Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fox News & The Stimulus

I wasn't originally going to blog about this, but I was flipping channels and became rather annoyed when I came upon Fox News to see they were doing a special on how the money from the stimulus is being wasted, in the form of a 102-item countdown.

While I can't say much with confidence about the stimulus, the news station clearly misrepresents what is funded by it. Sure, it's perfectly reasonable to suspect that funding to some areas is done out of political interests rather than need, as demonstrated by our reading about the construction of the Winnetka tracks. Analyzing funding in that way would be valuable for a popular news station to do. But I could probably present a more Fair & Balanced™ look at the stimulus package than Fox has tried to by just doing a google search.

In seconds, the viewer's attention is brought from one stimulus item to the next, and it all whirls together, giving them little time to think or ask questions about what's just been presented as "waste."

What is considered waste, exactly?

One of the items Fox host Hannity whizzes through is 1.7 million dollars towards researching pig odor.

What Hannity essentially says: Pig odor? Silly scientists, that sure sounds weird and useless, and it probably won't create jobs. Moving on...

Another thing Hannity criticizes is funds going towards raising a railroad track 18 inches, as it is not level with the main road, creating the need for drivers to take a detour around it.

Hannity basically says: How wasteful. Can't those drivers just drive around? Instead we're spending our tax payer dollars on this, *appeal to Americans' personal responsibility*.

Another complaint was that 25,000 dollars went to a puppet theater that produces socially-conscious shows.

Hannity: The theater is named after Che Guevara, so it must be bad.

For the first example, pig odor creates problems with air quality, which can lead to lawsuits by locals against farms. If this problem is solved by scientific research, farms and locals could coexist, and living conditions in small towns would improve. It might not be the most appropriate thing to have in the stimulus, which might be a valid point to make, but clearly it's not "waste," as it has a long-term payoffs for science, business, and peoples' quality of life.

The second example sounds wasteful, but raising the track will actually "create access to property where a developer wants to build a hotel and shopping center," which would create 100-200 jobs.

As for the third example, regardless of how the stimulus money may help the puppet theater, Hannity makes sure to imply that investment in the public arts is almost the equivalent of paying homage to socialism. He also considers art in general to be "waste," considering another criticism of his for a park spending money on putting in new sculptures.

Overall, it's really unclear what Hannity considers to be waste. Things that don't create jobs are waste, even when they're funding scientific research, education, improvement in the environment, improvement of infrastructure, or art. Meanwhile, things that do create jobs are wasteful, too. This leads me to believe that Hannity doesn't care what is or isn't wasteful spending, so long as it makes Obama look bad.

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