Thanks to the corporate media, you probably know all about Republican Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan. After he unveiled his proposal to slash Medicare funding and cut taxes for the wealthy–all in the name of fiscal discipline–he was interviewed on all the network Sunday morning shows: NBC‘s Meet the Press (4/10/11), Face the Nation on CBS (4/17/11) and ABC‘s This Week (5/1/11).
Ryan also was given one-on-one interviews on the PBS NewsHour (4/5/11) and ABC‘s Good Morning America (4/13/11), and was profiled by ABC World News (4/5/11). Ryan’s plan was discussed in a number of segments on the nightly newscasts (NBC Nightly News, 4/9/11, 4/10/11, 4/16/11, 4/26/11; CBS Evening News, 4/10/11, 4/12/11, 4/13/11, 4/15/11). When Republican contender Newt Gingrich criticized the Ryan plan, that produced another wave of coverage, highlighted by a return visit to Meet the Press (5/22/11) for Ryan to answer Gingrich’s charges. And this is just a tiny fraction of the media attention Ryan has received across television, print, web and radio.
Meanwhile, the Congressional Progressive Caucus released its own “People’s Budget” plan on April 12. This 10-year plan also looks to reduce the budget deficit–but does so with tax increases on the wealthy, a reduction in military spending, and a tax on Wall Street financial speculation. While the Ryan plan is founded on “dubious assertions, questionable assumptions and fishy figures” and aims to balance the budget in 2040 (Washington Post, 4/6/11), the People’s Budget is based on realistic economic assumptions and actually projects a budget surplus within 10 years (EPI, 4/28/11).
The People’s Budget hasn’t been mentioned on the network newscasts. Members of the Progressive Caucus haven’t been invited to talk about their budget plan on the Sunday shows, or even the PBS NewsHour. The budget debate on broadcast TV is often a debate between two conservative figures (like Ryan and Gingrich), or whatever “bipartisan” negotiations the White House is supporting.
Polls show large majorities favor taxing the wealthy to reduce the debt while strongly opposing cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security (ABC/Washington Post, 4/14-17/11; Pew Research Center, 3/8-14/11), and when asked to choose between cutting defense spending, Medicare/Medicaid or Social Security, 51 percent choose military spending while only 28 percent pick Medicare/Medicaid and 18 percent Social Security (Reuters/Ipsos, 3/3-6/11).
Why won’t the media tell the public about a plan that is more closely aligned with public opinion than the alternatives? It’s time to ask them. If the budget deficit is really as important as the Beltway press make it out to be, then it’s time to broaden the discussion.