The Atlantic pushed back against remarks from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other Republican candidates at Fox Business' presidential debate that the United States should bring back the gold standard, noting "economists agree that the gold standard is a bad idea."
Right-wing media personalities like Glenn Beck and Alex Jones, who have profited greatly from advertisers selling gold and silver, have pushed for a return to the gold standard for years against the opposition of nearly all economists and monetary policy experts. At Fox Business' Republican presidential debate on November 10, Ted Cruz and other GOP presidential candidates once again advocated for reinstituting the gold standard. The New Republic called Cruz's gold standard proposal "particularly reckless," and ThinkProgress noted Cruz's support for a gold-based money supply would leave the "entire economy exposed to catastrophe" after the senator proposed a return to the gold standard during the October 28 presidential debate on CNBC.
On November 11, The Atlantic addressed many of these critiques, pointing out the volatility a gold standard would create and how the economic consensus is decidedly against returning to this outdated form of monetary policy. The article also noted Cruz's support for gold may be influenced by the millions of dollars gold standard supporter Robert Mercer has donated to super PACs supporting his presidential campaign (emphasis added):
During Tuesday night's Republican debate a familiar topic resurfaced to the dismay of most economists: the case for the gold standard.
Senator Ted Cruz criticized the Fed's ability to manipulate monetary policy (a common refrain among gold-standard advocates) saying, "Instead of adjusting monetary policy according to whims and getting it wrong over and over again and causing booms and busts, what the Fed should be doing is ... keeping our money tied to a stable level of gold
These conversations may be less an attempt to actually convince rivals, lawmakers, or voters that the gold standard is sound fiscal policy, and more about displaying commitment to conservative ideals, wooing big donors, and demonstrating a substantial disdain for current monetary policies.
In general, economists agree that the gold standard is a bad idea. Pegging the dollar to the metal is, in theory, supposed to offer long-term rate stability. But in practice, that hasn't usually worked out. In the short term, linking dollars to gold quantities can produce a currency that's pretty volatile.
The conversations about gold in recent years are perhaps less about the belief that it's actually smart policy and more about condemning and rejecting the power of the government, through the Federal Reserve, to control the printing of money and the setting of interest rates. For some conservatives these powers stand in direct opposition to their preference for small government and their conception of free-market capitalism. Some also see the ability to print money, which can devalue existing dollars, as a form of taxation, another violation of Republican beliefs.
The gold-standard advocates are not only politicians. They include a small but vocal (and rich) minority of Wall Streeters and hedge funders still angry about the Fed's low-interest rate (read: low yields) put in place during the 2008 crisis and lasting until today. This minority is an influential one, especially when it comes to political campaigns, because of its ability to drum up large sums of money. For example, the hedge-fund manager Robert Mercer, who favors the gold standard, donated millions to four super PACs affiliated with Cruz's campaign.
Pegging money to gold ounces offers no such protection, and in fact could be quite dangerous. While the commodity has long been considered valuable, it isn't immune to declines. The price has fluctuated significantly over the years, and hit a five-year low in July. As Matthew O'Brien noted in a 2012 article in The Atlantic, the ability to print money under a gold standard relies on how much gold can be found at any given time. That could create an economic disaster that has little to do with actual economic trends. With an economy that's just starting to show some signs of life after the recession, that's a problem the country certainly doesn't need.
Media figures and editorial boards are calling out the "political fakery" of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, criticizing it as a "laughable crusade" against Clinton rather than a legitimate investigation into the Benghazi attacks, after two congressmen and an ex-committee staffer admitted to the partisan nature of the committee.
Fox News personalities are attempting to rewrite history in order to shift blame for the 9/11 terrorist attacks onto former President Bill Clinton, and away from former President George W. Bush, who GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump recently blamed for the attacks. The historical record shows that the Clinton administration was the first to label terrorism "'a national security issue,'" created a special CIA unit focusing specifically on Osama Bin Laden, and ordered missile attacks against the terrorist leader, while the Bush administration was warned 36 times -- including allegedly by Clinton himself -- about the terrorist threat prior to the attacks.
An article in The Atlantic explained that mainstream journalists have been slow to realize that the Republican-led House Select Benghazi Committee was acting as an "oppo-research arm of the Republican National Committee" and suggests that journalists "view upcoming reports as you would others from partisan organizations with an unreliable track record."
