As 1991 lurched to a close, national polls revealed that the public had put economic issues, including the national deficit, on top of its list of concerns. Still the media have yet to fully explain how bad the deficit is and how the economy became so dismal. Consequently, the American public knows it is in serious financial trouble, but it doesn’t know why nor whom to hold accountable.
First, the deficit. By next September 30, when the current fiscal year ends, the federal government’s total outstanding debt — which took about 200 years to reach $1 trillion in 1981 — will total $4 trillion. The federal budget deficit is now growing by nearly $1 billion every 24 hours or $3.94 for every person — young and old — in the United States.
Incredibly, as of October, 1991, it appeared that the interest alone on the federal debt will be the nation’s single largest expenditure this year — exceeding even the military budget. (It should be noted that declining interest rates will lower the interest due on the federal debt.) Interest expense came close to that in fiscal year ’91. Last year’s Defense Department budget was $293.3 billion while interest on debt totaled $288.7 billion.
Next, voodoo economics. Over the last 20 years, the people in Washington who write the complex tangle of rules by which the economy operates have rigged the game, by design and default, to favor the privileged, the powerful, and the influential. This is the basic conclusion of a two year research effort by Philadelphia Inquirer reporters Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele.
The result is that the already-rich are richer than ever before; the middle class is being dismantled; life for the working class is deteriorating; and those at the bottom are trapped.
The authors found that the rules that govern America’s economy have:
* Created a tax system that Is firmly weighted against the middle class.
* Enabled companies to cancel health-care and pension benefits for employees.
* Granted subsidies to businesses that create low-wage jobs that in turn erode living standards.
* Undermined longtime stable businesses and communities.
* Rewarded companies that transfer jobs abroad and eliminate jobs in this country.
* Placed home ownership out of reach of a growing number of Americans and made the financing of a college education impossible without incurring a hefty debt.
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: ERIK CUMMINS
SOURCE: KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWSPAPERS/PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER 400 North Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19130
Reprinted in: SANTA ROSA (CA) PRESS DEMOCRAT DATE: 11/2/91-11/8/91
TITLE: “Caught In The Middle” — series of six articles AUTHORS: Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele
SOURCE: USA TODAY, 1000 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22229, DATE: 10/1/91
TITLE: “Interest to take largest slice of budget pie” AUTHOR: Mark Memmott
COMMENTS: Authors Donald Barlett and James Steele point out one of the traditional shortcoming of the major mass media. “Many of the subjects we dealt with — taxes, pensions, health care, bankruptcy, foreign trade, corporate takeovers — were reported on individually by newspapers, magazines, radio and television,” Barlett and Steele said. “But none of the media pulled the broad range of these and other subjects together into a cohesive, unified story. And none successfully wove together an analysis of a half-century of tax and economic data and the individual stories of workers to document the decline of America’s middle class. As a result, that larger story went untold. Most importantly, the task of researching and writing the series called for a major commitment of time and news columns, both of which The Inquirer gave in abundance to assure that the story was fully explored.” The authors also pointed out that “An informed citizenry has always been regarded as the basis of democracy. Unless citizens know what is malfunctioning in the political and economic system they are ill-equipped to make judgments on what must be done to correct a problem.”
USA TODAY reporter Mark Memmott pointed out that the “media have reported extensively on the budget deficit but not enough about the economic ramifications of the red ink — and definitely not enough about the crippling size of the interest on the federal debt. And when those topics are the subjects of reports, perspective is rarely included.” He added that readers have to be given hard facts on how the budget deficit affects their lives. “Then, they’ll be able to make informed decisions in the voting booths the next time politicians ask them to go along with budget-busting policies.” Memmott also noted that the “only people who could possibly benefit from inadequate media coverage of the budget situation are politicians seeking reelection.”