You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Mediscare And Elite Bias

Elite opinion and the biases of the news media, which are generally synonymous, tilt left on social issues, like gay rights, abortion and immigration, reflexively deeming conservative views as bigoted and irrational. On economics, elite opinion tilts slightly right -- opposed the the GOP agenda of debt-financed tax cuts, but strongly in favor of free trade. Elite opinion militantly favors deficit reduction and regards the cause of cutting entitlements as sacred writ.

Two conservative bloggers have posts that, in different ways, reflect the latter reality. Here's Ross Douthat describes elite support for entitlement cuts:

There’s much more elite support for spending restraint than there is for immigration enforcement. Yes, most professional bipartisans, Bloombergian Third Wayers, and Peter G. Peterson Fiscal Summit attendees believe that taxes need to rise as part of any balanced-budget deal. But as a rule, the “sensible centrist” demographic also genuinely believes that discretionary spending needs to be trimmed, entitlements need to be reformed, and so on down the list of deficit-hawk priorities. (The prevalence of these beliefs inside the Beltway, it should be noted, drive many liberals to distraction.) The biggest hurdle to cutting spending isn’t the sentiments of the political class; it’s the sentiments of the electorate, which believes in limited government and unlimited entitlement spending, and sees no contradiction between the two.

And here's Jennifer Rubin gloating about the news media's decision to side with the GOP on Medicare:

Republicans have made considerable progress in the past few days in counter-punching on the Democrats’ Mediscare blitz.
A number of separate, neutral fact-checking groups have lambasted the Dems for misleading the public on Ryan’s Medicare reform plan. The Post’s Glenn Kessler likewise dissected the misrepresentations. The Associated Press is the latest to weigh in...
The Democrats may have overstepped and then grown over-confident on this one. The ability of the Republicans to push back, and to begin to get the facts out is impressive. Michael Steel, spokesman for Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) told me this morning: “We’re making progress, and we know the truth is on our side — but everyone is going to have to keep working hard to make sure the American people know that we have a plan to preserve and protect Medicare, while Democrats’ insistence on the status quo will mean bankruptcy and steep benefit cuts.”

Rubin is straightforwardly regurgitating House Republican claims that its own pushback has prompted the news media to take its side. In reality, Republicans were pushing on an open door. You had the same dynamic in 1995, when Republicans successfully mau-maued the media into using terms like "restrain the rate of growth" to describe their plan to cut Medicare.

I certainly will concede that the news media's socioeconomic biases help the Democrats at least as often as they hurt. But the media's mass rush to protect Republicans from political attacks on their Medicare plan is much more of an expression of ideological assumptions than a neutral fact-checking role. Some of the Democrats' claims about the GOP Medicare plan are misleading, but nearly every single element of the GOP message on this issue is false. The asymmetry exists because the Republicans have a deeply unpopular position and they have to fudge it to gain popular ascent -- Democrats don't. Washington elites and political reporters and commentators are siding with the Republicans on this issue because they believe at some level that the cause of cutting entitlements is noble and merits special protection from public ignorance.