The October 13 article written by James Fallows points to the New York Times' recent article noting that the Benghazi Committee was mainly focused on Hillary Clinton's emails, not Benghazi, and that "evidence to that effect has been mounting for months." Fallows continued, stating, "[w]hile these stories were dribbling out, most notably with the completely false report that Hillary Clinton was the object of a criminal investigation, a claim that the Times trumpeted on its front page [...] through their commitment to 'neutrality', reporters had been taking sides all along." Fallows concludes by advising readers to "view upcoming [Benghazi committee] reports as you would others from partisan organizations with an unreliable track record, for instance James O'Keefe and his Project Veritas."
It has taken mainstream journalism too long a time to catch up with the reality of the "Benghazi Committee," run by Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina. (He is from our beloved Greenville, in fact.) The reality is that the Republican staff and majority of the committee have made it function as an oppo-research arm of the Republican National Committee, far more interested in whatever it might dig up about or against Hillary Clinton than any remaining mysteries on the four Americans killed in Benghazi.
Evidence to that effect has been mounting for months, and the case is comprehensively assembled in Sunday's big NYT take-out. This story really is worth reading in detail. (Update: As is this analysis just now by the Atlantic's own David Graham.)
Through their commitment to 'neutrality,' reporters had been taking sides all along.
The piquant aspect of this Times story is that the pattern it describes--a partisan-minded effort to find anything potentially damaging to Hillary Clinton, whether or not it has any connection to the Benghazi tragedy--got as far as it did largely through reliance on those old mainstream-media habits of mind, including at the NYT. By instinct reporters treat a congressional investigative committee as presumptively legitimate; and when they receive leaks from informed committee sources, as obviously has happened for many months, they (we) are honor-bound to protect their sources' identities.
But the good part of that old-school confidentiality commitment--making clear to our informants that we won't ever give up their names--has shaded over into a cynically exploitable part. The latest Times article makes clear in retrospect what I thought was evident all along: that the steady stream of leaks was coming either from Republican staffers or Republican committee members. But while these stories were dribbling out, most notably with the completely false report that Hillary Clinton was the object of a criminal investigation, a claim the Times trumpeted on its front page, reporters added no shading to suggest that these allegations were coming essentially from a partisan oppo-research group. To do so would have been to "take sides." Yet as Kevin McCarthy inconveniently blurted out, through their commitment to "neutrality," reporters had been taking sides all along.
What's the next step in dealing with the Benghazi committee? For readers, it is to view upcoming reports as you would others from partisan organizations with an unreliable track record, for instance James O'Keefe and his Project Veritas. What they say could be true, but beware.
And for reporters, it is to recognize the way today's GOP has played on yesterday's reflexes within the press. And don't let it keep happening.
Scott Walker's early exit from the presidential primary has led some media outlets to conclude that super PACs may not be having as big an effect on the 2016 campaign as it was once thought they would. However, it's far too early to judge super PACs' influence because many of these outside groups have not yet begun to spend the tens of millions of dollars they've already raised in preparation for the fight ahead.
In the case of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the media has largely focused on how his Unintimidated PAC appears to have failed, pointing out that while deep-pocketed outside groups can provide a boost in advertising, they cannot legally help with some of the most basic functions needed to keep a campaign functioning. As the New York Times reported, "Super PACs, Mr. Walker learned, cannot pay rent, phone bills, salaries, airfares or ballot access fees." Political reporters pointed out that even the Walker PAC's success in raising over $20 million couldn't prevent its candidate's eventual withdrawal from the race.
While super PACs certainly have their limitations, it would be naive to take Scott Walker's or Rick Perry's withdrawal from the presidential race as a sign that PACs won't have a significant impact on the 2016 election.
Last spring, the billionaire Koch brothers named Scott Walker to their short list of candidates in line for their support -- an expected endorsement of sorts that confirmed the financial force analysts expected Walker to marshal in the primaries. The Kochs spent roughly $400 million on the 2012 election and plan to spend hundreds of millions more in support of their handpicked candidate in 2016.
