Sunday, March 23, 2008


In the Open Thread below a reader kindly posted his letter to NPR complaining about Andrea Seabrook's typically insipid report on the current credit/banking crisis. In his letter he noted that
"Sole expert commentator Marvin Goodfriend is correctly identified as a Carnegie Mellon economics professor, but NPR omits the fact that he directs the market-oriented Gailliot Center for Public Policy. According to the Carnegie Mellon website 'the center's goal is to develop original and pragmatic solutions to public policy problems that limit government intervention and allow markets and the private sector to evolve and adapt.'"
I've not posted much on NPR's coverage of the subprime/ credit/ investment/ banking mess because - in spite of my suspicions that I'm being snookered by NPR's coverage - my basic knowledge of the economics involved is pretty limited. But the reader's letter to NPR got me wondering who does NPR turn to for "explanations" of the mess? A brief glance at the stories of late reveals that for the most part, the experts are people involved in the banking industry on both the private and government sides (and often both!):
(Weekend Edition Saturday 3-22-08) "Over the past week, the Federal Reserve has made a serious of unprecedented moves to shore up confidence in the shaken investment community. Former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder explains what the moves mean for taxpayers and the rest of the economy."
(All Things Considered, 3-20-08) "Keeping up with the fast pace of recent economic news and understanding the ramifications of this week's developments is no easy task. Laurence Meyer, vice chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, talks with Michele Norris, Robert Siegel and Adam Davidson."
(All Things Considered, 3-21-08) "After a busy week at the Federal Reserve -- assisting with JP Morgan Chase's takeover of Bear Stearns and allowing big investment houses to get emergency loans directly from the central bank -- how does the Fed chief rate? Yale economist Robert James Shiller, Smith Moore analyst Juli Niemann with Noah Adams."

So it goes.

As I've written before, I don't think there's a problem interviewing some of these people who are insiders, but where is a historical perspective challenging the deregulation champions of the 80s and 90s [we hear from Rubin but not from Reich]? are the left leaning critics of US banking/investment policies? I heard Dean Baker once on Morning Edition, but why not more Krugman, Weisbrot, or even Danny Schecter who's been warning about a credit crisis for a long time?

Doesn't it seem like this current economic crisis would be the time to have a far ranging, in-depth debate and look at how wealth is generated in this country and who benefits and who loses? Unfortunately, NPR won't be the place where that happens.


Mytwords said...

A reader kindly sent me Greg Palast's fine piece "Eliot's Mess." I offer this little morsel from Palast's article:
"Behind Countrywide was the Mother Shark, its funder and now owner, Bank of America. Others joined the sharkfest: Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Citigroup’s Citibank made mortgage usury their major profit centers. They did this through a bit of financial legerdemain called 'securitization.'"
Next time NPR has an "expert" economist on, check out his or her bio and don't be surprised if it includes a bit of experience from one of these bloodsuckers.

nash said...

Yes, one of the biggest ironies of "public radio" is that it doesn't even offer decent public interest reporting on economic issues. I mean, the flag-waving deference to official opinion when it comes to international affairs is one thing, but you'd think that a supposedly non-profit journalism org might be willing to challenge conventional economic pieties more often. But nope: same deference to government/industry "experts," same unquestioning acceptance of neoliberal "free trade" mythology, same neglect of labor issues, etc. etc. etc. There's a reason why a good friend of mine calls it Nominally Public Radio.

Categorical Aperitif

Anonymous said...

As the writer of the letter to NPR that prompted this thread, I have to say thanks to the editors/bloggers of this site for giving my idea some more traction. And yeah, I'd really like to see these things looked at more intently - especially since I think this will be an increasingly pertinent topic...

And today we hear the Bear Stearns bailout deal might be fattened to better protect the invested but disappointed capitalists. Surprised?

For example, tonight on the PBS NewsHour Judy Woodruff interviewed Andrew Ross Sorkin from the NYT about the Bear Stearns bailout issue, but it was all fluffy background information and I wish the discussion could have veered toward who has the money/who has the power etc...

Same old story.

Anonymous said...

Yes, good coverage indeed - unlike the source 'information.'

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the citation of Greg Palast in this matter. Apparently the federals have been preventing the state atorneys general from enforcing state lending laws, through some convoluted reading of an 1864 banking law. These crooks are very competent, and need to be watched constatnly, as with our (diminishing) freedoms.