Thursday, September 8, 2011

Left Turn by Tim Groseclose

Does the media tilt in a liberal direction? That's the thesis of political science professor Tim Groseclose. Some of his admirers now believe he's proved it "scientifically." I watched a 5 part video interview with him that starts here and sent some commentary to Tim just to give the perspective of a leftist viewer. I reproduce that below. I don't think it was written great, but it contained some links that I want to save.

Hi Tim,

I watched the 5 segments you did at NRO and wanted to share some thoughts/ask some questions.

First question. Have you read Chomsky and Herman's media analysis? It's called "Manufacturing Consent". It's a pretty widely read, though not frequently discussed in the major media (if ever). Your views would conflict with theirs, so if you haven't read this and you're interested in a different point of view I would recommend this.

I'd like to offer a criticism for you to consider. Your definition of liberal appears to be related to the positions of the two major political parties. Here's a hypothetical question. What if the parties in fact did not represent the range of opinion held by the public, but instead reflected a narrower range that reflected certain business interests? There have been some studies on this. Particularly those of Thomas Ferguson. He offers what he calls "The Investment Theory of Politics." See this wiki link. There's also a series of YouTube videos starting here you could watch if you want an easy to listen to overview.

Based on the theory put forward by Chomsky, Ferguson, and Herman I would suggest that you are correct when you state that the media tilts leftward if by leftward you mean they tilt towards the Democratic Party, which in my view is one wing of the business party.

But what if liberal and conservative is defined differently? Let's define it based on public opinion. Take a particular issue and see what polls show the opinion of the public is. Here's a sampling of public opinion on various issues.

Should our government provide health insurance for all? 64 to 27 Americans say yes.

(From January 2003) Would you support the invasion of Iraq without UN authorization but with the support of one or two major allies? Oppose 52 to 39%

(From January 2011) Do you favor or oppose the US war in Iraq: Oppose 66 to 33%.

Do you think the US is doing the right thing by fighting the war in Afghanistan now, or should the US not be involved in Afghanistan now? Shouldn't be involved now 54 to 38%.

(From August 2010) Do you think the result of the war with Iraq was worth the loss of American lives and other costs of attacking Iraq, or not? Not worth it 72 to 20%.

(From November 1978) Would you agree with the following description of the Vietnam War: More than a mistake, fundamentally wrong and immoral. 72% agree.

Should US companies be allowed to trade with Cuba? Yes 62 to 26%.

Should the government negotiate prices with drug manufacturers? 85% of Americans say yes.

Would you favor or oppose taking away collective bargaining rights from public sector employees similar to what Governor Walker of Wisconsin is proposing: Oppose 61 to 33%

Do you support Obama's demand that Israel halt settlement construction? Support 52 to 31.

The majority position in each of these examples is what I would call the liberal position. But how often is this expressed in the media? Take for example media coverage in the run up to war. Here's an interesting graphic. Perhaps you are aware that the Donahue show on MSNBC was cancelled due to his opposition to the war, a position shared by the majority of Americans. This happened to be the top rated MSNBC show at the time.

Or take the Vietnam war, covered extensively by Herman and Chomsky. The overwhelming majority of Americans believe it was fundamentally wrong and immoral, not a mistake. But according to Chomsky in major media that view has never once been expressed. If you know of a single expression of that view please forward to him because he's interested. The expressed opinion ranges from the right side (it's a just war and we should use additional force) to what is called the "dovish" position (the war was done with benign intent, but it was a strategic blunder, too costly, and beyond our means). That's the kind of criticism you might hear from a Nazi general. Opening an eastern front was a strategic blunder. Not that aggression is wrong. It was just unwise in terms of furthering Nazi ambition. Incidentally this is Barack Obama's position regarding Iraq. We're told he is a principled opponent of the war. Based on what? He called the war a strategic blunder. Meanwhile the bulk of the population thinks it was immoral to invade a country that wasn't threatening us and had done nothing to us in a manner that lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of people. That view isn't really expressed by what you would regard as liberalism (mainstream Democrats, like Pelosi).

So yeah, I think if you define liberal as reflecting the Democratic party, then the media does look liberal. But both the Democratic party and Republican party are well to the right of the American people generally. If you define conservative and liberal by the views of Americans now the media is not liberal at all.

