A Parable About Social Security as an Independent, Self-sustaining Entity
By A. G. Moore 4/15/2013
President Obama yesterday offered a budget package to Congress which included a proposal to cut by 20% the staff at MSNBC, the cable news network. Obama’s offer was characterized by some observers as an effort to sweeten the deal for his Republican opponents and to make more palatable other provisions in the budget, such as improving access to early childhood education and increasing taxes on upper income earners.
Supporters of the cable news network were aghast at what they believe to be the President’s betrayal of an ally.
“MSNBC went to bat for the president in the last election and was partly responsible for his reelection,” Bart Willowe asserted as he lingered over a cup of coffee at Maurt’s Diner in Boise, Idaho on Friday. “Besides,” Mr. Willowe asked, “what does MSNBC have to do with the federal deficit? These two aren’t connected, at all. The government doesn’t fund MSNBC. Republicans hate it and they’d love to see it disappear. That’s what this is about. The president is just selling out a constituency, his own ideological base, to placate an enemy. Boy, if people don’t see through this one, they gotta be walkin around with their eyes closed.”
In polling conducted since the President’s proposal was published, results seem to suggest that Mr. Willowe may be correct; much of the public, it seems, is walking around with their eyes closed. With the conflation by Mr. Obama of these two ideas, the federal budget deficit and MSNBC staff reductions, many people have come to believe that MSNBC derives its money from the federal government. Though this is not true, the belief has been reinforced by press reports, which consistently echo Obama’s conflation of these two issues. In its reports, the press does nothing to point out that there is no relationship between MSNBC and the federal budget deficit.
“You know, if the press would just tell us that MSNBC and the federal budget aren’t connected, that no matter what happens at MSNBC, it’s not going to make a whit of difference in the federal budget. I mean, isn’t that what journalism is about, letting people know what’s going on, telling us the truth,” Mr. Willowe’s added with irritation. His comments during this interview attracted some attention from other diner patrons.
“Is Bart right?” Ida Barnoeff, a 56-year old retail clerk, asked. “Cuttin MSNBC isn’t going to save any money in the budget? Well that doesn’t make sense and why didn’t we hear about this before? From the way the press has been tellin it, MSNBC is part of the problem. I figured, we’re payin them out of general funds, and everyone knows we gotta cut government spending. So that’s why I went along with it. I sure hope you’re going to go back to your newspaper and tell people what’s going on.”
As this reporter prepared to leave the diner, more patrons added their voices to Ms. Barnoeff’s and Mr. Willowe’s. Although many indicated they hated MSNBC and opposed President Obama’s policies, they asserted their right to know what was happening. A politically disparate crowd, this group was united by one sentiment: the press and the President should come clean and not manipulate coverage so everyone comes away with the wrong impression.
Thus I report, straight from Maurt’s Diner in Boise, Idaho: MSNBC is not funded by general revenues derived from the federal budget. U.S. tax payers do not fund MSNBC. This is an independent, completely self-sufficient entity. Funding is derived from participants in the program. Whether or not MSNBC is financially viable is a question apart from the federal deficit. Once that is understand, issues about MSNBC’s continued viability can be considered as a mathematical equation, not an ideological battleground.