The corporate lobbyists who want to pass the Simpson Bowles plan to lower the corporate tax rate and cut Social Security and Medicare benefits have far too many allies in Washington. But they also have found a powerful ally on TV: the network CNBC.
The station has given repeated positive coverage to the plan, and frequently features corporate CEOs to praise its features. Here’s one measure of just how skewed CNBC’s priorities have become.
I ran a media search on the term “poverty” during all of CNBC’s coverage during the past month. The term was mentioned 31 times, often in the context of international poverty (for example, talking about Mexico’s drug war). I then searched for “Simpson Bowles.” It was mentioned a whopping 116 times — almost 3 times as often.
CNBC is even more tilted than the traditionally right-wing Fox News. On Fox, Simpson Bowles was mentioned 59 times, and poverty was mentioned 100 times over the same period.
Out of all major cable news networks, MSNBC did the best in balancing out mentions of Simpson Bowles (70) with mentions of poverty (124). CNN had 72 mentions of the former and 111 of the latter.
Recall that CNBC stands for “Consumer News and Business Channel.” With its embrace of Simpson Bowles and its downplaying of the concerns of ordinary consumers — like poverty — it is failing to live up to its title, and is slowly simply becoming a channel of Big Business.
A screenshot of the Fix the Debt campaign’s logo.
The so-called “Fix The Debt” campaign is trying to enact the Bowles-Simpson plan to cut Social Security benefits while lowering the corporate tax rate. Even though Social Security doesn’t add anything to the deficit, these austerity hawks say they support this plan in order to battle U.S. debt.
But if this group is just so passionately concerned with the debt, why did it hire public relations and lobbying firms that work for corporations who bilk U.S. taxpayers out of billions? Here’s a rundown of some of the firms the group has hired:
- DCI Group: This D.C.-based lobbying shop has had clients that include Microsoft — which has dodged billions in taxes by shifting assets overseas — and Exxon Mobil, which benefits from $600 million in annual special tax breaks.
- Glover Park Group: Glover Park offers its services to JP Morgan Chase, which received $94.7 billion as part of the federal government’s bank bailouts. Glover Park also works for the American Bankers Association, which represents bailed-out banks, and defense contractor giant Lockheed Martin. UnitedHealthCare — which fights for its unnecessary share of federal dollars spent on health care — is another Glover client.
- Dewey Square Group: Dewey Square Group has worked for the bailed-out bank Bank of America and various biotech firms that net government contracts.
- Burson-Marsteller (B-M): The force behind Fix The Debt’s “Got Debt” ad campaign, B-M does not publicly disclose its public relations clients, but various trade industry media has reported that its clients include the war profiteer Blackwater USA and numerous other corporations that get rich off of taxpayers.
Keep in mind that this is a small summary of some of the clients that we know of for these firms. Many corporations hire these public relations and lobbying firms and skirt around disclosure laws by not hiring any staffer who contacts federal officials enough to be required to register with the government.
But one thing is clear from these firms’ close association with Fix The Debt. The organization is deeply allied with corporations who have a history of ripping of U.S. taxpayers, not helping reduce the national debt. The public and politicians should not be fooled about who Fix The Debt is.