Dear Madame L,
With the deadline for the so-called Super Committee coming up and the committee's apparent inability to make a decision on some combination of budget cuts and revenue increases, I keep reading conflicting stories and opinions.
I've been reading a lot of attacks on Pres. Obama and the Democratic Party in general for not going along with the Republicans' demands to cut Medicare and Medicaid spending while not raising taxes on the 1-percent of people who are wealthy. And then of course the Democrats spin the story the other way.
I don't know what to believe. Can you help?
There are lots of ways to deal with the confusion our country is currently cursed with, as pundits on both sides of every issue pick and choose the facts they lay out to support their opinions, with apparently little or no regard for the truth.
But life is short, and not even Madame L can read every newspaper and watch every TV news broadcast every day. So she has only one suggestion for you, and that is to read Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times.
Krugman, who won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Economics, gets right to the point of every issue, and, refreshingly, calls out those pundits who lie or misstate the facts. (Madame L thanks Salon.com columnist Alex Pareene for providing the specific examples mentioned below.)
For example, without mentioning the pundits' names, he recently pointed out that those who are claiming that Pres. Obama isn't providing clear leadership on the budget and revenue issues are lying:
After another Times columnist wrote that President Obama's politics on the issue of the supercommittee's tax and budget decisions is "a bowl of poll-tested mush," Krugman wrote a few days later:
Oh, and let me give a special shout-out to “centrist” pundits who won’t admit that President Obama has already given them what they want. The dialogue seems to go like this. Pundit: “Why won’t the president come out for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes?” Mr. Obama: “I support a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes.” Pundit: “Why won’t the president come out for a mix of spending cuts and tax hikes?”
After another columnist wrote that there really isn't any economic inequality between the American 1% and the rest of us, Krugman wrote a few days later:
Anyone who has tracked this issue over time knows what I mean. Whenever growing income disparities threaten to come into focus, a reliable set of defenders tries to bring back the blur. Think tanks put out reports claiming that inequality isn’t really rising, or that it doesn’t matter. Pundits try to put a more benign face on the phenomenon, claiming that it’s not really the wealthy few versus the rest, it’s the educated versus the less educated.
So what you need to know is that all of these claims are basically attempts to obscure the stark reality: We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only.
These are just a few examples. Krugman makes his point this succinctly, this clearly, every time. Madame L recommends that you read his columns to get an unbiased and accurate explanation of the issues.