Dan Gainor

What red-blooded American could object to that? Except of course it has nothing to do with stimulus. It’s a bill we should have paid years ago, but got buried in the stimulus bill like thousands of other issues. This wasn’t stimulus so much as a catch-all for infinite government spending.

The stories took on an almost identical template. Whatever your issue or group, the government was there with a helping handout. And journalists were right behind to rationalize it. NBC’s Lisa Myers profiled a new bridge “replacing this crumbling bridge over the Osage River.” Her May 28 story first acknowledged critics who said it was “a bridge to the middle of nowhere.” Then she went for the jugular: “But in struggling Miller County, that $8.5 million bridge means jobs.”

To most taxpayers, a bridge gets you somewhere. It’s not intended as the civilian equivalent of Army make-work jobs where soldiers dig ditches and then fill them up again. The United States has trillions of dollars in crumbling infrastructure journalists constantly tell us. Some of it’s crumbling because it’s non-essential. Let’s fix the stuff that matters.

ABC’s Bill Weir tried the “Buy American” defense for another stimulus plan to buy hybrid buses at $700,000 a piece. “Well, the next time you ride any bus, consider how many sets of American hands went into making it. It comes to life as a steel skeleton at this plant in Riverside, California, but then all the parts that get added on are built in manufacturing plants across the country,” he explained.

When NBC did a story on the opposition to buying excess C-17 military transports they called it pork because the manufacturing was located in many congressional districts. When it’s an eco-friendly bus, it’s “American.” After all, what’s another $115 million among friends … and taxpayers.

In the case of the stimulus bill, that attitude was typical. The same could be said for the media, who ignored criticism of the stimulus in nearly half the stories they did for an entire year.

Pundits often claim democracy is broken because Americans aren’t informed or won’t make the tough decisions. After a year of network news stories covering for instead of covering the biggest spending bill in history, I think I know why.

Dan Gainor

Dan Gainor is The Boone Pickens Free Market Fellow and director of the Media Research Center’s Business & Media Institute.