Ralph Nader's Media Wishlist

Night after night the network television evening news is dominated by the situation in Iraq and the Bush Administration's dealings with that forlorn country. After a while, it might occur to viewers to ask, "What about what's going on in America?" The mass media are crowding out all kinds of news stories about good and bad conditions in our country that could lead to emulation of the former and correction of the latter.

There is more than one price to pay when our government bogs itself down in another nation after a pre-emptive war (that was never declared by Congress as the Constitution requires) beyond the casualties to our soldiers and civilians in Iraq. Our diverted megabillions of taxpayer dollars is one price. Imagine how many clinics, schools, public transits, playgrounds for children, safer food and drinking water, cleaner air could be gotten for the $300 billion that will have been spent on the U.S. war and occupation in Iraq.

A new year is an appropriate time for wishes and here are mine for the news media. First, pay attention to the growing poverty in our country. Our numerical economic growth is leaving tens of millions of Americans and their children behind -- unemployed, underemployed, without health insurance, living in ramshackle housing and often undernourished.

Poverty is the gigantic scar on this nation's conscience. The economy has almost doubled by per-capita production (inflation adjusted) since 1973, yet over half of the workers are making less in real dollars than workers made 30 years ago. And the costs of getting to work and paying for day care are higher now.

We know how to take poverty off the table. Republican President Richard Nixon sent one proposal to Congress called a minimum incomes plan but Congress rejected it. Raising the minimum wage to at least the $8 an hour that would equal the buying power of the minimum wage in 1968 is another approach. Implementing the Full Employment Act of 1946 by launching a massively needed public works repair and expansion program, instead of the gigantic tax cuts for the wealthy, would create good jobs all over our country that cannot be shipped overseas.

Next on my news wishlist is a return to focusing on the corporate crime wage that has looted and drained trillions of dollars from millions of workers, small investors and pensioners. Sure, the business pages report the scandal de jour. But, the general news media needs to focus on inadequate enforcement and budgets as well as the human tragedies of the many corporate crime victims. Also it would be instructive if corporate crime stories were linked with corporate reform proposals. (See Citizenworks.org)

What about some media attention to the growing tyranny inside Congress -- the branch of government that appropriates over 20 percent of your income. The most powerful member of Congress is Dictator Tom DeLay (R-TX) who shakes down corporate campaign contributors in return for selling them our government and giving them your tax dollars in subsidies and handouts. He is stifling debate, dissent and turning the House of Representatives into a procedural one-party dictatorship. I know this is not as exciting as the Rose Bowl but you are paying a lot more for it.

Finally, why can't the news and editorial media look into why repeated and serious lies by elected politicians incur no penalty? Is the answer, public cynicism: "They all do it?" Well, they don't all do it. But as David Corn's new, well-documented book, "The Lies of George Bush," demonstrates, the current occupant of the White House is heading for the Guiness Book of Records on that score. Will it cost him votes or standing in the polls?

It would help those who aspire to high and relevant standards in the news business to hear more often from more viewers, listeners and readers. Let's all resolve for 2004 to do that, unless, that is, we want to know even more about the latest official assurances and weapons and tactics around Baghdad.

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