Has the Fourth Estate Been Eviscerated?

Has the Fourth Estate Been Eviscerated?
July 28, 2011

What is the media’s responsibility, if any, for effectively analyzing and reporting on the federal debt and deficit crises? I wonder whether we still have a Fourth Estate capable of fulfilling the role of an educated and objective observer of current events. Has the media become an echo chamber without moorings or a compass, beholden to corporate sponsors and well-funded interest groups or, from a less conspiratorial perspective, is the 24/7/365 news cycle, dependent as it is upon intermittent crises and a constant flow of information and cash, simply unequal to the task?

I’m not surprised that the main stream media is covering Boehner, Cantor and McConnell v. Obama, Pelosi and Reid as a sporting competition with daily updates (who’s winning? losing? who scored points today? who lost points?). However, if truth matters, is this contest truly being waged by equivalent truth tellers? Does it exist within an historical context worth mentioning?

It is truly maddening, given that the lion’s (elephant’s?) share of the spending which created the current federal debt is clearly the direct result of the prior administration’s tax cuts, two unfunded wars, and unfunded Medicare prescription benefits, plus the emergency stimulus spending made necessary by the prior administration’s economic policies, budget decisions, and lack of regulatory oversight – not to mention the now well-proven inability of tax cuts for the wealthy to create good jobs here at home (with the possible exception of the jobs created in the banking and investment industry, which proved, in the end, to be a very mixed bag, indeed) .

After Congress did the bidding of monied interests by privatizing profits and socializing losses, record corporate profits from outsourcing and wage inequity have still added exceedingly few middle class jobs in America, though they do continue to fuel outrageous executive compensation packages, while underwriting outsourced jobs being created abroad. Anti-union campaigns and public sector job losses are helping to destroy the rest of our middle class, the foundation upon which all past economic recoveries have been based. Meanwhile, carefully orchestrated state level redistricting and voter disqualification strategies threaten to distort our electoral process for generations to come and corporate campaign spending increasingly crowds other voices out of our for profit, electronic “public square.”

What is the media’s proper role during a political dust-up of epic proportions with potentially calamitous economic consequences? Where is the in-depth analysis? Who should be responsible for fact-checking and contextual references? When the Republican Party states that their purpose is to ensure that President Obama does not win reelection, should someone question House Speaker Boehner when, with trembling voice, he says, “the president’s worried about his next election, but my God, shouldn’t we be worried about the country? I’m not worried about the next election.”

Really? . . . Really?

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