James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘economic bailout’

Scapegoating AIG: Big money, small change, big distraction

Posted by James McPherson on March 17, 2009

Democratic leaders are  up in arms over bonuses for AIG employees, demanding that the company not spend the money for those bonuses and/or that the money be heavily taxed. (Gee, Dems asking for higher taxes; could you give Rush Limbaugh and company a tastier cliche? Not that Rush and the GOP are any more thrilled with the bonuses, of course, even if probably virtually everyone who got one is a Republican).

Today’s complaints come a day after Barack Obama called the bonuses an “outrage” and promised to try to block them, and three days after the company promised to “scale back” the bonuses, which apparently total a whoppng $165 million. The media have jumped on the bandwagon in a big way; the top two stories on the New York Times web page as I write this are about the anger over AIG. Naturally Fox News framed the story differently, with the headline, “Lawmakers turn fire on Obama adminstration over AIG bonuses.” (Gee, four GOP Congressman critical of a Democratic president? That’s even less surprising than the Democratic tax angle.) The headline later changed to better reflect the actual story, which was mostly critical of Timothy Geithner.

It’s tough to buy AIG’s argument that payouts are needed to keep “talented executives”–after all, if they’re so talented, how come we just had to bail out their company to the tune of $170 billion? Besides, in this economy, where else could those people go? I’ve never been a big fan of big business, anyway, and why shouldn’t we all be mad at AIG?

Still, the bonuses apparentlywere paid under terms of employee contracts, which seems to go along with Republican ideas about contracts and Democratic ideas about labor. But shouldn’t there be exceptions for employees whose employer is getting government money? Especially when the bonuses are so high (at least 73 of them for more than $1 million)? And especially since those bonuses make up so much of the bailout, a whopping total of … hmm … less than one-tenth of one percent. Oh.

Keep in mind, many of those complaining about AIG are the same people who were saying (and I agreed) last week that earmarks are not an overly significant budget problem bacause they made up less than 2 percent of the $410 billion omnibus spending bill. Likewise, employee bonuses are a tiny part of the problem with the economy.

In the meantime, at least three far bigger problems still are being largely ignored as the government and the media screech about AIG, Bernie Madoff and a few other “big bidness” villains:

  1. We have no idea where most of the bailout money to various companies is going, because those in government failed to provide oversight of those funds.
  2. The media have been essentially worthless in uncovering or warning us about impending financial problems–as, sadly, comedian Jon Stewart has been forced to point out.
  3. Those in government created the policies (and lack of regulation) that led to the meltdown, and have too often skittered between hopeless and clueless since the financial meltdown began.

Focusing on those problems, of course, would bring attention to how big the financial crisis really is, and to those most responsible for both causing and solving the crisis. It’s a lot easier to scapegoat the kind of people who, not long ago, we were all being encouraged to become.

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Uncle Jay’s take on 2008

Posted by James McPherson on January 1, 2009

As a brief follow-up to yesterday’s JibJab post, here’s “Uncle Jay’s” musical look at the past year. (Thanks for the link, M&M.) Happy New Year!

Posted in History, Music, Politics, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Obamatech: the presidential radio address & the presidential ride

Posted by James McPherson on November 14, 2008

A few days ago I noted that Barack Obama had used the Internet better than any candidate before him. In the comments section, reporter and fellow blogger Jeremy Styron wrote that Obama might take his weekly presidential radio address to the Web (thanks, Jeremy). I noted then that the address also could be posted on YouTube.

That is indeed the case, according to a Washington Post story by Jose Antonio Vargas, who also points out: “President Bush, too, has updated WhiteHouse.gov, which offers RSS feeds, podcasts and videos of press briefings. The site’s Ask the White House page has featured regular online chats dating back to 2003, and President Bush hosted one in January after a Middle Eastern trip.” Who knew?

Regardless of the Bush technology advances, Obama is likely to use the Internet to help govern in ways never seen before, even if it doesn’t reach the level of “the Internet-era version of President Franklin Roosevelt’s famous ‘fireside chats’ between 1933 and 1944.” On the other hand, with a new Great Depression perhaps starting, those who can still afford high-speed Internet connections may get some of the same reassurance from Obama that FDR gave people gathered around their radios.

Maybe Obama will even be able to broadcast from the new presidential limo–especially if it’s parked next to the White House because there’s no fuel to run it. I wonder if he’ll get the new car if Congressal Democrats fail next week to bail out General Motors.

