March 5, 2020

I've been waiting for a good time to bring this up, and today's the day. Morning Joe featured Steve Rattner talking about the cost of various Bernie Sanders programs, including Medicare for All, education spending, and the Green New Deal. (Joe Scarborough loves to present himself as a fiscal conservative, so he loves himself some pearl clutching over the budget.)

Now, Steve Rattner was an Obama adviser, and was a major Democratic fundraiser. He started out after college writing about economics and eventually became the New York Times economic reporter. From there, he began working in investment banking and then in private equity. Naturally, he became rich. Unlike a lot of rich people, he seems like a decent guy. He's a calm, rational sort, and I rarely take exception to his views.

But here's the part that really irks me.

Today he's on Morning Joe, criticizing the huge amount of money that Bernie calls for spending.

Without mentioning that he's the chairman and CEO of the private investment group that manages Mike Bloomberg's personal and philanthropic assets. (You know, the guy who recently exited the presidential primary he specifically entered to stop the candidacy of Bernie Sanders.)

In that casual way media types have, Joe Scarborough apparently doesn't think that's worth pointing out to his viewers that his expert might have a vested financial interest in making Bernie Sanders sound unelectable.

And Rattner does it by being conventionally dishonest. Common for morning cable, but to drop these numbers with no context -- to not point out the hidden costs of not addressing climate change, of how much money the federal government already pays to cover the costs of uninsured Americans, of how college loans are a drag on the economy -- is deeply unfair and seems deliberately misleading.

I've been saying for years that tax cuts for the wealthy are nothing more than loans against deferred maintenance, and that eventually, the loans come due. It is far past time for the U.S. to deal with these issues, and we don't need morning TV shows to dishonestly kick the can further down the road.

You want to have a real discussion about Bernie's proposals (or Elizabeth Warren's, for that matter)? Fine, have a discussion. But this is advocacy masquerading as facts. Throw it up on the screen with a pie chart and people assume it's journalism.

Will the media ever, ever, ever clean up its own act? Not in our lifetimes, I'm afraid.

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