I love NPR. Really. From the moment I wake up in the morning until I walk through the door at my workplace, I listen to Morning Edition, their morning news/commentary/human interest/sports/whatever program. And, in the afternoon on my drive home, I list to All Things Considered. My early evening workouts often are accompanied by Marketplace, their half-hour economics analysis program. And Saturday evenings will often find me listening to Garrison Keillor and his friends on his Prairie Home Companion radio show. (Note to reader: These shows are based on my local NPR station's schedule. Yours probably differs.)
NPR is an essential part of our American way of life. It is a news network that exists to serve the interests of the American public, not a collection of shareholders and other corporate interests. For that reason, they can report the “real” news – for the most part, commercial-free – and not just “whatever-their-corporate-masters-tell-them-they-can-report” news.
Follow me below the fold for an explanation of that last.
You see, there is one exception. As I’m sure you’re aware, NPR receives funding from the government. In 2010 NPR terminated the contract of Juan Williams, one of its regular conservative commentators, after he went on The O’Reilly factor and made an incredibly racist comment about Muslims. That, of course, caused an uproar in the conservative world (by which I mean the firing of Williams, not his outrageous on-air comments – obviously), and, as invariably happens, that uproar found its way into the mainstream media. Conservative members of Congress – and their right-wing corporate puppet masters - issued regular calls for Congress to cut off all government funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, NPR’s parent company.
Now, NPR is impressive with its fund-raising capabilities. For every dollar it receives from the Federal government by way of the CPB, it raises about five from other sources. A good portion of this comes from contributions from member listeners. My local NPR station gets nearly half of its annual operating budget from that source. And as annoying as their semi-annual week-long fundraising campaigns are, I realize that they’re a necessary part of the programming, and I live with them. I even contribute when I can.
But government funding is an essential part of not only their budget, but also their clout. When you’re reporting a story that powerful people are not going to be happy about, it helps to have the backing of the Federal government behind you, even if some of those unhappy people are in the Federal government.
Which leads me in a somewhat roundabout way to my point: After the threat of having some or all of their federal funding cut off after the Williams firing, NPR started backing off, big time. It seemed that for every interview that they did with a reasonable, well-thought person, there would be three interviews with people whose views went well off the rails and crashing into crazytown on a consistent basis. Victims of tragic gun massacres were sharing airtime with rabid members of the NRA. I’m all for journalistic neutrality and fairness, but I simply cannot consider that there are 2 opposite but equal sides to every story. The world just does not work that way.
Which leads us to this morning’s interview with economist Tyler Cowen, whose most recent book is called “Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation.”
The title itself should give you pause.
Here are a few snippets from the interview. I encourage you to read/listen to the full story.
On the declining middle class:
“I think we'll see a thinning out of the middle class. We'll see a lot of individuals rising up to much greater wealth. And we'll also see more individuals clustering in a kind of lower middle class existence.”Translation: The rich are getting richer and there are more and more poor people. In other news, water is wet, and the desert is dry.
On the increasing numbers of young people living with no savings and no hope of a brighter future:
“Imagine a very large Bohemian class of the sort, say, that lives in parts of Brooklyn that it will be culturally upper or upper middle class but there will be the incomes of lower middle class. They may have lives which are quite happy and rewarding, but they may not have a lot of savings. There will be a certain fragility to this existence and I think that's the direction America is headed in.”Translation: You may be dirt poor and be one major financial disaster away from living on the street, but at least you have plenty of people to keep you company when you’re there!
On what troubles him about this world he imagines:
“It will be a very strange world, I think. We will be returning to historical levels of inequality. We'll view post-war America as a kind of strange interlude. It won't be the dreams that we all had that virtually all incomes go up in lockstep, three percent a year. It hurts to give that up. It will mean some very real increases in economic fragility for a lot of people.”Translation: Yeah, we had a good run of it there for a while, but now the party’s over and it’s time to go back to the good old days of the gilded age.
Again, I strongly encourage listening to the full interview. If you can get through it without smashing your computer in disgust.
So yeah. Basically this guy, a Harvard-educated economist, is telling the NPR listening audience that it's A-OK for the wealthiest one percent to control 90% of the wealth. For the heirs of the Wal-Mart fortune to have more wealth than the poorest 141 million American citizens. That not only should the poor be happy that the rich are peeing on them and telling them it's rain, but that they should believe them and rejoice about it!
And also that this is never going to change and that people should just accept it.
This is now the sort of thing we're hearing from the radio network that is receiving funding from the Federal government.
This is also the sort of thing they told the citizens of France, Russia, and Egypt before their respective revolutions. Just sayin'.