Skip to main content

The Mainstream Media Is Obsessed With Inflation

Let me direct your attention to a piece written, a little over a week ago, by the august Editorial Board of The Washington Post. The headline reads:

Congress and Biden have to help the Fed fight inflation

Note that the Board — in all its august-ness — is putting this imperative out there, without a shred of irony, two weeks before a midterm election. Even as Republicans everywhere are screaming “inflation” — with multiple exclamation points — in all media, all the time. Even as they pair that word with fraught adjectives of every stripe — ‘runaway,’ ‘relentless,’ ‘record-breaking,’ ‘crippling.’ Even as they make it into a bogeyman to terrify their idiot base into voting democracy out of office.

But there’s no Republican argument so pathetic that the Post can’t give it voice. To the Board, these midterms are just one more clickbait-friendly, revenue-generating “horse race.” Nothing matters except who’s ahead, who’s behind, who’s fading, and who’s surging.

And of course it’s not just the Post. I could have zeroed in on any number of pieces in The New York Times, or in any of dozens of “mainstream” news outlets now hyperventilating about inflation.

This is just the latest variation on the “Democrats in disarray” theme. These so-called journalists simply cannot write the word ‘inflation’ without putting ‘Biden’ or ‘Democrats’ — or both — in the same sentence. Usually in the headline. Usually implying that both are somehow falling short.

In this particular article, the Board begrudgingly admits that the administration has done a reasonable job on the economy. That they’ve played a bad hand fairly well. That they can hardly be faulted for the current spasm of inflation. And that Republicans are “not offering much in the way of a concrete anti-inflation plan” — a grotesque understatement.

But despite all this faint praise, the Board nonetheless feels compelled to call on Biden — again, two weeks before the midterms — to use fiscal policy to “help the Fed.”

As if a coherent fiscal policy were possible in the next two weeks. As if responsible stewardship of the economy weren’t being sabotaged at every turn. As if the nonstop lies coming from the entire right-wing media complex would allow for any sober discussion of fiscal options. As if there were actually a functioning legislature that could weigh those options.

I won’t subject you to the whole article, which, despite the disingenuousness of the headline, makes a reasoned but pompous case for Congress engaging in fiscal legislation, aimed at sanding down the rough edges of the Fed’s monetary policy.

Let’s briefly review the difference between monetary and fiscal policy.

Monetary policy is about the Federal Reserve. It’s about the Fed tinkering with the money supply — usually by raising or lowering interest rates — so the economy can adjust to changing conditions. This is necessary, but not sufficient, since interest rates are a sort of sledge-hammer — minor adjustments can have major consequences. Raising rates too high might slow inflation, but it could also trigger a recession, a prospect now being wildly oversold by the media to stir up controversy in the final stretch of the midterm horse race.

Fiscal policy is a different animal. It’s mostly about Congress, about using legislative action to heat up or cool down the economy. When there’s a slump, Congress can approve new public projects — infrastructure, for example — to inject money into the hands of businesses and consumers. When there’s a boom, new legislation can be tailored to dampen the effects of the resulting inflation. The trouble with fiscal policy, effective as it can be, is that it presupposes a willingness of legislators to legislate. Good luck with that.

Generally speaking, monetary and fiscal policy should be working in tandem to keep the economy on an even keel — something we all want, but can’t always have.

Or, as the article acknowledges:

…[M]any factors beyond Mr. Biden’s or Congress’s control fueled inflation — especially Russia’s war on Ukraine… [W]hat we are calling for is reasonable fiscal discipline. Until inflation is defeated, fiscal policy should push in the same direction as the Fed, with no new major spending that isn’t fully or mostly paid for with higher taxes or reduced spending elsewhere in the budget.

Major spending? Higher taxes? What world do they live in?

Not that there’s anything wrong with what they’re saying, just with the context in which they’re saying it. The Post knows perfectly well that fiscal policy barely exists anymore. It’s yet one more tool of modern government that’s been effectively destroyed by Republicans. The accomplishments of the Biden administration — which are damn near miraculous — might just have been the last gasp of real fiscal policy, and it never would have happened without Democratic control of both houses of Congress. Both parties are supposed to be interested in the well-being of the nation’s economy, but only one actually is.

