Last week, I wrote a column about partisan media outlets with preconceived political agendas staining the process of critical thought in America.
The column made the point that the messenger does matter, and messengers such as MSNBC on the left and Fox News on the right are polluting this nation’s political discourse.
“Fair and balanced” and “We report, you decide” are nothing more than marketing slogans.
We owe it to ourselves to listen to and to give honest consideration to opposing viewpoints. To shield ourselves from messages we might not agree with is to blind ourselves from the truth.
Of course, that column irritated some folks on both the left and the right. So be it.
Later in the week, I received an e-mail from Conor Sweeney, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Janesville). Sweeney forwarded me a link to a column written by Ryan in the latest edition of Forbes magazine. Ryan’s column was headlined, “Down with big business.”
Ryan’s column derided the “nexus” of big government and big business. He accused big business of wielding too much power, at the expense of small businesses and ordinary citizens.
His column took the Obama administration to task for making this happen.
I agreed to post Ryan’s column, at Sweeney’s request, as an entry in the Milwaukee Biz Blog at BizTimes.com. In reading Ryan’s column on Forbes, I offered some commentary of my own to Sweeney in an e-mail. I wrote that Ryan’s message was salient, although I found it a tad disingenuous to take the Obama administration solely to task for the rise of big business to power, especially considering that the banks that became “too big to fail” happened on the watch of the Bush administration, when the gap between CEO compensation and the wages of the ordinary citizen grew to an all-time high. And remember, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was enacted by the Bush administration. At the very least, this was a problem with bipartisan roots.
Not more than two minutes after I hit the “send” button on the e-mail, my phone rang. Sweeney was on the other end, explaining to me that Ryan indeed had taken both political parties to task for the corruption, but Forbes magazine had conveniently cut out Ryan’s references to the Republican Party’s shared offenses.
Sweeney sent me the original, uncut version of the Ryan column that had been sent to Forbes. The magazine selectively omitted some key paragraphs, including the following: “Neither political party is immune from fostering this pervasive culture of crony capitalism. My own party – the party of Lincoln and Reagan – neglected the principles it passionately championed in decades past. Republicans became more interested in securing political power as an end, rather than a means of limiting the federal government’s power over our lives. The Republican Party has recently confused being pro-business with being pro-market. The poisonous earmark culture was emblematic of businesses, large and small, working their connections to carve out political favors for financial gain.”
The Forbes version also cut out Ryan’s phrase, “Beyond the perversion of TARP …”
I will note that publisher Steve Forbes is a former Republican candidate for president and a frequent commentator on Fox News.
And I rest my case. The messenger, you see, does matter. Thanks to Congressman Ryan and Conor Sweeney for being straight shooters.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.