That's pretty unsurprising when you consider what the media is and who it's customers are. The media (that is the major, agenda setting media) are large mega corporations. Their customers are advertisers. Who are advertisers? The extremely wealthy ownership class. So what picture of the world should we expect to emerge from such an institution? Without even looking at the output we would expect an institution that reflects the needs and interests of the owners and advertisers. So then you go look at the media product and see if that holds. I'm convinced it does.

Here's another interesting corollary. Herman and Chomsky's Propaganda Model actually predicts that their model will not be part of mainstream discussion. The function of the media is to serve the interests of their owners and advertisers. Laying bare that fact is dysfunctional. The model predicts that dysfunctional elements are filtered out. So if the model is true we would expect it wouldn't be discussed. If it's false it wouldn't be discussed. So we won't expect it to be discussed. Depicting the media as "liberal" serves to sort of bound the debate. If the mainstream Democrats/the media reflect liberal positions (complete with Obama's spiking of the public option, all the Democratic support for various wars, Obama's war on whistle blowers, extension of the torture regime, extension of the Patriot Act, rendition, extension of the Bush tax cuts) then to go to the left of that is really outside of what is acceptable. So real liberal positions (opposition to war, support for tax hikes on the rich, support for strengthening union rights) are portrayed as extreme even though they are majority positions. Democrats are the ones that effectively spiked the public option according to Tom Daschle. If Obama Care (which is really Romney Care which traces to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank) is liberal, then what of the 70% of the population that supports a public option and/or single payer? The majority is made to feel like they are extreme. But if extreme means minority then Republicans and Democrats are the extremists.

So anyway I just wanted to offer an alternative perspective. Your thoughts are welcome in reply. Hope that wasn't too long to read.


Chad said...

I must correct you or at least enlighten you that your healthcare poll data is one of the most extreme that I have seen - here is a another poll by Gallup to show that your poll is extreme on one side.

Government ran healthcare 50% NO, 47% Yes -

Strong poll considering that 49% of people don't even pay income tax and the Liberal movement has conditioned people to look toward government for everything.

The worm has turned in America I believe - turning back toward Liberty and Conservatism. Obama is the gift that keeps giving - he said there is 14 months until the next election and they have a responsibility to do something in the mean time - problem is that he has no idea what the right thing is to do so he is a lame duck Pres. I heard this morning that in a short period of time Obama will have spent more money than all the previous 43 Presidents COMBINED.

You've tried to show that Obama is a closet Righty, but that is simply not true - he has been the most Progressive - far left President in history and his idea that Government Spending is the answer has failed.

The Trillions of dollars on the sideline will remain there until he leaves office. He has setup the next President to succeed and succeed big. I believe it will be a Republican and I also think they will control both the House and Senate so their policies will be put in place in days. The first thing that will happen is Drill baby Drill creating 1.5 Million Jobs and $800 Billion in revenue almost overnight. Gas will drop to probably the low $2/gallon in months. They will tackle the tax code and make it permanent - probably dropping the corporate rate to about 20% I am guessing, they will lower or eliminate Capital Gains Tax and those trillions will come off the sidelines. The EPA will be gutted and the Fed will be audited.

Like I said Obama has been the best thing for the Conservative movement and has setup the next President to be one that will be remembered as the President who put American back on top.

I pray that the next President hires Herman Cain and takes his ideas in - Chilean Model is so awesome for Soc Sec. His 9/9/9 plan is also a great foundation.

Sorry Jon, but you got 14 more months until your worst nightmare starts. Smaller Gov, Drilling, EPA's power will be half, the IRS will be cut in half, President will support and promote right to work states, lower taxes for all including the rich, a more free market attitude and probably the most important to me is that Soc Security will be changed and changed big. Unemployment will be under 6% and growth around 4%-5% when this new Pres comes up for re-election and that means he will get another 4 years. It will be at lease a decade of Conservative control - that is what I see.

Jon said...

Great, we can store your predictions here.

Good info on health care. Notice the long standing support for government care in the past. Then came the aggressive corporate PR blitz intended to scare people with death panels and what not in order to prevent the creation of a public option, which of course private insurance companies can't compete with, given their 30% overhead, bonuses, advertising, etc.

If Obama is such a spender, tell me where he's spent money. The deficit is of course huge. But the deficit is a function of policies already in place. When people fall under a certain income level they then qualify for government services like Medicaid. The economy went down the toilet in 2008 and has remained in the doldrums for most people (not the super rich of course, who are doing better than ever).