Posted in History, Journalism, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Leaders & would-be leaders fail in bailout

Posted by James McPherson on September 29, 2008

George Bush, Barack Obama and John McCain all supported the bailout that failed today in the House of Representatives. Admittedly Obama and McCain are senators, but they clearly are not viewed as strong enough leaders to pursuade the House members of their own parties to vote convincingly for a bill that might have kept the economy from tanking.

And that whole reach-across-the-aisle thing? Ain’t happenin’. Some Republicans blamed a partison speech by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, though Barney Frank pointed out the self-centered goofiness of the claim: Because somebody hurt their feelings they decide to punish the country. … I mean, that’s hardly plausible … I’ll make an offer. Give me those 12 people’s names [12 more votes were needed to pass the bill] and I will go talk uncharacteristically nicely to them.”

Considering the fall of the stock market, each of those 12 votes apparently was worth about 65 points on the Dow.

The situation is worse for Bush and McCain than for Obama, of course–at least the majority of Obama’s party voted for the bill. Frankly, I don’t know how I feel about the bill, but as I’ve written before, Bush himself is to blame for the fact that people now know he can’t be trusted. When in doubt, people tend to favor doing nothing over potentially doing something wrong–especially if that wrong might enrich the same people who have been ripping us off for the past seven years.

As I’ve also pointed out, the news media also share the blame for the failing economy, and our pitiful understanding of it. On the other hand, if opponents of the “doomsday machine” are correct, we won’t have to worry about something as trivial as the world economy for long.

Assuming they’re wrong and the world doesn’t explode within the next few days, I’ll be back next week. I’m off tomorrow to a conference in Seattle, one of my favorite cities, and usually try to avoid blogging when I travel. We all need an occasional break, and I’m obsessive enough about it when I’m here–tomorrow will be only the fourth day this month that I didn’t post at least once, with more than one post on several days.

Same day update: The Dow closed lower today than when Bush took office. In short, if you invested money in the market when he was sworn in and haven’t touched it since then, you’ve actually managed to lose money in those seven years. Put another way, you would have done better by stuffing that same money in your mattress. Presidents usually get too much credit when the economy does well and too much blame when it does poorly, but in this case, thanks to the impact of Bush’s dishonesty, he deserves a bigger share than usual.

Same day update #2: The stock losses were estimated at $1.2 trillion, or $500 billion more than the bailout plan.

Have a great week, if you can. And if you’re interested in more while I’m gone, check out the links at right or some of my previous favorites below:

Vice presidential debate strategies for Biden and Palin

McCain’s ‘no-talk express’ going where unwanted to avoid rough road

In search of Sarah, and where Congress spends your money

Craig Ferguson: “If you don’t vote, you’re a moron”

GOP view of Palin: pit bull or pretty little lady?

Burn a flag for the Fourth

Begging to differ

The Democrats’ best VP choice–and when Obama should name him

McCain’s best VP choice–and when he should name her

Have you ever heard of the “world’s most famous journalist”?

 PUMAs stalk political relevance–and irony

Ignorance and the electorate

“Act now”: a new way for candidates to reach the electorate

WOW! Young people access news differently than grandparents

Family values

Speaking for the poor

Curiosity and journalism

Pogo’s enemy, revisited

Democratic self-mutilation

Barack Obama, Muhammad Ali, Mos Def, Zalmay Khalilzad & Keith Ellison: Which doesn’t belong?

Utah Phillips and other dead patriots

Why Obama’s success is no surprise, and why McCain may be in trouble

Posted in History, Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The fool who cried (for) Wolf(owitz): Bush’s Iraq War lies complicate economic bailout

Posted by James McPherson on September 26, 2008

Paul Wolfowitz, of course, was the Bush secretary of defense and one of the architects of the Iraq War, which we now know to be based on administration lies. Now talks about how to “save” the economy have stalled, perhaps partly because John McCain felt compelled to try to play hero and ended up looking silly while doing more harm than good, but mostly because of opposition from conservative Republicans who refuse to go along with George Bush’s bailout plan.

A big reason those Republicans oppose a bailout is because of what they’re hearing from constituents, who apparently refuse to believe that the situation is as dire as the administration claims. “We’ve been listening to the American people, and the American people have told us that they don’t want to foot the bill,” Rep. Judy Biggert was quoted as saying in a CNN story today.

As for me, I don’t know what to believe, either, because Bush has proven he can’t be trusted. As the president himself has said, “Fool me once… Shame on… Shame on you… Fool me… Can’t get fooled again.”

Many people suspected that the Iraq War would seriously hurt the U.S. economy. Now it seems that we may have seriously underestimated just how devastating it might be.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »