Friday, November 02, 2012

Matt Taibbi on how the media are suddenly for big government

By Frank Moraes

Matt Taibbi is angry -- at a lot of different people, but mostly the media. He's been watching how they have reacted to the storm. Before, the main thing was that Big Government was baaad. Small government was the way to go. I've written about this: journalists are almost all in the upper or upper-middle classes. As a result, when it comes to economic issues, they are conservative. But more to the point: they are selfish. If it affects them, it matters; if it doesn't, not so much.

That has been brilliantly on display this week. I'm not suggesting that Sandy isn't a big deal (although few in the media were that interested in all the Haitians who died before it hit the east coast). But they are clearly a lot more interested because it has affected New York and Washington. Taibbi notes that Hurricane Sandy was all that was necessary to turn the mainstream media into Big Government lovers. And thus Obama lovers.

Except, of course, that of the two candidates, Obama has a far better claim to being the Small Government guy. He's the guy who has slashed the deficit, year after year. And Romney is Joe Isuzu giving away $5 trillion in new tax cuts and $2 trillion in new military spending. But just look at the record: Democrats are the fiscal conservatives.

Taibbi sees it a little differently. He thinks the federal budget will go way up regardless of who is elected President. Under normal circumstances, I would agree with him. (But don't misunderstand me: in general, federal spending going up is a good thing.) But with the Republican House, I think we will see more of the obstructionism that has defined the last four years.

But Taibbi knows who the true villains are in all of this: the rich Randians who depend upon government largess that the poor could only dream of:

But everyone lives off the government teat to some degree -- even (one might even say especially) the very rich who have been the core supporters of both the Bush presidency and Romney's campaign. Many are industrial leaders who would revolt tomorrow if their giant free R&D program known as the federal military budget were to be scaled back even a few percentage points. Mitt's buddies on Wall Street would cry without their bailouts and dozens of lucrative little-known subsidies (like the preposterous ability of certain banks to act as middlemen in transactions when the government lends money to itself).

And if it's not outright bailouts or guarantees keeping the rich rich, it's selective regulation and carefully-carved-out protections from competition -- like the bans on drug re-importation or pharmaceutical price negotiation for Medicare that are keeping the drug companies far richer than they would be, in the pure free-market paradise their CEOs probably espouse at dinner parties.

The evolution of this whole antigovernment movement has been fascinating to watch. People who grew up in public schools, run straight to the embassy the instant they get a runny nose overseas, stuff burgers down their throats without worrying about E. Coli and sleep happily in planes they know have been inspected by the FAA (I regularly risked my life in Aeroflot liners for a decade and know the difference), can with straight faces make the argument that having to pay any taxes at all is tyranny. It's almost as if people feel the need to announce that they don't need any help with anything, ever -- not even keeping bridges safe or drinking water clean.

That's right. But a big part of the problem is that the government goes out of its way to make welfare for the rich invisible just as it goes out of its way to make welfare for the poor as humiliating as possible. I once thought about getting food stamps. There were over 50 pages of documents to get as much as $200 per month in food assistance. The TARP loans of billions of dollars? Two pages.

We've got to get the government off the backs of the banks! Matt Taibbi isn't wrong to be angry.

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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