Take a look at the nearest food package. Notice there is a list of ingredients that tells you how many calories and other useful information. Most of us assume that the information is largely accurate because we know the manufacturer can be sued for misleading us. Do you trust the Cheerios box more than the “facts” given to us by many politicians or people who call themselves journalists?
My cereal box never gave me a Russian hoax, denied that Hunter Biden’s laptop contents were real, or told me that government spending and debt were declining. If we had the same standards for honesty for politicians and the media as we do for most manufacturers of products, the country would not be in the mess that it is.
The political class, including the media, engages in three untruths.
The first set of untruths are those made merely for perceived political advantage or out of malice. Purveyors of these types of untruths do not correct them when given evidence of their falsehood and, in fact, continue to repeat them, even when they know them to be untrue.
Rep. Adam Schiff is a prime example of one who frequently engages in such tactics, as demonstrated by his claim that he had seen proof of Trump-Russia collusion, even though he never provided it and his whole tissue of falsehoods was demolished by special counsel John Durham’s report. Mr. Schiff is now reported to be the leading candidate for the Senate seat now held by Dianne Feinstein. If he should win that seat, what does it say about the moral character or level of ignorance of the California voter?
The second set of untruths is that of omission, of which the press is most often guilty. Most members of the press (both print and electronic) have traditionally seen themselves as news gathers and reporters, including investigative reporters. They have an obligation to their readers or listeners to give all the relevant facts, including the various important opinions about the story.
The exception for providing a balanced story is for those of us who are clearly labeled as opinion writers, such as yours truly, who are openly trying to sell a point of view – but we also have the obligation to present facts accurately. Many in the media who try to present themselves as objective truth-tellers are dishonest when failing to present a story or the whole story.
The Durham report clearly showed how parts of the FBI and Justice Department had been corrupted for political reasons. By any objective standard, this was a major story bearing on the integrity of government agencies charged with enforcing the law evenly and without political bias.
Miami’s largest newspaper, the Miami Herald, went for days without mentioning the Durham report, so anyone who relied on the Herald for their news would have been left in the dark. The Herald can be quite good at covering some local stories — but all too often engages in news suppression, particularly regarding national political stories. Good papers like The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Times and others clearly separate their news pages from their opinion pages.
Even worse is NPR, which is in part funded by taxpayers and hence should meet an even higher standard for providing complete and balanced journalism. Yet it tends to be more biased — both in what is covered and how it is covered — than private major media. Exhibit A: in the time before the 2020 election, senior news executives at NPR explicitly stated when the Hunter Biden laptop story was broken that they were not going to cover it. A most odious decision, using taxpayer dollars to suppress vital information.
The third set of untruths is of ignorance. We all believe and hence say or write things that are untrue — not out of malice but out of ignorance. For example, we now know that much of the information we were given about COVID-19 was untrue. The lesson is that all who convey important information to others, whether they are physicians or economists, etc., need to be more careful, more humble, and quicker to correct erroneous information. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen were clearly wrong in their inflation predictions and should have been more honest about what they did and did not know.
At the moment, there is a debate about raising the debt limit. Yet before Congress, Ms. Yellen appeared not to know the size of the spending increase under the Biden administration or the size of the deficit. For the record, the Congressional Budget Office projects that federal government spending will rise from $6.3 trillion this year to $10 trillion in 2033 — a 59% increase in only 10 years, and both the annual deficit and total debt held by the public will continue to increase as a percentage of gross domestic product in the next decade.
Both President Biden and former President Donald Trump have pledged not to raise Social Security taxes or reduce payments to recipients, yet the “trust fund” is projected to be out of money in nine years. Are they both planning on dying within the next nine years?
• Richard W. Rahn is chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and MCon LLC.
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