BY HOLLY BATCHELDER
Act I— Partial Government Shutdown
The tone on television and in the newspapers is very familiar. During the weeks leading up the Sequester, we were constantly told how our lives would be negatively impacted. The media reinforced these scare tactics then and are doing it now. From the countdown clocks on television screens, to the dramatic playback of Washington’s talking points, one might very well believe that the apocalypse is upon us…again.
After more than a week of the scary partial federal government shutdown, most people are finding that their lives have not really been impacted. The fact that roughly 83 percent of the federal government remains open is typically glossed over, buried or not mentioned at all. Funding priorities are also rarely challenged. You’d be hard-pressed to find a major headline that sheds light on the fact that the President’s preferred golf course remains open along with Congress’ gym and cafeteria, while on-base grocery stores are closed, senior citizens are being evicted from their privately-owned homes on federal land and park rangers are being told to inflict the maximum consequences on “trespassers.”
Just as the media put no pressure on the necessity of petty cuts such as White House tours to the public after the Sequester, there is no pressure to understand why the administration is wasting resources to close open-air memorials at what is most likely a greater expense than to keep them open. Or why an immigration rally on the National Mall was allowed to continue while veterans were initially told to keep out of the WWII memorial.
Reported examples of the pain inflicted on the American people as a result of the partial government shutdown are chosen based on what fits the “blame Republicans” narrative. Most news outlets focus on what House Republicans aren’t doing rather than giving anything other than a passing mention to what they are doing. For example, lack of funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the cancer treatment they provide children was a hot topic until Republicans approved a measure to fund the program. When Harry Reid rejected that and lambasted a CNN reporter for bringing it up, other reporters quickly backed off the issue.
Most reporters from major news organizations also have yet to ask why President Obama and the Democrats won’t give up congressional subsidies for the Affordable Care Act, compromise on the Medical Device Tax, or give individuals the same delay that has been granted to big business— new points of contention and negotiation for Republicans regarding healthcare.
Act II— The Debt Ceiling
Mainstream media is shifting their focus to the doom and gloom of the October 17 debt ceiling deadline, failing to point out that the federal government takes in more than $2 trillion in tax revenue every year (CBO), which covers interest payments on the national debt along with other vital government functions and responsibilities such as social security. No one with a public microphone stops to analyze whether we would be in this situation at all if the federal government hadn’t operated without a budget for four years.
Media personalities largely focus on the Democrats’ talking point that the White House and Senate won’t negotiate on what is the congressional “responsibility” to raise the debt ceiling. Reporters don’t challenge this narrative with the question of congressional responsibility to also rein in growing federal expenditure in an effort to minimize the long-term consequences of continual deficit spending. They echo the demand for a clean spending bill while ignoring (as they have largely done since 2009) the complexities and exceptions throughout the more than 9,000 pages of the Affordable Care Act.
Major news outlets are passing on the opportunity to bring up a broader conversation on the growing reach of the federal government that multiple administrations are responsible for. With power and posturing for the 2014 elections at stake, reporters are missing the point that the economic well being of our country should not be so dependent on federal government. While there are valid points to the left’s arguments regarding blame for the partial government shutdown, Americans will not see the other side of the story unless they listen carefully and actively seek it out.
Holly Batchelder is Colorado native currently residing in Denver. She received her B.S. in Business and B.A. in Journalism from Colorado State University and has particular interest in observing media coverage and how news outlets shape the national debate on various issues. Holly is a marketing communications professional and enjoys freelance work in a variety of industries. Writing samples and sporadic blog entries can be found at www.hollybatchelder.com.
Photo Credit: “Liberal Media Bias” by TK.