The Post is also fully aware that Republicans stonewall all legislation, no matter how sensible, how urgent, or how badly their own constituents need it. They assume their voters are stupid, and they’re seldom disappointed.

It’s not like inflation isn’t a real story, and a real cause for concern. It’s just that it’s the only story Republicans want to tell, they're telling it dishonestly, and mainstream news outlets are dishonestly helping them tell it.

As national issues go, inflation is emphatically not on a par with, say, the trashing of reproductive rights, or the accelerating pace of climate catastrophes, or the deliberate demolition of democratic institutions.

And yet, “responsible” mainstream journalists are feigning an urgency that doesn't exist, just to keep the horse race exciting. If democracy should happen to die in the resulting darkness, that’s just collateral damage.

So yes, we can expect prices to go up for a while. But inflation, like most economic issues, is famously oblivious to politics. It has a life of its own, and it answers to neither party.

Should it be part of an honest debate about real issues? Absolutely, if there were such a thing.

But in the meantime, what’s most galling about this ginned-up hysteria is the media’s complicity in turning inflation — an important but marginal issue — into The End of Life as We Know It.

Just so Democrats can be blamed for it.


Comments

  1. As far as I can tell, life as we know it will probably end on next Tuesday. The dipstwaddle GOP will then have their way with ruining everything they can get their hands on. They make me want to barf.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ditto! I have been screaming at my radio and newspaper for weeks now. I'd love to be a fly on the wall in the editor's offices of these major news outlets. I'm guessing that they're being pushed to help turn this country blood red by their oligarch friends.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Mainstream Media Continues to Disappoint

  Since I began this blog in 2020, one of my obsessions has been the culpability of the press in our current political predicament. Given the stakes we face this year, I feel we all need to be reminded that these mainstream news organizations are necessary, but not sufficient. Accordingly, I am revisiting this piece, which I wrote last May, because it’s particularly illustrative of the problem, especially in its depiction of The Washington Post’s shameful spinning of the final Durham Report.   The awkward term "both-siderism" has, at long last, stepped into the limelight, thanks to the graceful gravitas of CNN icon Christiane Amanpour (full disclosure: our dog used to play with her dog). In one brilliant commencement address , to the Columbia School of Journalism, she dope-slapped her own profession and, indeed, her own boss, both of whom richly deserved it. That takes guts, not to mention a reputation for integrity. Both of which she has in abundance.

Is Nikki Haley Working on a Take-Down of Trump?

  Every now and then I like to engage in a bit of speculation. Not prediction, mind you, but something hopefully less presumptuous. In this case, I’ve been musing about Nikki Haley’s path forward, if she has one. Not whether she’ll win the nomination, which is unlikely. I’m more interested in her potential as an irritant, as a person ideally positioned to tamper with Trump’s fragile psyche. She now has the unmistakable opportunity to attack Trump from inside the Fox media bubble, something few have been able to do. Haley just might be the focus of a novel strategy that does two things at once: It holds the door open for the slim chance she has of winning the nomination this summer, while at the same time, it lays the groundwork for a 2028 run at the presidency. Given the debased state of today’s Republican party, this is surely as good a strategy as any, though it risks doing more for Joe Biden than for her. More on this later. For now, let’s presume that ther

What Could Be Worse than the Dobbs Decision?

  I’ve tried to be a bit more optimistic in my posts of late. I’ve focused on the evidence — of which there’s plenty — that maybe Trump and the Republican party are driving themselves, as opposed to us, off a cliff. The politics of preserving democracy have indeed been somewhat encouraging, especially when one considers the virtually unbeaten record of Democrats in every election since the fall of Roe v. Wade . I’d like nothing more than to give up the gloom-and-doom thing on a permanent basis. But not today. Today, once again, I have to bum us all out. I have to tell you about one of those boring and esoteric legal issues that tend to slip right by us, but which, in this case, carries a level of threat arguably more alarming even than the tanking of Roe . Once again, the Supreme Court is up to no good, and it has nothing to do with the criminality of Donald Trump. One of the decisions they’re cooking up for this June could dwarf the Dobbs decision, both in