Granted, Obama passed a stimulus package. The expenditures were not sufficient to offset the reductions in state expenditures, so on net there was no government stimulus.

Obama just killed off pending environmental regulations related to smog. Making companies that are flush with cash actually spend some of it in order to comply with regulations actually would have created jobs. There would have been a lot of work needed to meet the requirements of the law. Now that's gone. People remain unemployed. And companies can continue to sit on their mountains of cash.

What do you make of the fact that it was WWII that ended the Depression? Bunch of government spending to build ships and planes, that were just immediately blown up. But it created the demand that ended the employment problem. And that was it. The economy took off.

This was the closest thing to a command economy that was ever experienced in the US. Consumer goods were rationed. Wages were rationed. The government demanded that Ford stop making cars and start making tanks. Total government regulation and domination. And a total turn around in the economy, from bad to good. In fact we've never seen superior economic performance in the history of our nation.

What people on the left say is there's a lesson there. That's what I say. Do you see any lessons there?

Chad said...

There are endless lessons to be learned here and from the past. My take is that going far far right will fail over time and going far left will fail quicker. The balance - in my opinion - is slightly left of center. Endorse and embrace the free market with common sense regulations, offer a choice between gov't and private programs for soc sec, healthcare, medicare and medicare. Allow states to run education, welfare and to control their environmental regulations. Shrink federal gov't by 30% plus. Create a single page personal tax code that is flat for everyone regardless of income. Put in a balanced budget admendment and eliminate the 8% baseline.

You covered Reagan a lot previously - about his spending and deficits, tax increases and such - when I dug into that a bit more by reading the Regan Diaries you forgot to mention that the deal with the Democrats who controlled both the House and Senate was for every tax increase there was supposed to be 3 times the cuts. The Democrats did not live up to the bi-partisian deal made by Reagan and that was the reason for the deficits created. Reading passages from Reagan were enlightning and scary - he reached across the isle and got his hand chopped off in many cases.

As you know I just started paying attention to politics and government so I am still developing my beliefs - sometimes topic by topic and as time permits (business is going well and taking my time) so I am still evolving my positions on some things. With that said the one thing that I am positive about is that government is not the answer, it is the problem.

Jon said...

If government is the problem, how do you reconcile this with the fact that the largest government interventionist era, which included massive regulation, wage restrictions, rationing, and in a sense a ton of government waste, how is it that this produced the greatest economic performance our nation has ever seen? How do you reconcile that with your claim that government is the problem?

Do you know that today we have the lowest tax rates we've had going back like 70 years (just prior to the great depression by the way). We also have atrocious economic performance. We live in the deregulation era. How do you make sense of this in terms of your claim that big government is the problem?

Sure, Reagan talked about the need for spending cuts. Also the need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Democracy promotion. Obama talked about protecting whistle blowers, scaling back wars, implementing a public option. But I think it's more important to focus on the actual policy and actions rather than the rhetoric. At the risk of stating the obvious there's something you should know. Politicians lie.

Chad said...

Honestly - the amount of lies and deception coming from all politicians has shocked me Jon. Facts twisted and turned around on both sides until no one knows what the heck is really true.

I would argue that during that period of time you referenced that growth was going to happen regardless of government. In fact I would say that government slowed the potential growth through the boom era. It is impossible to measure that so it is just my opinion. It was the industrial boom era and not even the gov't could slow that period of time.

I would disagree that we are in the de-regulation era, I referenced with a link in a previous conversation post that there were over 700 new regulations passed by Obama's Admin in July alone.

About taxes - your speaking only of the income tax bracket correct? Your not claiming that the entire tax burden by percentage is the lowest in 70 years right? Just want to be clear about what your claiming. Once you add in all of the taxes into the equation that claim suddenly is no longer true and the tax burden is the highest that it has been in 70 years.

I will agree that the income tax structure is at its lowest in 70 years if you will agree that the dollar has be devalued to a point that the actual tax burden is higher - much higher. This is part of the lie being told by the Left - lets have an economist add into the tax picture the value of the dollar and then evaluate by percentage.

Chad said...

