CNN Offers Populist's 'Pros and Cons' Instead of Balance

Weighing the pros and cons of a plan, particularly one that could cost $1 trillion taxpayer dollars, should mean all perspectives were considered. But that wasn't what it meant to CNN in one Jan. 9 segment in the 8 a.m. hour.

Viewers were right to expect balance as "Pros and Cons of Obama's Stimulus" flashed on the screen and John Roberts said, "President-elect Barack Obama is warning of a dire economic situation and how much worse it could get if there is not bipartisan support for, and quickly for his stimulus plan. But will his proposals work?"

Instead, "American Morning" viewers didn't even hear an economist's perspective. They were fed a left-wing nationally syndicated columnist's perspective. That columnist was David Sirota, who was once called a "new-generation populist" by columnist Molly Ivins. Sirota has worked for Democrats on Capitol Hill and for the Center for American Progress, a "progressive" think tank.

Sirota's criticism of Obama's plan came entirely from the left arguing that "the bad" thing about his stimulus proposal are the tax cuts.

"The bad part of this is that he's-he's also including a lot of tax cuts. And that he's paying for, he seems to be paying for those tax cuts uh, uh with that public spending. In other words he's taking the money that could be going to public spending and proposing putting it into a lot of tax cuts that a lot of people don't think are going to work," Sirota said.

Sirota praised the massive public spending included in Obama's plan, claiming that such spending "is probably the most efficient way to stimulate the economy."

Peter Schiff, president of Euro Pacific Capital would disagree. In a Dec. 27, 2008 Wall Street Journal op-ed, Schiff explained the cost of public-sector expansion.

"Similarly, any jobs or other economic activity created by public-sector expansion merely comes at the expense of jobs lost in the private sector," Schiff said. "And if the government chooses to save inefficient jobs in select private industries, more efficient jobs will be lost in others. As more factors of production come under government control, the more inefficient our entire economy becomes. Inefficiency lowers productivity, stifles competitiveness and lowers living standards."

Economist Thomas Sowell pointed out on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" Jan. 5 that the tax cuts included in Obama's plan aren't actually tax cuts. "[S]ometimes you're giving tax cuts to people who don't pay any taxes. And that's not giving them back their money. That's simply handing out welfare," Sowell said.

Roberts did ask Sirota if there were enough details about the plan "to be able to say whether or not it would work?" But he didn't provide any historical perspective, like mentioning that 10 different government spending attempts failed to lift Japan out of recession in the 1990s. 

But as far as Sirota was concerned, the economic crisis is just an opportunity to expand the government's role in American lives.

"This economic crisis is an opportunity to reassert the role of the government as a force for good in the economy on behalf of the middle-class," Sirota said.

The Business & Media Institute pointed out on Jan. 7 that the media have done a poor job of asking tough questions about a proposed stimulus package such as where the money will come from, how it will be spent and why it should work better than past examples.

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.