Supplemental: Liberal channel ignores public schools!


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.

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.
You’re right—Joe Klein did it too! But that’s what happened when Candidate Gore dared oppose that proposal.

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.

KLEIN: Right.

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?”
There you see Jack Welch's neighbor shilling for Candidate Bush.

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.


  1. I'm no statistician, but I accidentally got hold of an actuarial chart once and -- you know what? -- the numbers indicated that [average] life expectancy doesn't mean everybody drops dead upon reaching that age. This chart showed that, upon reaching the dreaded day, half the people born on your birthday are STILL ALIVE. Only half of you are dead.

    Not only that, but [average] life expectancies have to be readjusted and many in that surviving half will live a lot longer. Up to the point of inevitable mortality, say 120 years, the longer you live, the longer you're expected to live. What with disease, accidents, wars, dangerous jobs, driving like a drunken idiot, jackass stunts, hazing, fighting over women, being caught with other mens' wives, youth is a perilous time to get through. Those that make it through have a longer life to look forward to than they had at birth, statistically.

    So was FDR such a sneaky "genius" as Russert seems to be cynically suggesting? Minorities have a shorter life expectancy than the white majority. Does that make FDR a racist as well?

    In the old days, social security meant living in your kid's attic -- if you had a kid -- if he had an attic. Today we're cool and free and choose not to have enough babies to sustain us in our old age. (Oops!) If we're not going to make our own old-age meal tickets (I mean, posterity), we need more immigrants to make them for us.

    SocSec a Ponzi scheme? Well, kind of...but only if you're shot climbing out of a guy's bedroom window or slip on pigeon poop while hiding on a ledge, or any of the thousand other way you can off yourself when you're young, single, and stupid.

    1. "Minorities have a shorter life expectancy than the white majority. Does that make FDR a racist as well?"

      No, but the simple fact that most black people worked in jobs excluded from eligibility in the initial Social Security Act allowed some to point out that troubling fact. Somerby, had he been blogging at the time would probably have accused such people of dropping an "R" bomb on FDR.

      And let's not mention what the inital SS Act did not do for women.

    2. SS benefits are a higher % of contributions for low earners than for high earners. That tends to offset the fact that blacks have shorter average life spans.

    3. FDR didn't personally establish 65 as the cut off.

    4. FDR didn't fight for the Public Option!

    5. David in Cal is right, a further consideration is found on page 62 of the Social Security report: Minorities and Social Security: An Analysis of Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Current Program (1999) [64 page pdf]:

      [QUOTE] While Social Security retirement benefits are important to all elderly groups, chart 7 demonstrates that a greater proportion of white beneficiaries receive retired worker benefits than minority beneficiaries. A larger percentage of minority groups, however, receive disability and survivor benefits than do whites. Disability rates strongly correlated to socioeconomic factors, with low-income workers having much higher rates of disability than workers with higher incomes....

      Minority beneficiaries are more likely to receive disability and survivors benefits than are whites. Twenty-five percent of all black beneficiaries and 32 percent of all other minority beneficiaries receive disability benefits, compared to only 12 percent of whites. In addition, while blacks comprised 11 percent of the population 18-64 in 1996, 18 percent of all disability awards were made to blacks....[END QUOTE]

    6. Here's a dated [from the 90s, I think] but handy via Google review of the life expectancy question from the Social Security Administration:


      Life Expectancy for Social Security

      If we look at life expectancy statistics from the 1930s we might come to the conclusion that the Social Security program was designed in such a way that people would work for many years paying in taxes, but would not live long enough to collect benefits. Life expectancy at birth in 1930 was indeed only 58 for men and 62 for women, and the retirement age was 65. But life expectancy at birth in the early decades of the 20th century was low due mainly to high infant mortality, and someone who died as a child would never have worked and paid into Social Security. A more appropriate measure is probably life expectancy after attainment of adulthood.

      As Table 1 shows, the majority of Americans who made it to adulthood could expect to live to 65, and those who did live to 65 could look forward to collecting benefits for many years into the future. So we can observe that for men, for example, almost 54% of the them could expect to live to age 65 if they survived to age 21, and men who attained age 65 could expect to collect Social Security benefits for almost 13 years (and the numbers are even higher for women).

      Also, it should be noted that there were already 7.8 million Americans age 65 or older in 1935 (cf. Table 2), so there was a large and growing population of people who could receive Social Security. Indeed, the actuarial estimates used by the Committee on Economic Security (CES) in designing the Social Security program projected that there would be 8.3 million Americans age 65 or older by 1940 (when monthly benefits started). So Social Security was not designed in such a way that few people would collect the benefits.

      As Table 1 indicates, the average life expectancy at age 65 (i.e., the number of years a person could be expected to receive unreduced Social Security retirement benefits) has increased a modest 5 years (on average) since 1940. So, for example, men attaining 65 in 1990 can expect to live for 15.3 years compared to 12.7 years for men attaining 65 back in 1940.

      (Increases in life expectancy are a factor in the long-range financing of Social Security; but other factors, such as the sheer size of the "baby boom" generation, and the relative proportion of workers to beneficiaries, are larger determinants of Social Security's future financial condition.)

      [Follow the link to see the charts at the end of the review]
      [END QUOTE]

    7. Anonymous @ September 24, 2014 at 2:22 PM,

      To this day the Bureau of Labor statistics tracks "non-farm" employment separately from farm labor as, for instance, is exemplified here:

      Each month the Current Employment Statistics (CES) program surveys approximately 144,000 businesses and government agencies, representing approximately 554,000 individual worksites, in order to provide detailed industry data on employment, hours, and earnings of workers on nonfarm payrolls.
      [END QUOTE]

      FDR was pressured to exclude blacks from Social Security coverage and their #1 source of employment in the '30s was doing farm work. However, including farm labor among those occupations which fell under Social Security would have been highly problematic because of the way farm labor was compensated. Domestic labor in residential homes, was another field that employed large numbers of blacks and that occupation was excluded from minimum wage protections in the thirties until I'm not sure when and from coverage under Social Security. However, that job sector would have largely disappeared if minimum wage requirements and withholding had been imposed back in those days.

  2. I think the reason's obvious: much of MSNBC's viewership is liberal, a la school teacher liberal. Most then would agree with Ravitch.

    But if management has a reform agenda instead, you think they're going to put Rachel Maddow & Co in a position of pimping for his position and thus lose viewers? Their only recourse then is to ignore the issue whenever possible.

  3. Why is the blogger such an unreasoning life form that he has failed to notice that nobody covers public education much.

    What is the sinister agenda. Could it be because it really is not a very interesting topic?

    1. Journalism is intended to provide "informative" data that citizens will need to make informed choices. "Interesting" is what entertainment is all about. It would be best if all "informative" issues were also "interesting", but that should not preclude journalists from covering the issues that we need to know about.


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