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 ‘health care reform’

It’s only money: Another reminder of how little your voice matters

Posted by James McPherson on January 25, 2010

CNN reports that about $600 million–“enough to pay the annual insurance tab for $45,000 families”–has been spent on lobbying, advertising and campaign contributions to try to influence the health care debate. It has become the single most expensive legislative issue ever.

And as I noted the other day, the Supreme Court has guaranteed that things will get worse in terms of you having a voice. It almost enough to make you want to cheer for the Tea Party crowd, if they had a clue about where their money really goes, or which parts of society system are the most screwed up.

Also on the money front, Barack Obama apparently will call for a freeze on “non-security federal discretionary spending.” And Fox News reports that no-bid contracts for friends of the administration, the norm under George W. Bush, apparently continue under the Obama administration.

It’s a worthwhile story, and would be more so if Fox hadn’t predictably downplayed the Bush/Cheney contracts–citing dollar figures for such contracts under Bill Clinton and Obama but simply stating about the Bush Leaguers, “The OMB Watch figures show that the practice appears to have accelerated sharply during the Bush administration, but the figures are not adjusted for inflation.” Uh, guys–what were those figures?

Posted in Journalism, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Predictably ‘shocking’ Brown win makes Dems blue, but election’s meaning far from black & white

Posted by James McPherson on January 20, 2010

“In a stunning upset that reshaped the U.S. political landscape…” “… an upset victory of epic proportions…” “… one of the biggest political upsets in modern history…” Yeah, sure. Yawn.

Reactions from both sides of the political aisle after yesterday’s Massachusetts election were as predictable as they were meaningless. Lots of celebrating on one side, much gnashing of teeth on the other. Many on both sides predict/hope/fear that Congressional health care reform may be dead. (Though he also overstates the “stunning upset” angle, Chris Cillizza offers a good review of winners and losers.)

Maybe with an electorate as uninvolved as ours (and no, religiously watching Fox News or MSNBC, an activity likely to make voters stupider rather than politically smarter, doesn’t count as political involvement), we deserve to have such an abysmal health care system. Besides, it appeared that any health care plan coming out of Congress was going to do far more for insurance companies than for most Americans with poor health care.

Still, I hope the surprise voiced by so many “experts” in politics and the media over Brown’s victory is posturing on their part, and that they’re not really dumb enough to be shocked. If they are, it again raised the question of why they’re considered “experts.” In fact, Brown’s victory over Martha Coakley falls short of shocking for several reasons:

  • Though he’s a conservative in a blue state, Brown comes across as someone personally far more like Barack Obama than Dick Cheney, and he downplayed his Republican ties while raising funds in Obama-like fashion. While he may think like Sarah Palin and the Tea Party crowd (and gladly takes their money), he doesn’t say it out loud. He’ll probably end up as a moderate (and definitely not a “family values” icon), just to guarantee his future electability.
  • Coakley ran the worst campaign of anyone since, well, John McCain. She didn’t much seem to want the position.
  • Massachusetts isn’t as blue as some people keep pretending. Yes, Ted Kennedy was a god there–but then the same is true to a lesser extent of almost all longterm incumbents who bring lots of pork and attention to their home states. But keep in mind, this is the same state that elected Mitt Romney–perhaps the most credible 2012 GOP presidential candidate–as its governor.
  • The party in power typically loses midterm elections. And even though it came earlier than most, this was a midterm election. Incidentally, Brown will have to run again in 2012, when the turnout (because it’s a presidential election year) will be much higher.
  • The 60-vote Democratic majority in the Senate was a freak event–and, considering the conservatism of many of those Dems, largely meaningless except as a further example of how stupidly undemocratic the U.S. Senate is. By the way, even if they should win a majority in 2010 (my prediction: they won’t), those conservatives who think they’ll achieve any major legislative goals under the current system are delusional. The system works only for those who exemplify the “party of no.”
  • Finally, the result is unsurprising because American politics in general (including the politics of Barack Obama) are so conservative. But then I’ve devoted much of a book to that issue.

Posted in History, Journalism, Personal, Politics, Written elsewhere | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A case in which conservatives might support abortion and liberals might favor welfare cuts

Posted by James McPherson on February 10, 2009

As the case of Caylee Anthony continues to draw an inordinate amount of attention from the media and others (the toddler’s funeral attracted more than 1,000 “mourners”), and even as Fox News is already breathlessly highlighting what its likely to be its next dead-kid story, the news media’s other family obsession, Nadya Suleman, now says she’ll use student loans to help support her 14 children (10 under the age of 2).

Suleman, who said she had no income and claimed to not be on welfare, but who admits to spending $100,000 for in vitro fertilization procedures, apparently gets almost $500 per month in food stamps along with untold amounts of money in disability payments for three of her first six children. She also received about $165,000 in disability payments after being injured in a riot at a state mental hospital (where she worked, not–as would seem appropriate–where she was a patient). You have to love the rationale offered by her “publicist” (and the fact that she has a publicist):

“In Nadya’s view, the money that she gets from the food stamp program … and the resources disabilities payments she gets for her three children are not welfare,” he said. “They are part of programs designed to help people with need, and she does not see that as welfare.” I suppose in a society where politicians can parse the definition of what “is” is, where oral sex with an intern is not “sexual relations,” where waterboarding is not torture and where leaders can lie us into a crippling war without facing legal consequences, Suleman is simply a product of her society–a good learner, so to speak.

I feel for Suleman’s kids, having a whacko as a mother, but beyond that I care very little about this story except for one concern: Especially at a time when the economy is so bad that it’s sending illegal immigrants home, boosting military enlistments and producing more new jobs for topless dancers than for auto workers, an unfortunate side effect of the Suleman case might be a crackdown in social programs and/or problems in reforming health care. After all, Ronald Reagan gained support for welfare cuts by exaggerating the extremely rare cases of “welfare queens in Cadillacs.”

Meanwhile, Bill O’Reilly is on the case: Today he offers “a ‘Factor’ investigation you won’t want to miss,” asking the question, “Is the octuplet mother obsessed with trying to look and act like  Angelina Jolie?” Looking perhaps. Acting, not really: After all, Jolie is adopting most of her children while Suleman is having hers the old-fashioned way–if artificial insemination can be considered old-fashioned.

The cases would be more similar, of course, if Jolie were farming out her uterus to “adopt” so-called “snowflake babies” of the kind that surrounded George W. Bush when he vetoed the first bill of his presidency–especially if, like Suleman, she could get a doctor to implant enough “snowflakes” to form a snowball.

By the way, Nancy Grace and other dead-kid fetishists might take note of the fact that another 35,000 or so youngsters also died the same day as Caylee–and every day since.

Posted in Education, Journalism, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »