Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Bush Budget

The media is putting forth two and not entirely consistent visions of the Bush budget: on the one hand, as I heard one of the blowhards on PBS's "Washington Weekly" proclaim last week, the budget is dubbed "tough" for the cuts it proposes; on the other hand, the reporters all point out that the budget, for all its supposed toughness, doesn't do much to reduce the deficit. So we have a budget that is tough, yes, but at the same time, there is no clear point to this toughness since it doesn't do much to slim down the deficit.

Don't get me wrong: the media, especially the Times, has done an excellent job this time calling Bush's bluff. There have been many, many stories pointing out how negligible the savings are the Bush's budget achieves. But I am not sure it's going to matter. We are going to have a big battle in Congress over Bush's proposed cuts. The Democrats will content they are Draconian; the Republicans will argue they eliminate wasteful government spending. It will be high drama: will the President get what he wants? will he be able to reign in his party? will the Democrats foil him? And Bush will rattle his saber. He will talk tough about reigning in spending, insist he's for fiscal discipline, and then proclaim he's on the side of the average American who just wants to see the government get off their backs.

So even if Bush loses the budget battle, he wins. He looks like he tried to control spending. He looks tough and decisive and engaged and all those other descriptive terms that have become common ways of describing him, even though we all know he is not any of these things. And no one will remember that this battle is pointless -- it does nothing to reduce the deficit! It's all symbolic fireworks, you see, Sturm und Drang for Sturm und Drang's sake. But that's the genius of this administration: you don't need to give the masses bread and circuses, you need to feed them compelling narratives. So long as it's a good story, no one will ask why it's being told in the first place.

Is anyone out there reading this?

3 Comments:

Blogger Brooklynlib said...

Sacre bleu. Goodman has done it again! He may be "of" the media, but there is no media critic around who sees as clearly how screwed up the media is. It's all about storytelling and plot rather than reporting nowadays. And Goodman sees this better than anyone. I hearby nominate him to be the Times "Public Editor" after Okrent is done.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Matt Miller said...

I'm reading this, Dude.

-- Matt

4:23 PM  
Blogger -Heart- said...

Remember that not much ago Bush was named the person of the year according to Times, I see the media as a way to kiss up to some one.

4:47 PM  

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