The New York Times is one of the most effective tools for limiting discussion in the U.S. political system. Falsely perceived as a left-leaning outlet, it has the power to make the most reasonable proposals seem ultra-radical by placing them beyond the pale.
Take yesterday's review by Times book critic Michiko Kakutani (1/19/10) of progressive economist Joseph Stiglitz's Freefall: America, Free Markets and the Sinking of the World Economy. Kakutani says Stiglitz's accurate prediction of the financial crisis " lends credibility to his trenchant analysis of the causes of the fiscal meltdown," though at the same time she accuses him of "an I-told-you-so sanctimoniousness about both the recession and WashingtonÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢”Å¡Â¬ÃƒÂ¢”Å¾Â¢s response."
It's when it comes to policy proposals, however, that Kakutani really has problems with the book: "Some of the suggestions that Mr. Stiglitz makes in these pages for reconfiguring the American economy (and American society) stray far from the realm of practical policy recommendations that actually have a chance of winning broad public support or being enacted by Congress." What are these way-out ideas? Well, for one thing, he suggests that "a 'redistribution of income' and more progressive taxation might help stabilize the economy." He also calls for "a new global reserve system" and criticizes America's "unrelenting pursuit of profits." Concludes Kakutani:
Such remarks not only give ammunition to conservative critics who want to dismiss Mr. Stiglitz as a European-style liberal, but they also have the unfortunate effect of diverting the reader's attention from the many shrewd assessments that he makes in Freefall about the causes and consequences of the great financial meltdown of 2008.
In other words, proposals like progressive taxation should be avoided because people might call you a liberal. This from the daily news outlet that was named by journalists most often when asked to name one that was "especially liberal."