Sunday, May 17, 2009

Shill At CNBC

You would have thought that after Jon Stewart humiliated Jim Cramer (video below), the network Cramer represents would have gained a little humility, engaged in a little circumspection. Apparently, though, you would have been wrong.

Thanks to Rush Limbaugh (I won't often say that) for playing on his May 15 program a portion of the discussion between CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo and a man Rush identified as the executive directive of the American Labor Association, Jonathan Tasini. Corporate apologist Limbaugh, as you would guess, believed that corporate apologist Bartiromo got the better of the labor advocate, though without hearing the entire exchange it's impossible to discern. And Limbaugh's special brand of partisan extremism does not come with a fetish for context or completeness.

Here, though, is the relevant portion of Friday's program broadcast by the head of the Republican Party:

"When you look at the number of industries dominated by unions --" I made this point yesterday, by the way -- "When you look at the number of industries dominated by unions, the performance is not that great, right? Airlines, autos, teachers. Why is that? Is there a connection to a business or an industry being heavily unionized and the industry being in the toilet?"

TASINI: You cannot blame unionized workers for the state of the auto industry. That was pure mismanagement, not the least of which is continuing to refuse to have a single payer Medicare for all health care system which would have relieved ten of billions of dollars of health care costs from the auto industry and the steel industry. The problem of much of the industry in America, the industry you're talking about, has nothing to do with wages, nothing to do with union workers. UAW --

BARTIROMO: What are you talking about? The autos had all those legacy costs in place. They're paying people who are putting their feet up and just relaxing at home on the sofa, and they're not on the assembly line.

TASINI: -- the way you solve the problem of the auto industry and the steel industry, many industries, is you have a national health care system.

TASINI: There are two reasons states are in trouble in terms of their budget. One is the overall collapse of the economy, thanks to Bernie Madoff, Wall Street, AIG, and all your other friends. If we went back to more progressive taxation system and taxed just the top 1%, we would have about eight or nine billion dollars more, which would solve the crisis here in the states.

BARTIROMO: I can't allow you --

TASINI: That's a fact.

BARTIROMO: -- to fan the flames of class warfare on this program, okay? You said --you said --

TASINI: Class warfare.

BARTIROMO: -- Wall Street and all your other friends, who is "they"?

TASINI: Are you telling me you don't think there's class warfare in this country? We have the biggest gap between rich and poor that we've ever had probably in a hundred years, productivity in the last 30 years has skyrocketed, and workers have gotten no benefit of that. That is the definition of class warfare.

You'll notice immediately Bartiromo's descent into the the tag line of "class warfare." Conservative Repubs have three options to counteract the charge that the strength of the middle class has been undermined by policies that favor the wealthiest 1% of the American population. Cry "socialism," "class warfare," or rely upon facts. Well, realistically, they cannot, and do not, rely on facts, a wise strategy given that in the economic sphere they have virtually none which could buttress their argument.

The failure of CNBC to undergo any self-introspection after its evisceration by Stewart really isn't surprising. The mainstream media, of course, largely ignored Stewart's charges about the bias of the business network, focusing on the humiliation of one man rather than analyzing the arguments (video way below) about a media little interested in questioning financial institutions, insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, the energy industry and any other corporate interests in which it's entangled. (Fortunately, the left-leaning alternative media did have a clue; video way, way below).

But Bartiromo's recitation of Repub talking points about "class warfare" should not obscure the vacuousness of her other remark- that the airline, auto, and teacher "industries" are "in the toilet" (quite elegant, that Bartiromo) because of unionization. She might have noticed that the decline in the airline industry has mirrored the rise in energy prices, for which organized labor cannot be held responsible, except perhaps in the CNBC fantasyland.

Admittedly, profits of automobile companies have suffered while they have helped build the American middle class with middle class wages and health care benefits which should otherwise would have been provided by a universal health care system, as Tasini tried to explain to Bartiromo with his reference to Medicare and single payer. The American automobile industry would have profited if it had built more models which appealed to the American consumer and reacted more quickly decades ago to rising oil prices- even so, it now would be in little danger of collapse if the financial institutions apparently held blameless by Bartiromo had nor restricted credit and, having received taxpayer funding, restricted credit further.... to the industry and to the American consumer.

I am not sure what Bartiromo meant when referring to the teacher "industry" and perhaps neither did she. If she were aware, she might have meant layoffs of teachers common throughout the nation, and even more ubiquitous, teachers paying for their own school supplies. Those, clearly, are a direct result of teachers being scapegoated for the problems of the communities they serve and for insufficient support from taxpayers, school boards, and elected officials. And not coincidentally, the decline of public education has coincided with the intrusion of the private, for-profit market in the education of American schoolchildren.

Fortunately, given Bill O'Reilly's penchant for attacking NBC, MSNBC, and their owner, General Electric, we soon will hear Fox News' top talker criticize Maria Bartiromo's performance on CNBC. Or not.

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