WE REPORT, YOU DECIDE

C-SPAN is a national treasure. We all owe Brian Lamb, its creator, a great debt of gratitude. Though I wonder about the conservative bias and the influence of one of its more prominent figures, Peter Slen, the executive producer of Book TV, C-SPAN Videos, and Washington Journal, this is a view from the bleachers.

Absent an understanding of C-SPAN’s decision-making processes and an analysis of its programming, I have only an impression that there is a disproportionate number of infomercial-like panel discussions hosted by the Heritage Foundation, The Cato Institute and others on the right, and I attribute some programming and the nature of Slen’s questioning to what I perceive is his conservative bias and influence.

Whether that’s right or wrong, hopefully, after its founder is gone, C-SPAN’s institutional culture and whatever protocols are in place are deep enough, and its Cable TV backers are committed enough to preserve its independence and integrity. This enclave of sanity within the increasingly lunatic theater of Republican politics would be hard to replace.   

Of course, the congressional hearings we can watch in full only on C-SPAN are also highly scripted affairs whose producers--the Senate and House majorities—behind the scenes pick the subjects, cast the actors, approve the scripts and manage the publicity.  With rare exceptions, the hearings have little, if anything to do with making policy. Benghazi, Benghazi. But if a congressional hearing is a step away from reality, a newspaper account is twice removed—a critic’s judgement of a play chosen for review, one that you probably haven’t seen, where the space is limited, the integrity and astuteness of the critic are in question, and the biases of the newspaper or network that employ him often hidden behind the rubric, “objective reporting.”     

I’d rather watch the play itself.  Congressional rules and conventions, the need to portray some semblance of serious purpose, the Democracy framework itself, all demand the participation of the minority party. With the help of legislators who make statements and ask questions, you can judge for yourself what’s really going on.

So I’m a C-SPAN junkie. Recognizing that most people don’t have the time or inclination to watch too much C-SPAN, we thought it would be useful to show clips of some of its most important and illuminating offerings—congressional hearings, interviews with authors, selected panel discussions, and so forth -- a curator’s role but one where our anti-Republican (not so much pro-Democratic) bias is up front. If some things are surprising, our dubious readers can watch the hearings for themselves. With this approach, we can get closer to the truth than that of the critic, let alone the Fox News talking point that masquerades as a principled editorial position: We Report, You Decide.

In that spirit, this is the link to the full hearing on February 11, 2016 that features the testimony of Janet Yellin, chair of the Federal Reserve Board.

Yellin testified for about three hours before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Unlike most hearings, this is a statutorily mandated, semiannual review of monetary policy in which the Fed chair offers his or her view of the state of the economy, which underpins the Fed’s monetary policy. So a more serious, substantive hearing than many others, and one well- attended by committee members and the press.

We’re all familiar with the Delphic pronouncements of Yellin’s predecessor, Alan Greenspan. Hailed as a financial wizard, Greenspan brought his Ayn Rand view of the world into the Fed with him. Though few challenged his assertions, events would prove him to be the embodiment of the Emperor With No Clothes, as the unregulated bankers had a riotous good time at our expense. One of the key architects, if he can be called such, of the financial collapse that Obama inherited, Greenspan is writing books and the usual free–market revisionists are doing their best to obscure the reality of what happened and blocking attempts to prevent the next crisis.   

A little bit of context for the hearing may be helpful.

The Fed’s Objective is maximum employment and 2% Inflation

The Full Employment and Balanced Growth Act of 1978, commonly known as the Humphrey-Hawkins Act, established price stability and full employment as national economic policy objectives. Though academic literature offers nuanced discussions of what these terms should mean, for our purposes, the Fed interprets its dual congressional mandate as requiring it to pursue monetary policies that maximize employment and maintain as close as possible a 2% rate of inflation.

At this writing, Republican presidential candidates are running against President Obama, not Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Where they haven’t changed the subject to ISIS or “Obama is changing the nature of America,” or “he is leading from behind,” they throw as much mud against the television screen as they can, trusting that repetition will see some of it stick: Obama has wrecked our economy, he’s killed the American dream, he’s created massive unemployment with all those job-killing regulations, etc. The dismal lives and hopeless futures of “hard-working taxpayers” and their children are the result of his immigration policies, his stimulus policies, his [fill in the blanks.].

As always, Republicans are flat-out lying, creating their own reality with the understanding that the base is already there and millions of people who are hurting need only modest encouragement to go along with this distorted picture of reality and the people who painted it .

Ohio Democrat, Senator Sherrod Brown, is the Committee’s ranking member. Below is his opening statement (scroll down to see the video). It’s about 7 minutes. If anyone is in doubt about this slice of mud pie, these are the verifiable facts.

Below is Massachusetts Democrat, Elizabeth Warren on the current state of play in the effort to rein in the banks that are too big to fail. Dodd-Frank was enacted because Democrats held the majority in both houses and the presidency (scroll down to see the video). The Act gave regulators the power to raise capital standards, limit leverage ratios, and even break up the banks, forcing them to sell assets.  Many are predicting another financial crisis in the foreseeable future triggered by the collapse of a major financial institution. Each of the 11 systemically risky banks has submitted a “Living Will” that is supposed to provide the blueprint for an orderly winding down of its affairs in the event that it gets into trouble and can bring the economy down with it. None of these wills have been found credible. What’s taking so long for regulatory action? Between Brown and Warren, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s really going on.


Want more? Click to read "Current Economic Situation and Outlook from Janet Yellin"

 


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