Walker's Unitimidated PAC already had several major donors.* But it had yet to begin to flex its financial muscles when apparent campaign mismanagement brought down the governor's bid. A comparison of how much both Walker and Jeb Bush's PACs have raised versus how much they have spent so far, as illustrated by OpenSecrets.org below, indicates the tsunami of spending yet to come:
Predictably, and necessarily, super PAC spending spikes as Election Day approaches. For those candidates who can competently manage their campaigns through the heavy advertising season, their PAC's ability to raise and spend millions on air time will prove invaluable. While super PACs may not seem relevant this fall, if the past spending patterns by outside groups documented by The Washington Post below is any indication, next fall's super PAC spending will be obvious when political campaign advertising goes into overdrive.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly claimed that the Koch brothers had donated to Scott Walker's Unitimidated PAC. Media Matters regrets the error.
The New York Times accused Hillary Clinton of potentially violating federal law pertaining to the preservation of e-mail records while acting as Secretary of State, but requirements to maintain such records did not exist during her tenure.
The Atlantic's Molly Ball is the latest media figure to proclaim herself bored of Hillary Clinton, insisting the former Secretary of State offers "nothing new or surprising" and asking, "Has America ever been so thoroughly tired of a candidate before the campaign even began?"
But America isn't tired of Clinton, one of the nation's most popular political figures -- Molly Ball and others in the press corps who insist on obsessing over her every move are.
Polling from Gallup this summer found that a majority of Americans -- and 90 percent of Democrats -- viewed Clinton favorably. Clinton also beat out all of her theoretical Republican challengers in a more recent McClatchy-Marist poll. More than 80 percent of Democrats would be either "excited" or "satisfied" with a Clinton run for president, according to a CNN/ORC poll.
In fact, at the end of 2013, Gallup found Clinton was the "most admired woman" in America -- for the twelfth consecutive year. (Oprah Winfrey came in second, by a wide margin.)
But Ball's September 19 article largely ignored Clinton's widespread popularity to instead claim that there is widespread fatigue with the former secretary of state. Ball's argument centers around the idea that Clinton is not producing enough "spark" or "vision," and criticized her for agreeing with a "laundry list of well-worn leftish ideas" discussed at a recent event at the Center for American Progress, "from raising the minimum wage to paid family leave and affordable childcare":
Granted, these are substantive proposals, and they are controversial in some quarters. But they are broadly popular, and the overall message--that women ought to prosper--is almost impossible to disagree with. The discussion's only spark came from Kirsten Gillibrand, the senator from New York, who made a rousing call to action. "I think we need a Rosie the Riveter moment for this generation!"
So Clinton supports popular, substantive proposals that many can agree on -- ideas that have been stymied by a recalcitrant Republican Congress -- and this is a problem, because Ball isn't entertained?
Recently NBC's Chuck Todd discussed "one thing" he thinks Washington media gets wrong: this idea of "Clinton fatigue." "There is a Clinton fatigue problem," Todd noted, "but it's in the press corps. I think there is much less Clinton fatigue in the Democratic Party than there is in the press corps."
The excitement for Clinton -- and her own "well-worn leftish ideas" -- among Democrats was apparent at another of Clinton's appearances this week, the September 19 Women's Leadership Forum, hosted by the Democratic National Committee. Clinton received a standing ovation before and after her speech, and her support for policies such as paid sick leave, equal pay for equal work, affordable childcare, and a living wage received cheers and applause.
A majority of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats, support raising the minimum wage and mandating paid sick leave. These ideas that seem tired to Ball are specific policy proposals that Americans want. It would certainly be more interesting for journalists if Clinton decided to support wildly unpopular new proposals, but it's unclear why any politician's priority should be entertaining reporters rather than promoting policies they think will help the country.
Of course, this is a perfect example of what Media Matters has previously termed the "Goldilocks approach to campaign journalism." When Clinton bores journalists by repeating a popular and substantive platform, she gets criticized, but if she did do something surprising or new, the press will pounce on her for that as well.
A press corps that is constantly looking for a new angle to parse, whether it's Clinton's charm, or body language, or clothing, is going to be bored when there's nothing to say and overly-eager to twist controversy out of anything that seems new.
And a media that is quick to attribute its own personal fatigue to the rest of the nation is going to miss out on the real story.
Ta-Nehisi Coates' much-praised essay, "The Case for Reparations," that recently appeared in The Atlantic has given right-wing media a fresh opportunity to argue that the best way to address racially discriminatory laws or policies -- such as housing segregation -- is to never speak of them, let alone litigate them under civil rights law.
