from Peter Radford
I think Krugman is making an important point. So let me put my own spin on it.
Our political system has spun out of control not because of the emergence of a virulent form of right wing extremism, but because there is no counter balance. There is no penalty for being an extremist. A Tea Party activist can say extraordinary things and not have to pay the price either in terms of derision, or in terms of counter attack. The fatal flaw is within the media and the way it maintains a false balance.
In the current debate – pseudo debate – the Republicans have relentlessly pursued extreme demands. By any historical standard the cuts in spending they are seeking will impose massive social costs on the poor, the sick, and the elderly. They are not looking to reduce benefits to future recipients, they are looking to cut them for current recipients. At the same time they are insistent that there are no revenue increases of any kind. The only beneficiaries of this hard line are the wealthy and larger corporations. The middle class will be hammered. My claim is not partisan. It is simple arithmetic based upon the plans presented by the GOP. They don’t even try to hide it. Indeed they embrace it.
Further, when offered a plan by the Democrats or the White House they summarily reject it, and then augment their demands.
Worse, they even reject the plans presented by the Republican leadership.
The most recent example of this state of affairs is the current Boehner plan. It is his own party saying that it will not pass. That it cuts viciously into current Social Security and Medicare is neither here nor there. It isn’t enough for the extremists. That they are smashing into the middle class retiree lifestyle is, apparently, of no consequence. It isn’t enough.
So where is the punishment for this extraordinary attack on our existing social arrangement?
The press reports that the two sides are equally extreme. This is so that the story can be presented as if there were a balance. The media seeks to impose a balance into the debate even where there is none. That way it cannot be accused of being partisan. So instead of highlighting the historic nature of the request from the Republicans, and the equally historic accommodation – capitulation – by the Democrats, the country is being told that the debate is between two equally extreme sides, both adopting an extreme position in contrast to the other.
Nothing could be further from the truth. And because of this distortion voters are not being given sufficient information upon which to base a decision. They can be excused for dismissing the entire mess as “business as usual” in Washington.
We have a Democratic president offering up what would be, in any other time, a very right wing plan. He is making no pretense of defending entitlements. He has been willing to make cuts without much, if any, revenue increase. That he has moved so far to the right is entirely missed. Indeed he is still spoken of as presenting a liberal agenda.
This is simply absurd.
It also does a huge disservice to voters. They are chronically and tragically misinformed as to their real choices.
Where I differ from Krugman is that I go further and see this failure as emblematic of a deeper collapse of diversity in our elite. We have a monoculture. The technology of management, whether it be of the macro economy, or of a large business, is based on an orthodoxy that is biased, unscientific, and intolerant of pluralism. It encourages extremism because it exists within its own hermetically sealed, and entirely self-referential, system. There is no diversity to encourage healthy disputation. There is no mutation of ideas. No method of introducing new thinking at all. From an evolutionary perspective it is doomed.
The question is whether as it crashes it takes us with it.
The one thing we do, or ought to, know is that any concept of balance is utter fiction. We are being held to ransom by a group of very committed zealots. Yet we couldn’t tell that from the ordinary media coverage.
The general media has failed. But it is populated by that same elite. So I am not surprised.