
The idea that somewhere in the world they still have adult conversations was a revelation. And thank God Al Gore invented the internet so we can watch.