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Friday, November 18, 2011

Oh! The Stupid Things I Hear! No. 4

So once again I'm in the car, driving to lunch, and at the top of the hour NPR gives me a news update. This time they are telling me about the campaign launch to force Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker into a recall election.

I've mentioned before that I paid a good deal of attention to the efforts to recall six Republican state senators in Wisconsin earlier this year. I was afraid, then, that the failure to flip the Wisconsin senate back into Democratic hands by getting rid of 3 Republican senators (they were only able to recall 2) would put a dampener on the plans to force Walker into a recall election now (under Wisconsin law Walker cannot be recalled until he has been in office for at least one year; otherwise, the recall effort against him would have begun in earnest months ago). But, so far at least, that does not appear to be the case; indeed, I saw a poll just the other day that indicated 58% of Wisconsin voters support kicking Walker out of the Governor's mansion.

And all of this, of course, is because Walker went out of his way to strip most public employees of their collective bargaining rights last spring. There was no legitimate reason for Walker to do that; he just wanted to break the back of a major Democratic constituency. Although he originally claimed that breaking the back of the public employee unions had something to do with balancing the state budget (which Walker himself had imperiled by pushing through huge tax corporate tax breaks right before he went after working people's rights), in fact the public employee unions already had agreed to cuts in pay and benefits in order to help shore up the budget.

So, no. As Walker later would be recorded saying to someone whom Walker thought was one of his big money backers, the infamous Koch brothers, Walker wanted to break the unions just to break the unions. He was going to be the leader of the start of "something big."

So, now, ordinary Wisconsin citizens are rightfully upset with Walker and want to boot him out of office.

And how did NPR choose to close its report about this recall effort? Well, paraphrasing from memory of only a few minutes ago:
Walker faces recall as a result of his success a few months ago in stripping collective bargaining rights from most public employees. For his part, Walker has taken out television ads arguing that the cuts were necessary in order to shore up Wisconsin's budget.
I'm sorry, but what the fuck? Those two sentences together just don't make any sense. First NPR explains that Walker is facing a recall petition because he stripped collective bargaining rights, then NPR pivots to having Walker justifying his "budget cuts." Hello? NEWSFLASH: stripping collective bargaining rights does not equate to "budget cuts." The two ideas are not the same -- hell! they're not even close to being the same.

But this is, once again, a perfect example of the reflexive need our political reporters have to always, always, always present "two sides of the story" -- even when there aren't two sides.

Seriously, would it have killed NPR to have simply stated the truth? "Walker faces recall as a result of his success a few months ago in stripping collective bargaining rights from most public employees. For his part, Walker has taken out television ads arguing that taking away public employees' collective bargaining rights was the only way to balance the budget."

I mean, sure . . . that statement sounds insane, but that is only because Walker's asserted justification for his action is insane. That doesn't mean the statement is inaccurate.

But I suppose if NPR were simply to report the actual facts, instead of trying to turn this into a typical he said/she said and "who can really tell which side is right" politcal argle-bargle, then it would be too easy for NPR listeners to figure out which side of this issue is full of shit.

And then someone would claim that NPR is biased against Scott Walker for reporting the facts, and that would make NPR haz a sad.


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