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The Media and America’s Class Divide

In his On the Media column today, the LA TimesJames Rainey argues that the media needs to start leading a serious, realistic discussion of class in America.

Even though economists say the gap between haves and have-nots has been building for three decades, the growing income disparity and its causes have come up for discussion mostly as a sidebar — removed from the front page, rarely the lead story on the evening news.

It’s hard to know why arguably the central story of our times — featuring the retreat of the stable, single-wage household — has been pushed off the front burner.

We can think of a bunch of reasons.

How about the mainstream media’s insistence that the doctrine of objectivity compels every story to contain an unchallenged response from the political party opposed to idea in question–even if that response is ludicrous? For instance, any story that even mentions plans to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans seems to require a quote from Republicans about how such a measure constitutes “class warfare” on the rich. If various media outlets are going to regurgitate that talking point, objectivity dictates it needs to be immediately countered with the fact that the capital gains rate on unearned income–of which the rich are the primary beneficiaries–is only 15%. Even for traders and investment bankers who get a cut of other people’s money they’re investing in the market.

Not saying that imposing facts on the news would make much difference. Americans seem to respond better to opinions than to factual realities. Which is exactly where the problem Rainey is talking about lies.

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