April 12, 2014

This is what happens when billionaires take control of public broadcasting after forcing Congress to defund it. They present bogus reports about ways the left and right can "come together" in order to dupe viewers into thinking libertarians give a damn about the social safety net.

In this segment, they bring Mr. Bell Curve Charles Murray sharply into focus along with other compatriots at AEI in order to argue for a national minimum guaranteed income similar to the proposal the Swiss are debating.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Murray's idea is to pay everyone over the age of 21 $10,000 per year. In exchange, everything gets tossed --public schools, health care, Social Security, SNAP, Medicare -- all of it. According to Murray, this somehow will improve our civic culture, because everyone will have to figure out how to get along and survive by negotiating for services like health care.

Murray doesn't come out and say that in the interview, but PBS has helpfully published a transcript of their larger interview with him, where he does say it.

PBS has featured Murray's ideas before. In 2012, he promoted his latest book, which was the basis for Paul Ryan's recent remarks about "inner city culture".

CHARLES MURRAY: We have a new lower class that’s large and growing that has fallen away from a lot of the basic core behaviors and institutions that made America work.

PAUL SOLMAN: That’s because, he argues, they’re less honest, less religious, less responsible than white working-class people were half-a-century ago, violent crime, for example, way up, at least as measured by arrest rates.

In his most recent interview, he reiterates that concept:

Charles Murray: In that sense, it’s similar to a voucher program, but my real goal with all of this is to revive civil society. Here’s what I mean by that: You have a guy who gets a check every month, alright. He is dissolute; he drinks it up and he’s got 10 days to go before the next check comes in and he’s destitute. He now has to go to friends, relatives, neighbors or the Salvation Army, and say, “I really need to survive.” He will get help.

But under a guaranteed basic income, he can no longer portray himself as a victim who’s helpless to do anything about it. And you’ve got to set up feedback loops where people say, “Okay, we’re not going to let you starve on the streets, but it’s time for you to get your act together. And don’t tell us that you can’t do it because we know you’ve got another check coming in in a couple of days.”

A guaranteed basic income has the potential for making civic organizations, families and neighborhoods much more vital, helpful and responsive than they have been in decades.

Paul Solman: And that’s because it shifts the blame? Because it doesn’t give people an excuse?

Charles Murray: Yeah. It doesn’t give people the excuse of being helpless. Right now, people can say, “What am I going to do? There’s no job out there. There’s this or that.” If you’re getting a check every month, you are not without resources, and that opens up a whole new dialogue between you and the other people around you.

America’s always been very good at providing help to people in need. It hasn’t been perfect, but they’ve been very good at it. Those relationships have been undercut in recent years by a welfare state that has, in my view, denuded the civic culture.

And a basic guaranteed income has the potential for making a big, positive difference in American life.

I'm not even sure what "denuded civic culture" is, but I can guess that it's a bullshit term for "inner city culture."

The truly insidious feature of this report isn't Murray, per se. It is the way they present the idea as being something the left can sign onto. This is the new libertarian strategy: Find wedge issues that they presume they can dupe liberals into agreement, then use those dupes to recruit more followers. Ron Paul did it with the war, Rand Paul is doing it with prison sentences, and Paul Ryan is attempting to do it with his budget and his claims of inner city cultures as signs of a deteriorating society.

Even more infuriating, they're parading AEI think tankers across the screen in this piece as though they're unconnected to the oligarchy while telling viewers, hey, look! Something left and right can agree on! Because one economist is transgendered? Give me a break.

Public television is supposed to serve the public. I am not suggesting that it must be liberal or conservative, but I can guarantee you that the influence of the Kochs and associated billionaires is not a healthy sign. With David Koch on the board of WNET, the flagship PBS station responsible for setting the public programming agenda across PBS affiliates, there has been a definite turn toward reports like this which do not serve the public in any capacity.

That's what Fox News is for -- conservative propaganda. Yes, there are first amendment protections, but that doesn't mean we should be giving money to PBS so they can turn around and serve up crap like this for us to digest. You know what happens when you eat too much junk? Yeah. Try not to vomit.

By the way, that Swiss proposal? It's a libertarian proposal too. Beware libertarians approaching with offers of free money. They think we're stupid enough to take it.

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