Feet on the ground – head in the clouds.

Stop the strobe light and see the real world

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Elizabeth Edwards has written a beautiful op-ed piece for the Sunday New York Times (4/27/08) imploring the media to do its job. It seems like it should go without saying, but the media has failed the American people and democracy in general for the better part of the last decade. The media is often referred to as the 4th branch of government, because a free press acts as a check on political power. If the truth is available, it’s much harder to be hoodwinked.

The internet has been the saving grace for many Americans, who know the “truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” is out there somewhere, just not in the mainstream media. Mrs. Edwards, wife of former Democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, uses the phrase “strobe-light journalism” to describe the outline-only perspective presented by the mainstream media.

…every analysis that is shortened, every corner that is cut, moves us further away from the truth until what is left is the Cliffs Notes of the news, or what I call strobe-light journalism, in which the outlines are accurate enough but we cannot really see the whole picture.

She frames the situation far better than I could, and offers a stronger voice. Although a politician’s wife is no more an expert than any blogger, this truth will receive much more airplay because of her higher profile. I don’t believe the media will actually correct this issue, mostly because “the media” is no more a homogeneous group than “the American people”. A few of the pundits and talking heads are beginning to report more on the real issues, even if they fail to point out basic inaccuracies in the positions of each candidate.

For example, John McCain is able to freely attack Barack Obama over his proposal to raise the capital gains tax. I have yet to hear any journalist correct the statements of McCain, although they frequently play the statement and ponder “will this hurt Obama?” It will if nobody speaks the truth. First take a look at Sen. McCain’s attack on Obama.

Senator Obama says that he doesn’t want to raise taxes on anybody over — making over $200,000 a year, yet he wants to nearly double the capital gains tax. Nearly double it, which 100 million Americans have investments in — mutual funds, 401(k)s — policemen, firemen, nurses. He wants to increase their taxes.

Millions of Americans have investments, most have jobs. The problem is that someone making a living from investments alone end up paying half the taxes of the working people. Low capital gains taxes make investments available to more Americans, but most Americans aren’t making more money to invest. Lower capital gains taxes do benefit average Americans to some degree, but the wealthy to a far greater degree. A post at the DailyKos points out just how fundamentally wrong McCain is on this issue.

Investments contained in 401-K’s (Or in the case of ‘policemen, firemen’ usually a 403-B), pensions, IRAs, tax deferred variable annuities, and similar retirement vehicles aren’t subject to capital gains tax — they’re not taxed at all. Changing the capital gains tax rate will have zero effect on them. Withdrawals from tax deferred accounts by retirees are generally taxed at whatever the income tax rate is for that person at the time of withdrawal (Which, incidentally, is usually a hell of a lot more than the current long term capital gains tax rate, yet another way to rip off the middle class).

Many may dismiss anything from the DailyKos, but anyone with an understanding of our tax code and economy can confirm. Of course, people in the mainstream media discredit “far-left” bloggers at the DailyKos and other sites. The problem is, someone isn’t coming clean, and any deeper research reveals it’s the media. Many bloggers can be wrong about their facts, but they can also hyperlink ’til their heart’s content, allowing anyone reading the story to see the sources. Unfortunately, there exists no such option for the mainstream media. They quote and cite themselves as the expert, and we’re asked to accept it as fact.

I’ve always considered myself a moderate, although I’m sure many would call shenanigans. It’s just harder and harder to maintain any moderate views when our democracy has been so hijacked by ideologues who give most conservatives a bad reputation. A recent poll shows that 53% of Americans have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party, which I consider a shame, even though I admit I would like to see a Democrat win in November. A two-party system is divisive in some ways, but it can be divisive to the point of stalemate when the media decides to pick sides and report as a two-party media.

Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post and Ryan Lizza of The New Yorker both deserve some serious credit for putting recent comments by Reverend Wright into real context, as I try to point out any time I see the truth told on TV. On today’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, both attempted to point out that Barack Obama has never aligned himself with the views of Reverend Wright. If he ever had, he’d already be out of this race. We know his pastor and his bowling score, now if only we didn’t have to look so hard for his positions on the issues.

Did you, for example, ever know a single fact about Joe Biden’s health care plan? Anything at all? But let me guess, you know Barack Obama’s bowling score. We are choosing a president, the next leader of the free world. We are not buying soap, and we are not choosing a court clerk with primarily administrative duties. – Elizabeth Edwards


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