Monday, September 22, 2008

More on How to Read the News

In yesterday’s post, I ranted a bit about the quality of information sometimes presented to general news consumers.

Today, if you’ll indulge my getting off the grammar topic just a bit longer, here’s a sample of the starkly higher quality of information presented to a subset of news consumers – those who read the Wall Street Journal.

The whole story is
here. The nuggets I found most notable are excerpted below.

In short, banking-industry lobbyists are all over the government’s proposed $700 billion financial system bailout to assure the most favorable distribution of the dough. At the same time, they are openly lobbying to assure that defaulting homeowners in bankruptcy don’t receive any breaks. (Oh, and they want to make sure that foreign banks with exposure to the bad mortgages get some of the U.S. taxpayer money, too.)

Yup. While NBC News serves stories like the one I wrote about yesterday, this is the kind of news being served to Wall Street Journal readers.

Here are the excerpts:

* Lobbyists and financial-services executives are working deep connections within the administration to ensure as many institutions as possible benefit from a $700 billion federal mechanism to buy distressed assets, then sell them off in better times.

* They also oppose proposals by Democrats in Congress to provide mortgage reductions for homeowners facing bankruptcy. Bankers say such a move would raise rates for mortgage seekers, as banks factor in the possibility that a loan would be restructured in court.

* "How you publicly oppose loan modifications and bankruptcy law while at the same time advocating a huge taxpayer bailout is beyond me," said a lobbyist for a major bank holding company. "Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered."

* Foreign-owned institutions with U.S. mortgage-market exposure are fighting to benefit from the federal rescue.

* By Sunday, the group (the Financial Services Roundtable, a group of chief executives of the nation's most powerful banks, brokerages and insurers and a leader in the lobbying) had gained the support of Mr. Paulson for its stance that foreign-owned banks must be included in the rescue.

* The industry has gone directly to the SEC demanding a letter changing U.S. accounting rules that require banks to state the value of their assets at the market price. Banks say that without such a change, the government would pay an artificially low price for distressed assets.

* Banks and brokerages have banded together to push back against any effort by Congress to include a provision in the bill allowing judges to decrease the amount homeowners must pay on mortgages that are part of a bankruptcy proceeding.

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Joel said...

This reminds me of when the Republican Congress toughened the rules on consumer bankruptcy, essentially and transparently making it an option only for those with money (and, of course, for corporations as well). Another thing that gets me in all of this is that the folks who run these rackets usually end up escaping not only pain-free but often with absurd golden parachutes. That is, they not only avoid punishment; they're rewarded for their incompetence and/or callous indifference.

But, yaknow what, it's just like I said before (btw, I always wonder how to punctuate that, whether there should be an actual question mark in there; sometimes I split it into two sentences and sometimes I even lead the second sentence with lowercase, as an expression of my fundamental confusion; sometimes I set the "yaknow what?" off in dashes, which I way over use . . . oh, and then there are the issues I run into with my rambling parenthetical insertions, but that's another dysfunction for another day): start talking about restructuring the tax code and setting limits on executive pay and Joe Sixpack reflexively identifies you as a socialist.

I'm in one of those discussions on another blog and I'm completely at a loss for how to present the situation both truthfully and in a way that will get through.

Again on the news this morning, I heard a Republican congressman clearly saying (re the golden parachute and outrageous executive compensation in general) that a private board is entitled to pay its executives however it pleases. Frankly, I don't care if it does make me a socialist, the pay disparity and the lack of accountability are simply unjust and something needs to be done. The huge absurdity, as you say, is that we're all okay bailing these bums out; we're just not okay holding them accountable. Somehow the former still fits within the definition of "free market capitalism" but the latter is commie drivel.

I just wish we'd call it what it is, a plutocracy, and that we'd realize that there's no divine prohibition against tearing it down.

June Casagrande said...

I just can't get over how it's considered "socialist" to help individuals but just fine to help big business. Especially when the business's leaders have affronted the entire capitalist system by demonstrating that the Invisible Hand of Self Interest, left unregulated, gives us Enrons.

It's exactly that Joe Sixpack phenomenon you mentioned. If only so many weren't so easily misled by PR tactic that is branding things as "socialist." Why must mindless smears work so well?


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