In Coates' essay, which ultimately calls for a congressional study on the long-term effects of the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, he explores the country's history of racism and oppression, from slavery to the Jim Crow laws to the present. Although right-wing media have been known to erroneously claim that racism is no longer a problem, the systemic effect of state and federal laws that favored whites and oppressed people of color is still felt today. As Coates explains, institutionalized oppression of black people was often sanctioned by the federal government, either through legislation that inadequately addressed racial discrimination or by agencies that propagated biased policies rooted in federal law. For example, agencies like the Fair Housing Administration often refused to insure mortgages in neighborhoods that they deemed unsuitable, perpetuating systematic housing segregation that in turn fueled other disparate racial impacts that continue today, such as separate and unequal schools. Despite the fact that redlining was outlawed in 1968 with the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the housing market is still hostile to black buyers and renters, even in neighborhoods that have taken steps to improve residential housing segregation.
Ultimately, Coates argues that the best way to even begin to evaluate how whether the government owes a debt for the generations of stolen wealth and opportunity it sanctioned would be to allow Rep. John Conyers' (D-MI) bill, HR 40, also known as the Commission to Study Reparations Proposals for African Americans Act, to proceed. The bill calls "for a congressional study of slavery and its lingering effects as well as recommendations for 'appropriate remedies.'" Conyers has introduced this bill -- which does not actually authorize the disbursement of any funds -- every year for the last 25 years, but it has never proceeded to the House floor. For Coates, HR 40 represents an opportunity to finally study the impact state-sanctioned discrimination has had and continues to have on black communities, and provide a vehicle for a "a serious discussion and debate ... we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion."
But yet again, members of right-wing media have no interest in such a discussion.
As Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) woos young voters ahead of an expected 2016 presidential bid, it's become conventional wisdom among many Beltway pundits that Paul could broaden the GOP's appeal with his ostensibly tolerant views on social issues - never mind that that this narrative is completely divorced from Paul's traditional conservative positions on such topics.
Paul's effort to win over Millennials and other constituencies historically suspicious of the GOP came to the fore with his March 19 speech at the University of California, Berkeley, where Paul condemned government surveillance programs as a threat to privacy.
The chattering class proclaimed that the speech was emblematic of Paul's appeal as an unconventional, "intriguing" Republican. And despite Paul's conservative stances on issues like marriage equality, reproductive choice, and creationism, many media outlets have also pointed to Paul as the kind of candidate who could help move the GOP away from its hardline social positions. It's a narrative that even some of Paul's conservative critics have come to accept, as Charles Krauthammer showed when he called Paul "very much a liberal on social issues."
A look at media coverage of Paul helps explain where Krauthammer got that notion.
For some time now progressives have been discussing the Green Lantern Theory of Presidential Power, the faulty notion offered by some commentators that if a Congress opposed to President Obama's policies refuses to act, it's Obama's fault for failing to persuade them. Since the recall elections that removed two Colorado state senators who had supported stronger gun laws from office, a similar line of thought has emerged, the Green Lantern Theory of Electoral Politics, in which commentators castigate gun violence prevention advocates for the loss of those seats even as the commentators acknowledge the electoral realities that made victories unlikely.
On September 10, State Sens. Angela Giron (D-Pueblo) and John Morse (D-Colorado Springs) were defeated in recall elections after being targeted over their support for expanded background checks on gun sales and a 15 round limitation on firearm magazine size. Some media commentators have described the election results as having major implications for the gun debate while downplaying factors on the ground that demonstrated that the election was less than a total victory for pro-gun advocates and unlikely to be a bell-weather for future elections.
In a piece for The Atlantic, Molly Ball does an excellent job of laying out those factors:
Democrats and gun-control advocates have come up with a number of rosy rationalizations to minimize the loss. Gun-rights campaigners failed to collect enough signatures to initiate two other recalls, they point out, so the victory was really mixed. The gun-control laws passed by the Colorado legislature remain in place, and Democrats retain control of both houses. Tuesday's recall was a low-turnout election with procedural irregularities that made it harder for people to vote. Both lawmakers represented tough districts, particularly Senator Angela Giron, whose district was Democratic but culturally conservative; she lost by 12 points, while state Senate President John Morse lost by fewer than 400 votes. All those things are true.
