Nov
16
2010

Charlie Rose's Deficit Non-Debate

Public TV show excludes critics of center-right plan

A report from the co-chairs of the White House deficit commission has generated significant criticism. But on public television mainstay Charlie Rose, viewers are hearing only from supporters of the center-right plan to cut spending and lower taxes for the wealthy.

The first Charlie Rose discussion on November 11 featured Harvard economics professor Martin Feldstein, who found the report "very bold," though he thought "it didn't go far enough." The other guest was David Walker of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, who found it a "courageous plan" that "could have been even more aggressive with respect to some of the reforms." Walker went on to complain, "It is amazing how much controversy there has been, especially from the left, with regard to the Social Security reform proposals, because they are not dramatic or draconian."

That controversy is apparently not the kind of thing the Rose program wants to share with viewers.

The non-debate continued on the November 15 show, which featured an interview with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, a member of the commission who cheered (among other things) the lower corporate tax rates in the Bowles/Simpson plan.

At one point host Charlie Rose asked Paul, "So the point of the commission is to start the debate?" If that was its intent, it was a complete failure when it comes to public TV's premier interview show.

And who is scheduled to appear on tonight's broadcast of the Charlie Rose show? Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairs of the deficit commission. That means that five guests will have discussed the deficit commission plan on the show, and all five are enthusiastic supporters of the austerity-themed blueprint of spending cuts, Social Security cuts and tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.

It's not difficult to find progressive critics of the deficit commission's work. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (11/10/10) called the commission a "waste of time," since the report failed to deal seriously with the dramatic increase in healthcare costs that are largely driving the projected deficits. Other revenue streams that have been championed by progressive experts, like a tax on financial speculation, are not considered in the Bowles/Simpson plan. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (11/12/10), who labeled the whole commission a "compromise between the center-right and the hard-right," critiqued the plan's arbitrary cap on federal revenue and called its tax suggestions "a mixture of tax cuts and tax increases--tax cuts for the wealthy, tax increases for the middle class."

Other economists who have strongly criticized the Bowles/Simpson plan include James Galbraith, Robert Kuttner and Henry Aaron.

FAIR's recent report on the state of public television ("Taking the Public Out of Public TV") included an evaluation of the elite guest list on the Charlie Rose program (Extra!, 11/10). In response, executive producer Yvette Vega wrote (10/25/10) that such criticism works to "keep all of us reaching further and farther in presenting guests and programs that are both varied and diverse.... We will continue to expand and look for as many views as possible on a topic and subject." This would be a good chance for the Charlie Rose show to show that they mean it.

ACTION:

Ask the Charlie Rose show to bring some diversity to its discussion of the deficit commission, which so far has exclusively featured right-leaning supporters of the Simpson/Bowles plan.

CONTACT:

Charlie Rose

charlierose@pbs.org

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