As Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen tell readers (12/11/12):
Most politicians in the most powerful positions in Washington agree in private that there are a half-dozen or so big things they could and should do that could put a rocket booster on the U.S. economy — but they are too timid to say it in public.
We are, of course, in the midst of a political 'fiscal cliff' crisis right now. But that's not the real discussion, Politico tells us– it only only "flirts with what these insiders say needs to be done."
So what is the solution? Get ready, you've never heard anything like this before.
It starts with tax reform–or, more specifically, a plan to "reduce rates and end loopholes — not just for individuals but also for corporations." In other words, what Republicans have been talking about. Next up: "Entitlement reform"– cutting Social Security and Medicare. Again, that's hardly absent from the current discussion. And then there's more drilling for oil and gas, which is "already creating tons of jobs in Texas and North Dakota." I guess that's how economists speak about labor markets. And then there's "quick movement on trade agreements"– more so-called "free trade deals," in other words– and "getting more high-skilled immigrants here."
On what planet would any of this be considered brave, let alone unusually wise? Whose agenda is this? Politico explains:
The country's most influential CEOs, who have been meeting with Obama and congressional leaders on these very topics, are telling them if they do some or all of this, investment, market growth and jobs will quickly follow.
OK, now it's start to make sense. Like CBS Evening News and plenty of others in the corporate media, CEOs are the ones who really know what's good for the rest of us. As Politico makes clear, these are a "half-dozen policies that are not partisan." That's, at best, misleading–you'd be hard-pressed to find a whole lot of Republican opposition to a set of policies to lower corporate taxes, cut Medicare and encourage more fracking.
In reality, the piece describes perfectly an elite consensus that is overrepresented in the mainstream press–and yet manages to make this CEO-approved economic plan sound bold and politically daring. If this is satire, it's well-executed.
New York's Jonathan Chait had one of the more devastating responses to the piece:
Even more remarkable is the approach Politico's editors take toward the consensus. They have on their hands the most ripe material for a scathing exposé of a chummy, self-interested business-political elite. VandeHei and Allen, by contrast, understand their role here not as exposing the insider nexus but as uncritically transmitting its point of view. The authors begin by describing the consensus as the opinions of the CEO-Beltway class but never bother to mention dissenting opinions. By the middle of the piece, they dispense altogether with the convention of describing the opinions as such and merely repeat them as obvious truths (i.e., "Tax reform would raise more money to pay down the debt and help create the 'certainty premium' Moynihan spoke of.")
That mainstream journalists feel comfortable doing so is itself further confirmation of the extraordinary and almost unchallenged power commanded by the business and political elites. The Politico story is fairly typical of Washington reporting in its basic endorsement of the business-political elite consensus. The Sunday talk shows and editorial pages are filled to the brim with right-thinking people who would read this piece and nod along happily. What makes this one unusually valuable is that it approaches unusually close to what ought to be a moment of self-awareness — by making explicit rather than implicit the social web that produces the Beltway consensus — but then sprints as fast as can be in the other direction. It should be preserved for generations as the early-21st-century cri de coeur of an incestuous, self-satisfied economic and political elite.