But Ball, after laying out all of these facts that made the recall elections unique, concludes that those realities "don't matter." According to Ball, gun violence prevention advocates should have found some way to win, regardless of the difficulty of achieving that result. She concludes that "risk-averse pols" who "value survival" will back away from the issue, and thus "it doesn't seem far-fetched to think that gun control might go back into the policy deep-freeze where Democrats had it stowed for most of the last 10 years."
Like the Green Lantern Theory of Presidential Politics, this line of thinking encourages putting responsibility on exactly the wrong people; while the theory of Presidential Politics blames Obama for the irrational actions of congressional Republicans, the theory of Electoral Politics blames activists for potential irrational responses of national politicians to state legislative elections featuring unique circumstances.
In The Atlantic, former Washington Post reporter Garrett Epps defended a federal district judge's decision to put a new California law banning "ex-gay" therapy on hold, lending credence to the shoddy claim that the law limits the free speech of therapists hoping to cure their patients of homosexuality.
California is in the midst of a legal battle over SB-1172, a law adopted in September that bans the harmful practice of "ex-gay" therapy. On December 4, U.S. District Court Judge William Shubb granted a preliminary injunction against the law, handing a victory to the plaintiffs who have argued that the law restricts the free speech of therapists.
In his December 5 article, Epps references this argument, embracing the claim that the law would prohibit therapists from even suggesting "ex-gay" therapy - also known as "sexual orientation change efforts" (SOCE) - to their patients:
At its heart, the statute forbids a therapist's communication to a patient: I think that you can change your sexual orientation and if you want to, I will help you. And thus it embodies what First Amendment lawyers call a "viewpoint-based restriction." Therapists are free to counsel patients that their gay sexual orientation is a good thing, and are free to counsel against SOCE; those who give the opposite advice face state-mandated loss of their therapists' licenses.
Epps cites Conant v. Walters, a 2002 case in which the Ninth Circuit struck down a policy that prohibited doctors from recommending medical marijuana to their patients on first amendment grounds.
But SB-1172 does not prohibit doctors from discussing or even recommending "ex-gay" therapy to their patients. It only prohibits them from performing that therapy, as the text of the law clearly states: "this bill would prohibit a mental health provider... from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts."
In a November 30 article in The Atlantic, national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that it was "too late" to enact gun violence prevention laws, using discredited research from John Lott's "More Guns, Less Crime" thesis and debunked claims by criminologist Gary Kleck that defensive gun uses outpace gun crimes.
Affirmative action policies that will come before the Supreme Court in the upcoming Fisher v. University of Texas case have long been the target of right-wing misinformation that distort the benefits of diversity in higher education. Contrary to the conservative narrative in the media, these admissions processes serve important national interests by promoting equal opportunity and are based on long-standing law.
Writing for The Atlantic yesterday, Fred Campbell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute made perhaps the most nonsensical anti-net neutrality argument I've ever seen: that the passage of the FCC's Open Internet Rule set us down a slippery regulatory slope that led to the wildly unpopular Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA:
The unintended consequences of the FCC's new regulatory approach appeared swiftly. By signaling the end of the bipartisan agreement against Internet regulation, the FCC's order opened the floodgates for additional government interference. New legislative and regulatory initiatives to reign in the free market for Internet services began popping up everywhere.
The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), introduced in late 2011, is one of these new initiatives and the reason Issa became so engaged in Internet policy. Ironically, the same progressives that advocated for net neutrality rules were among the most vociferous opponents of SOPA, but this time, they weren't alone. Conservatives and centrists joined hands with progressives to oppose SOPA in a redux of the earlier bipartisan agreement opposing Internet regulation. This bipartisan opposition gave the anti-SOPA movement the kind of mainstream momentum that net neutrality always lacked, which made it appear that, once again, we could unite in our opposition to government interference in the Internet.
Let's pick this apart piece-by-piece, shall we?
The Atlantic's Jefferson Morley begins a piece on politicians and baseball with one of the dumber, but more persistent, smears of Hillary Clinton:
More than a few baseball fans scoff when Hillary Clinton pretends to be a Yankee fan.
Unless Hillary Clinton began pretending to be a Yankees fan as a child in Illinois just in case she one day decided to run for Senate from New York, and kept that pretense alive across several decades while living in Arkansas and Washington, DC, she does not "pretend" to be a Yankees fan. She is a Yankees fan.
Jefferson Morley either knows this, in which case he is intentionally misleading his readers, or he does not know this, in which case he is remarkably ignorant of the topic about which he writes.