Tim Russert meets Diane Ravitch: As noted in our previous post, the late Tim Russert was an attack dog concerning Social Security.
That’s almost literally true. During Campaign 2000, Candidate Bush proposed partial privatization of the venerable program. Candidate Gore opposed the proposal.
Russert went on the attack. Speaking with Joe Klein, he used the word as a cudgel:
KLEIN (5/6/00): The concern I have about the Gore campaign is that he has learned one lesson and he's kind of becoming a one-trick pony.You’re right—Joe Klein did it too! But that’s what happened when Candidate Gore dared oppose that proposal.
RUSSERT: Attack. Attack. Attack.
KLEIN: Attack. Attack.
RUSSERT: Governor Bush put forward a Social Security plan calling for a partial privatizing, and he attacks, saying that is risky. The fact is, President Clinton proposed taking parts of the Social Security trust fund and putting them in the stock market in his State of the Union message just—just a year ago. Yesterday, you had Pat Moynihan and, and Bob Kerrey and John McCain all coming out, saying, “Let's have a commission and this is an idea worth looking at.” Why, why— Why does Gore just auto—almost knee-jerk attack, attack, attack?
KLEIN: Well, because it's—it's, you know, scaring people about Social Security and Medicare has worked for the Democrats since time immemorial.
For what it’s worth, Russert’s reference to that year-old Clinton proposal was strongly misleading. So was this standard bullroar:
RUSSERT: But the role of media becomes critical here, Joe Klein. If— The facts are simple: When Social Security began, Franklin Roosevelt, genius, he—the life expectancy at that point was 63. He made eligibility for Social Security 65.There you see Jack Welch's neighbor shilling for Candidate Bush.
RUSSERT: It was a—was a very popular program. There were 45 workers for every retiree and life expectancy was exactly that age. Now we're approaching two workers for every retiree. Life expectancy is 78 going to 85. You're going to have 80 million people on Social Security and Medicare for about a fourth of their life, for three to 20 years. Everyone knows that, and yet when you present it to Al Gore, he'll say, “No problem. I'll take the surplus and it'll pay for it.” Even his own Secretary Treasury written volumes of reports—trustees reports, will say, “No, it doesn't work that way.”
KLEIN: No, it doesn't.
RUSSERT: What is our job? Can we call time out and say, “Excuse me, Mr. Vice President, it doesn't add up?”
Russert could recite that script about life expectancy in his sleep. As has been explained a trillion times, the point he offered there was grossly misleading.
That said, the talking-point was a plutocrat favorite. Russert kept pounding it out.
In May 2000, Gore was being trashed this way about this issue all over the mainstream press. Bush was being hailed as a giant for “daring to touch the third rail.”
Nothing could ever stop Russert from pushing the notion that Social Security was in danger of going bust. Nothing could stop him from reciting his misleading talking-points.
Under Jack Welch, Russert was king of NBC News—and he loved to push this topic. He may have believed every word he said. But we’re sure it made Jack’s heart glad.
Let’s discuss another tie between NBC News and the corporate world. This one involves Bill Gates.
MSNBC started in a partnership between NBC and Microsoft. To this day, that explains the first two letters in the channel’s name.
Gates sold his stake a long time ago. We don’t know if he ever exerted any influence over the channel’s news content.
Did Bill Gates ever affect the channel’s news content? We always wonder about that when NBC News stages its Education Nation Summit, which it normally does in October.
For years, NBC has pushed hard in favor of Gates-style “education reform.” We don’t know if that reflects some sort of residual tie to Gates and his ideas.
It may not be connected to Gates at all. But there’s no doubt that NBC News, for whatever reason, adopted this as a political stance some time ago.
With that in mind, have you ever noticed that public schools are almost completely ignored on MSNBC?
As of several years ago, Diane Ravitch had surfaced as a revered liberal voice in opposition to Gates-style “reform.” On balance, Ravitch isn’t our cup of tea. But she’s clearly a liberal hero, and some of her work is quite good.
As we noted earlier this year, Ravitch almost never appears on MSNBC programs. Our favorite liberal hosts never discuss her ideas. In fact, they never discuss public schools at all. On this corporate liberal channel, the topic doesn’t exist.
Does anyone know why that is? We’d have to guess that our liberal hosts are bowing to corporate sentiment as they maintain this silence. For whatever reason, NBC News is pro-“reform.” On its pseudo-progressive cable arm, pushback is never voiced.
We can’t tell you why Tim Russert was always pimping the idea that Social Security might be going bust. We can’t tell you why you never see Ravitch on MSNBC.
The older problem may not have been tied to Jack Welch. The current problem may have nothing to do with Bill Gates, even residually.
That said, why do our fiery liberal hosts completely ignore Diane Ravitch? Why do they completely ignore the topic of public schools?
Our jaundiced suggestion: When you watch a cable channel, you should notice two different things:
You should notice the topics you’re being offered. You also have to wonder about the topics which never come up.