Accuracy in Media

“But I do not understand what I think is the maligning and maliciousness of this President. Why is he different? And in my community, that is the question that we raise. In the minority community, that is the question that is being raised. Why is this President being treated so disrespectfully,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) before Congress last Friday. Jackson Lee was referring to the deadlock in Congress and GOP efforts against Obama and the Democrats in implementing a raise in the debt ceiling in exchange for a deficit-reduction package achieved through revenue increases and spending cuts. Republicans would like to see only spending cuts without tax increases.

Rep. Jackson Lee unabashedly insinuates, but comes just shy of deliberately saying (See Video), that President Obama is under such unprecedented attack and interference in doing his job because of his race. This is a bold statement because what she is in essence saying is that GOP members, as a whole, in Congress are putting up such a passionate fight, which Jackson Lee refers to as “disrespect” towards this President, not because of the principles for which they stand but because of the President’s race. It is no small matter that this nation faces a precipice concerning the debt/deficit crisis and that what comes out of these intense negotiations will affect Americans and the world for generations to come. To judge deep-seated principles that have traditionally separated Democrats and Republicans as an issue of race is inflammatory and erroneous. It is of no concern, apparently, to Rep. Jackson Lee, that the real source of the feuding and inability to compromise is based not on race, but rather on competing visions of the role and scope of the federal government.

Herman Cain, Republican presidential candidate, addresses the issue in an interview with Greta Van Susteren on Fox News last Monday (See Full Video). Greta asks, “Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee I do believe is saying that she says that it’s racist how the President’s being treated. If it is racist, it must be stopped. If it is not racist, she must be stopped from what she’s saying because it’s not going to fix the debate. Racist or not, because I assume as an African-American man, you have seen racism.”

Cain responds, “I have seen racism, lived through racism. I know racism when I see it. This President isn’t different; he’s just wrong, dead wrong. She is playing the race card, like they do when they can’t defend this President’s record. So they go to the race card or they go to the class warfare card. And that’s all that she is doing. The race card is now a joke because a lot of American people have figured it out. It’s not going to work the way it usually does.

Jackson Lee continued, saying, “Read between the lines. What is different about this President that should put him in a position that he should not receive the same kind of respectful treatment of when it is necessary to raise the debt limit in order to pay our bills, something required by both statute and the 14th amendment?”

The difference is that President Obama, who unquestionably inherited a financial mess, has only made things worse through a combination of his nearly $800 billion stimulus package, that failed to stimulate the economy, unprecedented growth in domestic spending, and a controversial healthcare plan that the majority of Americans, when polled, don’t want. For instance, when speaking about debt that is held by the public (U.S. government securities owned by individuals, corporations, state and local governments, foreign governments and any other entity that is outside the federal government), the rate of increase projected in his four years, reported here by the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) long-term fiscal outlook, is staggering. The report notes that in 2008, a year before Obama took office, the public debt was 40.3% of GDP. And by 2012, the end of Obama’s first term in office, the public debt will reach 74% of GDP. Currently, in two and half years of Obama, the percentage stands at 65% of GDP[1]. To put it in historical terms, this increase is second only to the increase during World War II which climbed to nearly 80%, but the percentage dropped back to its standard of below 50% in the years that followed. With the current spending imbalance and Great Recession, current CBO projections will only get drastically worse in time.

This unprecedented spending on a whole, not only in Obama’s administration but to a lesser extent under Bush as well, is taking the forefront because of how it can also affect our national security. The advancement in media brings the issue to the public at a rapid pace and therefore such a massive issue is going to be fiercely debated as both party’s bases will hold their representatives accountable for whatever outcome. Does this sound like the gravity of our current predicament is largely based on race?

[1] Calculation based off of GDP figures obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis for 2011q1, or $15,018 billion, and figure obtained from of public debt held, or $9,754 billion.

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