SATURDAY, AUGUST 6, 2022
A place where our team's always right: We've really come to loathe the way she runs The 11th Hour.
Last night, Stephanie Ruhle introduced her opening four-person pundit panel, saying, as she always does, that the pundits would help us "get smarter."
In her second question of the night, she unfurled the tribal banner. Speaking of a major bill which may soon pass through the Congress, she said this to the New York Times' Peter Baker:
RUHLE (8/5/22): Let's talk about the politics. Put your Donnie Deutsch Branding Hat on, and the branding of even calling it, Peter, "The Inflation Reduction Act."
We know inflation is one of the top issues for the American people. For weeks, if not months, people have been asking, "What are you going to do?"
Now they will be able to say, "We passed this major legislation," and Republicans will have to say, "What did we do on inflation reduction? We voted against it."
For the record, and as all viewers of Blue Cable know, Donnie Deutsche is one of our tribe's "favorite reporters and friends." His is persistently branded that way om the popular serial repetition show, Deadline: White House.
At any rate, Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay! We get to say we reduced inflation! It's right there in the name of the bill!
By way of contrast, Republicans will now have to say that they voted against the bill! Yay yay yay yay yay!
Stating the obvious, that plainly isn't what Republicans are going to say. It also isn't what they're saying about the bill right now.
That said, here's what Baker said to Ruhle in reply. Somewhat sheepishly, the well-informed Timesman let some sunlight in:
BAKER (continuing directly): Yeah, I mean, that's a point they will make, no question about it. But it's a kind of a clever naming, right?
The real purpose of this bill is not to reduce inflation. It's to spend on climate, which is a priority for Democrats, and a lot of Republicans for that matter too.
They want to spend on health care. They want to have a minimum tax for corporations that have been getting away with not paying any tax.
These are all big priorities the president has had long before inflation became an issue. It's not like inflation suddenly caused them to want to do these things.
They're making the argument that it will help curb inflation. There's an argument about that, some of the economists out there saying, "Well, maybe not that much."
So I don't think it's really aimed at inflation as the primary goal, even if they can make the argument it will have some beneficial impact on it.
Say what? The Inflation Reduction Act isn't aimed at inflation reduction? That was just a bit of "clever naming?"
Also, "some of the economists out there" are saying it won't help reduce inflation much (and certainly not in the short term)? Is one of our favorite reporters and friends really permitted to say that?
In fairness, Baker hadn't exactly gone out on a limb as he made these comments. Here is the CBO's formal assessment, which it offered in Q-and-A form:
CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE (8/4/22): How Would Enacting the Bill Affect Inflation in 2022 and 2023?
In calendar year 2022, enacting the bill would have a negligible effect on inflation, in CBO’s assessment. In calendar year 2023, inflation would probably be between 0.1 percentage point lower and 0.1 percentage point higher under the bill than it would be under current law, CBO estimates.
That doesn't seem like a giant amount of inflation reduction! And people are concerned about inflation right now, in the current year and the next, not at some imaginary point in the more distant future.
That assessment by the CBO doesn't mean that the Inflation Reduction Act is a lousy bill. It simply means that the so-called Inflation Reduction Act won't have much effect on inflation reduction, and certainly not next week.
Indeed, here's what Paul Krugman has said on this matter, before going on to discuss the important matters the bill really seeks to address:
KRUGMAN (8/2/22): First, would the law, in fact, reduce inflation? Yes, probably—or at least it would reduce inflationary pressures. That’s because the legislation’s increased spending, mainly on clean energy but also on health care, would be more than offset through its tax provisions; so it would be a deficit reduction act, which other things being equal would make it disinflationary.
According to Krugman, the bill would probably reduce inflation. Or it would at least do something related to that, other things being equal.
It would probably reduce inflation, but Krugman isn't real sure—and he doesn't say when, or by how much, this reduction would likely happen. (He went on to say that the bill is "a very big deal," due to its potential effect on other important matters.)
None of this means that the Inflation Reduction Act is a bad bill. It simply means that the bill actually may indeed involve some "clever naming." That said:
Given the silly, tribe-pleasing way Ruhle posed her question last night, Baker's response, however mildly stated, qualified as a bombshell.
Question! Did Ruhle go on to examine the bombshell claim—the claim that the Inflation Reduction Act may not have much effect on inflation reduction? That's it's mainly a matter of naming?
Dearest darlings, use your heads! Having a four-member pundit panel means never having to say you're sorry!
In this case, Ruhle simply moved ahead to her next pundit, asking a wholly unrelated question. She had pimped the greatness of the bill in what it allows our tribe to say. On cable news as it currently stands, viewers will never be asked to learn that the truth may be quite different.
Ruhle introduced her panel last night as she always does. She told us that the gaggle of guests was going help us "get smarter."
For herself, she proceeded to scattershot her questions around, persistently leaning her head on her hands in the manner of Rodin's The Thinker. This strikes us as an awkward branding exercise, though we certainly can't be sure.
It seems to us that Ruhle has been thrown in over her head with her new late evening assignment—or at least, that she disconcertingly seems to feel that way. But in her silly exchange with Baker, we all can see what "cable news" is all about at this juncture.
"Cable news" is designed to tell us this:
Our team will now get to say wonderful things! The Others will be frog-marched about, admitting their shameful defeat!
Later in the program: Later, Ruhle spent two segments listening to monologues by presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
Beschloss was linking in from the antique furniture wing of the Sorbonne, where he currently seems to reside.