NPR Should At Least Pretend To Be Impartial

You know when you and another person or persons generally agree on things and you want to test your arguments by playing devil’s advocate – i.e. pose a question that you think your opponents would ask? Stating you’re asking a devil’s advocate question almost always implies that you and the other person are in agreement.

That’s the question a National Public Radio reporter asked a New Yorker reporter. The latter, one James Surowiecki, argued that the debt ceiling should be scrapped. The NPR reporter, Mary Louise Kelly, said, “Let me play devil’s advocate….many would argue that having a sort of ceiling in place fosters accountability.”

Mary Louise, you work for a taxpayer-subsidized radio corporation that is supposed to be for all Americans, not just left-leaning ones who are sympathetic to scrapping the debt ceiling. Your taxpayer subsidies don’t just come from lefties but righties as well. You can at least try to convey the appearance that you’re speaking on behalf of Americans of all political stripes. You should have dropped the “Let me play devil’s advocate.” That implies that you’re on Surowiecki’s side in the matter and that you don’t want him to think that you aren’t.

No, a hard-nosed reporter should in no way be worried about putting the  person he or she is interviewing in a tight spot provided the question is a legitimate one. And asking about the accountability issue is very legitimate.

Meanwhile, Surowiecki at first dodged the question. So Kelly asked it again. The only thing Kelly could muster up was that because Congress has raised the debt ceiling so many times in the past without a fight, it shows that the debt ceiling is a weak way to foster accountability.

Hey James – it appears that that’s changing. Congress is now starting to take the debt ceiling issue seriously as a way to foster accountability. In fact what’s happening now in Congress – a deal to raise the ceiling in exchange for spending controls – is unprecedented as far as I know.

So finally, the debt ceiling is fostering accountability! That kind of destroys Surowiecki’s argument that the debt ceiling is unnecessary because it has never worked in fostering accountability in the past. Well now, it is! And hopefully this will start a good precedent for the future.

One other note. Surowiecki said we’re one of the only developed countries that have a debt ceiling. “And, you know, most other countries, developed countries, seem to do reasonably well in terms of keeping their books in order without one.”

Yeah. Like Greece.

 

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