Wednesday, March 16, 2011

And Why Do I Care If NPR Disappears?

Not too long ago, many of us were hearing from concerned progressive organizations about how National Public Radio (NPR) was in trouble, because Congress might take away its funding. I wasn't too terribly concerned, and Dean Baker provided an example yesterday of why:
NPR ran a piece that largely accepted untrue or misleading Republican assertions about Social Security. The piece told readers that:

"Republicans also believe [emphasis added] the very best time to fix Social Security is now, during a time of divided government when both Democrats and Republicans can share ownership of any changes."

Actually, NPR's reporters/editors have no clue what Republicans "believe." They are just making this up. The Republicans in question (like Democrats) are politicians.

NPR Joins Drive To Cut Social Security
I'm glad he pointed this out, because I read this sort of thing in news that covers DC all the time. "Republicans believe", "the Administration believes", or whatever, what is actually true is that some politician said something, usually off the record, and they're just passing it on as though this was what was keeping those politicians up at night. They don't know any such thing. Heck, you really can't even assume that I believe what I'm writing here. Were you to report what I wrote here to someone else, the most accurate thing you could say is "Cujo359 says he believes", or something to that effect.

This sort of thing is often referred to as the logical fallacy of mind reading, sometimes as a form of jumping to conclusions. It's so common in the news these days that you'd think it was a virulent mental disease.

The other point that Prof. Baker makes is a more technical one, but not by a lot:
It is also not a fact that Social Security needs to be fixed in any meaningful sense of the term. The Congressional Budget Office projects that the program can pay all benefits for the next 28 years with no changes whatsoever and can pay nearly 80 percent of projected benefits indefinitely into the future, even if nothing is ever done to change the program.

NPR Joins Drive To Cut Social Security
Baker goes on to explain how Social Security has been financed, and how the government borrowed money from the Social Security Trust Fund (it did this by selling bonds to the SSTF, just like how it borrows money from you and me).

Which is why I'm not concerned about what happens to NPR. No competent news organization would have failed to mention these things, yet they manage to not mention this sort of thing every time some DC politician lies about pretty much anything. Not all of us know things like where the government is borrowing money from. That's why we have news organizations - to try to tell us what the relevant facts are. NPR failed utterly to do this, as it does far too often these days.

Why would I be concerned if another worthless news organization goes down the tubes?

UPDATE: In comments, One Fly made an interesting point. NPR is more than just its news component, and some of those other parts of NPR help local public radio stations keep going. Still, it's pretty clear that NPR has forgotten that it works for us, and instead works for the politicians and other big donors who can cut off large chunks of their funding.

Frankly, if their news unit didn't take every opportunity to lie to us, issues like that would be easier to see.

1 comment:

One Fly said...

I agree Cujo but the issue I have is that the funding would dry up for this as well and community radio is more important to me. Link