American Media Shill for Power Elite

Shinzō AbeShinzō Abe is the prime minister of Japan. He was elected with promises to stimulate the Japanese economy using standard Keynesian economics. Basically, he’s trying to bring the New Deal to Japan. And since he was elected in late 2012, the Japanese economy has done pretty well. But from the very start, mainstream reporters in the United States have had little but derision for Abe. It reminds me of Eric Alterman’s classic book, What Liberal Media? When it comes to economics, American reporters push the interests of their publishers. And for the better known reports — the ones clearly inside the upper class — they push the interests of their class. (And let’s be honest: there is no columnist or pundit who you’ve ever heard of who isn’t at least in the upper middle class.)

Thus, after 2014 showed basically no economic growth for Japan, we get articles such as Japan Emerges From Recession but Growth Subdued and Japan’s Economy Expands, but Less Than Expected. But Dean Baker responded with the obvious, Confusion on Japan’s Economy. He noted that the short Japanese recession in 2014 was due to a hike in the sales tax that was approved before Abe took power. And Abe has killed a second scheduled increase in the sales tax.

Jonathan Soble at The New York Times provided this amazingly biased assessment, “A long-planned increase in the national sales tax, carried out in April, hit consumers harder than the government and most economists had expected, calling the effectiveness of Mr Abe’s approach into question.” Baker responded, “While it says that the resulting downturn was a surprise to economists, this is exactly what standard economics would predict.” But not, of course, what the heterodox economics of expansionary austerity predicts. And this is what the mainstream media want to push: economic theories that have no theoretical or empirical evidence. And they want to push it because this is what the power elite want to hear.

This brings me back to my days as a libertarian. At that time, I made a lot of arguments about how consumers would rebel against companies that didn’t behave properly. Even at the time, I wasn’t too sanguine about this theory. The problem that I came to see was that the vast majority of people don’t have the time, energy, or power to do something about every injustice in their lives. If a chemical company is polluting their ground water, they may be very upset. But it isn’t going to kill them as fast as not eating will kill them, so they continue to go to work. But the rich have the time, energy, and power to do something about every injustice that they see in their lives. That’s because they can hire people to protect their interests.

This is how it is that the liberal readership of The New York Times can put up with reporting that takes it as granted that of course economic policy that is bad for a nation but good for its power elites is good economic policy. Personally, I think that Jonathan Soble should be thrown in jail for a few years for writing that one “news” article. But he should at least lose his job because he clearly isn’t doing the work that the readers of The New York Times expect. But most readers of The Times don’t even know that they are being deceived. Reporters like Soble have been shilling for the power elite for so long that it is now seen as “objective reporting.”

Instead, we have to read Dean Baker who has a far smaller profile. (Dean Baker Is Must Reading!) But as usual, he smashes the subtext of most of the reporting on Japan, which claims that the economy is not doing well under Shinzō Abe:

It is also worth noting that Japan’s employment to population ratio (EPOP) rose by 2.2 percentage points from the fourth quarter of 2012, when Abe came to power, to the fourth of 2014. By comparison, the EPOP in the United States has risen by 1.1 percentage point over the same period. News reports have been nearly ecstatic over the rate of job growth in the United States.

In comparing economic growth rates in the United States and Japan it is important to note that the U.S. population is increasing at an annual rate of 0.7 percent while Japan’s is shrinking at a 0.2 percent rate. This means that Japan’s 2.2 percent growth rate in the fourth quarter would look to its people like a 3.1 percent growth rate in the United States.

So we continue to be told that traditional Keynesian economics isn’t working in Japan — or even worse: that it can’t work. This has nothing to do with Japan, of course. It is all about what is acceptable to discuss here in the United States. And the power elite do not want us discussing economic stimulus. They want to focus on “out of control debt” and the need for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. Because the health of the economy doesn’t matter to the power elite — only controlling what they already have. And reporters all over America are there to shill for them. But without ever admitting it. They are just being “objective.”

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

4 thoughts on “American Media Shill for Power Elite

  1. One of the biggest misconceptions out there today is that conservatives are categorically in favor of reducing taxes. It sounds wore out to say that they only care about tax cuts for the rich but they do. From Kansas to Detroit to Japan to Greece and all points in between, conservative economic policy makers are addicted to expansionary austerity and that means increasing the tax burden on most people. To expand the EIC and the child tax credit and to implement payroll tax holidays is all an exercise in crazy Keynesian policy.

    As usual, Republicans rarely pay a political price for this behavior. When middle and upper-middle class folks hear a GOP politician bellow out that “people should get to keep their money,” my white, suburban compatriots tend to lap it up. People who work for a living, especially single, childless people, pay a great deal in taxes and I understand why they vote GOP, they see it as a vote against more taxes. Sadly, they do not seem to understand that Republicans want middle class wage earners to pay more in taxes so that people like Mitt Romney can pay even less.

    • They also want poor people to pay through the nose for privatized essential services that used to be delivered without profiteering middlemen; water, mail, parking meters, etc. Don’t forget that!

      • Well, that’s not the conservatives really. The conservatives don’t want to do anything about those things because the magic of the free market will work and if it doesn’t, well, those people ought to get off their duffs and live in a rich gated community. It is our neoliberal friends who are pushing this kind of fascist system. What I’ve really been bothered by recently is that we don’t have a left wing in the united states. If Bill Clinton is a liberal, then I’m a body builder.

    • Yeah. I don’t remember who it was but there was a blogger who used to be a conservative and he said the hardest thing was never being able to say what you really thought. And the reason is what you really thought was so vile. Conservatives are for big invasive government. It is just that it is an extremely unpopular kind of big invasive government.

      I don’t know if I wrote it here or elsewhere but the ultimate conservative ambition is to shift the tax burden entirely on the working class and the power to the rich. Basically, they want feudalism. You don’t have drill down very far into their ideology to see that.

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