Was it surprising to see a headline like this one in the Washington Post recently?:
“Bush Addresses Income Inequality on Wall Street Executive Pay / Economic Speech Touches on Executive Pay as Senators Move to Rein It In”?
Was it surprising that Bush did not address the subject in response to a reporter’s question?
The president has granted a series of exclusive interviews recently to, among others, Post White House reporters, Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes,” and Juan Williams of National Public Radio. He did so to serve his own purposes. Nothing unusual about that.
Regrettably, though, there’s also nothing unusual about reporters who get such interviews asking few if any questions other than those the President expects and prepares for. Iraq is the prime example, a subject about which he is predictably redundant. The few exceptions seldom concern fundamental issues that are not immediate.
So wouldn’t it be refreshing, newsy, and a public service for a reporter to break from the pack occasionally and ask the president questions such as those italicized below?
lndustrialized countries except the United States provide universal health care because they regard basic health care as a human right. Do you regard basic health care as a human right? In the second debate with Senator Kerry on Oct. 8, 2004, you said this: “That’s what liberals do. They create government-sponsored health care. Maybe you think that makes sense. I don’t.” Is Medicare “government-sponsored health care?” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, reflecting centuries-old understandings, defines a bribe as: “1. Something, such as money or a favor, offered to or given to a person in a position of trust to influence that person’s views or conduct.” Have our campaign-finance and lobbying laws legalized bribery? The Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Administration and other regulatory agencies were created to protect life, safety, health and the environment. Why do you appoint to run those agencies industry lobbyists and executives who have devoted their careers to opposing or undermining the very laws and regulations that on taking office they swear to enforce? Why did your administration eliminate 170 jobs at the Mine Safety and Health Administration and propose cutting its budget by nearly $5 million in fiscal year 2006? At the Sago mine in West Virginia 12 miners were killed after an explosion in January 2006. In the previous year, the fines collected by the Mine Safety and Health Administration averaged $115 for each of more than 200 safety violations, many of them serious. Do $115 fines deter a corporation from engaging in profitable but unsafe practices?
But back to the press and economic inequality. I admit to being shamelessly self-serving about this subject. In 1999-2000, I wrote a “Mort Wants to Know” series for tompaine.com. Each of 28 articles posed questions for “Mr. or Ms. Presidential, Vice Presidential, or Senate or House Candidate.” Below is the top of the fourth article, posted on Aug. 8, 2000:
“Do the Pols Care About Growing Inequality?
“Question: Economic inequality in the United States today is at high levels and greater than in any other industrialized country. Do you believe that the huge chasm between rich and poor is healthy for “Americans and our democracy?”
I admit to being more than shamelessly self-serving: I was also embarrassingly ineffective.