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Political News Trumps Deeper Crisis: Will It Go Away If We Don’t Know?


You know this by now. Hillary Clinton became the yellow rose of Texas, two stepping her way to election glory by slashing at her opponent. She also took Ohio and Rhode Island.  Barack Obama snagged Vermont, says he leads in delegates. McCain won all, is GOP candidate. Ron Paul holds on to his Congressional seat.

More to come after the next commercial break!

The partisan wars will intensify with the cable networks praying they will go on into the summer and beyond to continue to hike ratings and revenues.

But what don’t we know?

The story overshadowing all this, the story that is impacting on every voter and every citizen is still mostly relegated to the back pages in the business section as if our livelihoods and futures are only about commerce.

Terms like "recession"-which few know the technical meaning of-are batted back and forth as the economy continues its slide with few candidates or media menshes doing much to illuminate where all this is leading.  It was left to billionaire Warren Buffet to say that, of course, we are in a recession. He calls that call "common sense." Of course it is.

TV news just loves covering campaigns. They have been doing it for years and know how to count. They play it like a horse race with issues often buried. They love to play up any scandals and negatives to throw at the candidates. Obama went from hero to zero after comedians on Saturday Night Live made fun of the mainstream reporting. Pundits practically phone in the questions: Who misspoke? Who’s hiding what?  The more intense the debate the better for ratings. Heat is always a bigger draw than light. Elecotainment rules again.

On the economic front, the approach seems to be the reverse. There, they seize on any sign of an uptick or good news, giving government claims virtually a free pass and confidence bolstering experts lots of airtime even when their predictions fall flat.

No wonder the Economic Trends Institute says there is a big disconnect between what’s being reported and what’s really going on.  "The United States’ economy is in meltdown mode. The Panic of ’08, the beginning of the worst financial crisis to ever have hit modern America, is under way. But despite the daily doses of dire economic data pointing to disaster, the media doesn’t report how bad it really is (if they report it at all), while Wall Street and Washington deny a recession is coming … or proclaim that should one arrive, the economic landing will be gentle."  Read the financial blogs and you get outright contempt for government claims and its gloss on the truth. This is from The Ledge in the Wall Street Examiner: ‘Today the propaganda term "contained" has been deep filed into the bowels of the Ministry of Truth’s Speakwrite machine. The FC infection has spread to just about everything but the government Treasury markets, which along with the massively foreign central bank distorted government housing agency is in my opinion next to be microwaved popcorn.’ Microwaved popcorn?  Turn, as I do, to credible websites like Ml-implode.com which monitors mortgages and foreclosures, and whrer there is hardy a ray of sunlight. These were the headlines on primary night. o Survey Finds Foreclosure Still Most Common Outcome for Borrowers – [2008-03-04] oCorporate Bond Risk Rises on Speculation Bank Losses to Deepen – [2008-03-04]    oCredit Cards, Other Debt Are New Worry for Banks – [2008-03-04]

- Citigroup May Need Cash as Losses Mount, Dubai Says – [2008-03-04]

- Bernanke: More mortgage, home woes ahead – [2008-]

- Citigroup’s Job Cuts Could Total More Than 30,000 – [2008-03-04] 04

- Police break up party raging in foreclosed home – [2008-03-04]

When you see all of this in one place, when you connect the dots and probe deeper, you learn  that 76 banks may go down,  up 52% from a year ago, and you realize the Titanic, or is it the good ship lollipop, may be sinking again.

As you read these stories, you may not think you are affected but of course the economic decline means higher unemployment and inflation. This plague is spreading, the system is "infected." They call it "contagion." No one is immune except the superrich.

Take these stories and set them alongside what’s being done, or even proposed to be done and it gets even scarier.  That may be because everyone is distracted by election hoopla, but our politicians increasingly seem like deer in the headlights, paralyzed by fear and uncertainty.

Reports Reuters:  this is a bi-partisan failure.

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Little is being done in Congress or the Bush administration to repair a collapse of trust in private securitized debt markets that is threatening sectors beyond its origin in the subprime mortgage crisis. Student loans are being hit as are the auction-rate bond markets used widely by municipal governments to help finance vital everyday projects such as roads, schools and parks. Capital freezing up in these markets and possibly others could cause long-term damage to the financial system and the economy, some economists and lawmakers say. While Congress and the White House focus on short-term steps to shield Americans from rising foreclosures and crack down on mortgage brokers, no major legislation is on offer to deal explicitly with the dysfunction spreading though the capital markets."

You have to shake your head when you realize is this is no longer just about a housing bubble but a larger bubble of dumbed-down denial, What’s worse, independent media efforts to focus attention on these issues gets short shrift.

I have been trying to get my film In Debt We Trust on mainstream TV. (It’s been shown worldwide.) One network told me it’s "too heavy." Another film channel which wanted to show it and whose programmer told me I was ahead of the curve, and that the issue is so important, is now not sure. They are worried about what its screening may do to their image and identity. Perhaps networks fear they will drive away advertisers for loans and credit cards..

In the last decade, I have written, and had 8 books published, on a range of subjects. As an investigative reporter, I’ve now done a new one on this crisis arguing that this implosion was allowed to happen because of criminal financial greed, a major regulatory failure and media indifference. Recently, I updated and rewrote my earlier e-book version and now call it "WE ARE SCREWED: How Capitalists Are Bringing Down Capitalism."

I have a top agent pedaling it, but so far, we have only been collecting rejections. Why?  It is supposedly  "unfocused." Translation: It doesn’t just focus on one aspect of the problem but offers a broader analysis. That’s bad?

One example: I critique the lack of decent media coverage. Does the fact that most publishing companies are owned by media conglomerates have anything to do with why so many editors are "passing." One "progressive" publisher even told me, even as inflation climbs and more jobs are lost, it’s not "relevant" or needed.  Huh?

Maybe my credentials are in question?  ABC News had me produce one of its earliest prime time stories on the S&L scandal. Many websites carry my articles on this crisis that helped, to some degree perhaps, to put this issue out there. Many universities, organizations and churches have invited me to speak. I even have a degree from the London School of Economics. No matter.

If you are not a regular on CNBC or Bloomberg or on the faculty at Harvard, you’re not allowed in the debate.  I am sure this is not just a personal beef. Don’t they realize that while facts matter so do diverse interpretations? You can’t explain how we got into this mess with factoids or a sound bite.  It’s about institutions, not just individuals.

The "experts" who looked the other way for years shouldn’t be the ones we rely on to learn the real deal.  Do they think this will all go away if we just don’t know?

Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org. For more on his film, In Debt We Trust, see indebtwetrust.com. Comments to [email protected]

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