Also one more quick thing my friend. So the tax burden is the lowest, but the cost of goods (due in major part by the artificial inflation of labor costs from Unions and a Minimum Wage) is the highest that it has ever been as well. Meaning less money in the pockets of people requiring the reduction of taxes just to allow the flow of goods and services to continue - that also needs to be factored in the equation as well.

Jon said...

The industrial revolution occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries. The ending of the Great Depression coincided very clearly with the war and I think pretty much all sides agree that this was the key to reducing unemployment.

You also can't deny that this is an extremely regulated time frame, with the wage caps, rations, demands that Ford produce tanks instead of cars, forcing people into the military. That is, forcing people to do work they didn't necessarily want to do and jailing those that refused. This is HUGE government meddling and regulation.

No, I'm talking about all taxes, not just income taxes. Check the rates here. And this is the tax rate so inflation is factored in. What % of the income was taxed? It was much higher in the past.

Unions are at their lowest point in 50 years. Unionization was strong following the New Deal, but since then we've had a massive corporate war on unions and it has worked. A constant reduction in unionized labor. What this has done is of course depress labor rates and improve short term profits for owners. When you don't bargain as a group this obviously gives the corporation a distinct advantage. They keep those labor rates down. Which is why median hourly wages are down since 1970 as corrected for inflation. Prior to that and since the war, with more union activity, median wages grew steadily.

Chad said...

As I studied your link and chart, I have to disagree with you about you saying that your arguement includes all taxes. Not included - property taxes, sales taxes, local state taxes, gas taxes, cable taxes, energy taxes, phone taxes and so on.

Also just a bit confused about your last statement - yes Unions are dying mostly at there own hands, but your argument is counter intuitive. If labor artificially inflates costs as it has done - what do you think happens? The cost of the goods or services go up. If minimum wage went to $10/hr tomorrow all that happens is bread goes from $2.50 to $3 overnight, pizzas go up $2 a pie. That is hat the Left never understands if labor goes up by force so does the products cost. It amazes me that some of the so called smartest people think that setting a minimum wage of any kind is a good thing. Drop the minimum wage to $5 hr tomorrow - a number of things will happen. First I would predict that a minimum of 4 million new jobs would
post, second the cost of certain goods would drop. Then based on a lower level on the cost scale most of those jobs would be filled by our youth looking for jobs who are looking some disposable income, unskilled people would now have an opportunity to gain some job skills and start to create a resume. Gov't intervention here has had a complete an opposite affect than what was intended. Case in point when the all knowing gov't decided to 'protect' the disabled by making a law to stop discrimination the employment of the disabled dropped by 10 points.

Bottom line employment is a contract between employer and employee - if you don't like the offer you can simply say no and move on to another opportunity. Not only is there no justification in the Constitution for the gov't to set a pre-determined wage regardless of skill, it simply makes no sense.

Jon said...

Yes, I was showing federal taxes only. Federal tax rates are at 60 year lows.

Here's a question for you Chad. Your premise is that unions "artificially" inflate the price of labor. What do you mean "artificial". Is there a natural price of labor and an artificial one?

Unions bargain as a group for wages and by bargaining as a group they get a better rate. Sam's Club does the same thing. They buy toilet paper in bulk to get a preferred rate. Is the Sam's Club price of toilet paper "artificial"? When the wealthy owners of Wal-Mart use their collective purchasing power to get a preferred price you don't object, but when lower class people use their collective power to get a preferred price for their work you call that "artificial". Should only the wealthy be permitted to negotiate in bulk for prices and the weak should be compelled to negotiate separately and get screwed?

Yeah, it's true that if labor gets a better price that cost could be transferred to the buyers. Here's something else that gets transferred to buyers. Exorbatent CEO salaries. Dividends checks to stock holders. But you never complain about that. Why?

And what has been happening over the last 30 years. The share of the revenue going to labor is falling falling falling, the share going to CEO's and owners is rising, risign, rising. Inequality now is back where it was prior to the great depression. You are concerned about labor taking too much of the revenue pie. Why? Why should we think this is the problem?

Look at minimum wage. It's been falling ever since Reagan took office. It was over $9/hr in 1968 as corrected for inflation in 2009 dollars. Back when unemployment was tiny. Today we have to go way back to see unemployment as bad as it is today. And minimum wage is about 20% lower than it was. So I know you think it sounds plausible that reducing the minimum wage would help the unemployment situation, but I'm asking you to look at history and see if that's what it actually did.