Wednesday, January 2, 2008

MPR's Chis Farrell spreads Republican disinformation

Although certainly not always the case, sometimes one comment from a media figure can reveal many deep truths about him or her. A few days ago while listening to Money Public Radio I heard just such a moment from MPR's chief economics correspondent Chris Farrell. He was prattling on, answering a question (that starts at about 46:30) from a listener about what happens to all that money circulating when economic slowdowns occur.

Farrell's explanation focused solely on corporate behavior, not explaining that a general economic slowdown may occur because more and more people have lower and lower incomes, while prices of basic commodities continue to rise (gas prices anyone?). Farrell said economic pullbacks are caused by a slowdown in corporate profits, which leads to a a slowdown in capital investment by said corporations, etc. It wasn't an honest or competent answer, but it was, in Stephen Colbert's term, truthy - it kinda sounded true.

But then he got to the nut of the argument - the reason he thought economic inequality was accelerating, where Farrell revealed his true self. Without evidence or elucidation, he laid the blame for economic inequality at the foot of our education system (about 50:30):
"..what the rise in inequality now reflects is a failing education system...our education system is letting people down..."
thus proving that no matter how rational MPR may occasionally sound, when push comes to shove the radio network is essentially a right-wing Republican outfit, in the pocket of the financial sector types who dominate its corporate boards.

Just to be clear, Farrell is full of shit when he blames our current gross economic inequality, or lack of job growth, on our public education system. His contention is a pernicious canard, pushed by Republican politicians and operatives since the 1980s, that will not die. I'm betting that Farrell knows this, which makes his comments even more disgusting. Exactly how a lack of education is hurting workers in the U.S., or what is the mechanism whereby allegedly poor schools create economic slowdowns and job losses was not discussed by Farrell, as if his postulation was somehow self-evident. The way Farrell makes these false assertions, lacking both reason and evidence, is de rigor in Republican circles, where an imagined piss poor public education system, staffed by union teachers and immune to private competition, is the bane of all our existences.

It's really no secret that these notions are pure partisan crap. Paul Krugman, among others, nicely destroyed the myth that poor education is at the heart of income and wealth inequality:
It's a good story with a comforting conclusion: Education is the answer. But it's all wrong. A closer look at our line of Americans reveals why. The richest twenty percent are those standing between 800 and 1,000. But even those standing between 800 and 950 -- Americans who earn between $80,000 and $120,000 a year -- have done only slightly better than everyone to their left. Almost all of the gains over the past thirty years have gone to the fifty people at the very end of the line. Being highly educated won't make you into a winner in today's U.S. economy. At best, it makes you somewhat less of a loser.
David Sirota has also written extensively on the subject, including his column Flattening The Great Education Myth, and his more recent Election '08 Meets The Great Education Myth. As Sirota wrote:
Sadly, the hard data tells us that, as comforting as this Great Education Myth is, we cannot school our way out of the problems accompanying a national trade policy devoid of wage, environmental and human-rights protections.
And it's not just Sirota and Krugman who shred this myth, but that bastion of communistic thinking, Fortune magazine:
As Fortune Magazine reported last year, “The skill premium, the extra value of higher education, must have declined after three decades of growing.” Citing the U.S. government’s Economic Report of the President, the magazine noted that “real annual earnings of college graduates actually declined” between 2000 and 2004. The magazine also noted that new studies “show companies massively shifting high-skilled work — research, development, engineering, even corporate finance — from the United States to low-cost countries like India and China.”
So - Chris Farrell - who is paid in excess of $130,000 a year from MPR - declares our education system responsible for economic inequality even as the annual incomes of college graduates actually declined from 2000 to 2004.

As Sirota wrote:
Pundits, such as [Tom] Friedman and the Washington policymakers who follow him, see the data and understand this reality, and yet continue preaching their “free” trade fundamentalism to the delight of corporate lobbyists whose clients’ profits are expanding under the status quo.
Or in Farrell's case, he kowtows to the "free" trade fundamentalism of his network, and the uber capitalists who control the organization. I have no doubt that if Farrell had a different position, he would quickly be out of a job.

Also notice how closely Farrell's position dovetails with Republican "school choice" fanatics like Mitch Pearlstein, who appeared on the station for an hour by himself about a week ago. These gasbags go on and on about how "school choice" is the panacea for our supposedly failing public schools, without any proof of concept or theory as to how competition will spur better schools, or how supposedly better schools will lead to more jobs or less economic inequality. Just about all research on the subject, excepting that from conservative philanthropy sponsored liars like Harvard's Paul Peterson, has shown that students in voucher and charter schools actually do worse than their peers in regular public schools.

The only question remaining about MPR is when Republicans will stop acting like it is part of the imagined "liberal media."

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