Friday, April 16, 2010

Why I Don't Watch Local TV News

Here's a simple example of why I seldom watch local TV news broadcasts, other than to check the weather or maybe a sports score --

WBIR broadcast this "report" about the Greeneville Tea Party, as some locals gathered at their county courthouse to complain about taxes. I've no problem with that, it was an event where people attended and is was tax deadline day and all. But why did the reporter decide to hold up one of the signs created by the protesters? Plenty of their signs were visible.

And yes, the report's goal seemed to be to give air to the thoughts and opinions of the TP'ers.

One comment in particular was highlighted by attendee (and apparently a speaker at the event, judging by the video, but here again, the reporter never really identified the individual's role in the event). Anyway, the speaker was one Jeff Cobble - and he said "The majority of our taxes go to supporting the national debt."

Now that comment certainly intrigued me -- so I used this fairly commonplace tool available to most folks called the Internet, and Googled the phrase "majority of federal tax money is spent on" and in .35 seconds, what do ya know - a report dated April 15 2010 titled How Are Our Federal Tax Dollars Spent? is right there for anyone to read.

Sure, I'm wacko idealistic to think a local news report should supply more than just camera footage of unhappy folks and their opinions -- it just seems like a very good opportunity to provide accurate and detailed information on a topic that has many people talking and pondering. One would not have to include all the information - just some basic highlights on the video report, and hey, on WBIR's web site, they could have at least linked to the whole article.

So, as a public service, here's a good chunk of that article I found in .35 seconds of searching (and it's worth noting that approximately ten cents out of each tax dollar collected goes to paying on the national debt) -- the article is from the Live Science web site:

Three main areas each accounted for approximately one-fifth of the budget, while two sections of spending each made up about one-tenth, and the remaining fifth of the budget was used to finance a variety of programs. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, here are the most expensive programs:

  • Defense and international security: In fiscal year 2008, $625 billion, or roughly 21 percent of the government budget was spent on the military and other initiatives to protect the nation. This figure also includes the cost of supporting American operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Social Security: An additional 21 percent of the budget, equal to about $617 billion, was earmarked for Social Security, one of the largest government programs in the world. Social Security provides retirement benefits, survivors' benefits and disability benefits to millions of retired or disabled workers, or surviving children and spouses of deceased workers.
  • Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP: In 2008, $599 billion, or 20 percent of the government budget, was used to finance three health insurance programs – Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Approximately $391 billion went to Medicare, which provides health coverage to people who are over the age of 65 or who meet other criteria such as disability. The remaining amount helped to finance Medicaid and CHIP, which provide health care or long-term care to low-income children, parents and seniors and people with disabilities. Both the Medicaid and CHIP programs involve the federal government matching payments made by the state.
  • Safety net programs: The federal government supports so-called safety net programs that provide aid (other than, or in addition to health insurance and/or Social Security benefits) to individuals and families in need. Safety net programs accounted for approximately 11 percent of the 2008 federal budget, which equaled $313 billion. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, safety net programs include: the refundable portion of the earned-income and child tax credits; programs that provide cash payments to eligible individuals or households, including Supplemental Security Income; various forms of in-kind assistance for low-income families and individuals, including food stamps, school meals, low-income housing assistance, child-care assistance, and assistance in meeting home energy bills; and various additional programs that assist at-risk individuals and families.
  • Interest on the national debt: For every dollar that taxpayers send to the federal government, about a dime goes toward paying interest on the national debt. The federal government is required to make regular interest payments on money it has borrowed to close past budget deficits. This borrowed money makes up the national debt, which currently exceeds $12 trillion. In fiscal year 2008, interest payments accounted for 8 percent of the budget, or roughly $253 billion.

The remaining fifth of federal government spending goes toward financing a variety of other programs and public services, including: providing benefits and health care to veterans and retired federal employees; investing in education, scientific and medical research, and basic city infrastructure such as roads, bridges and airports. A small amount – about 1 percent – went to non-security international programs, including those that provide humanitarian aid.


  1. OXYMORON7:37 PM

    These facts are contrary to the beliefs of the TP, the "Right" and Faux News so they will be interpreted as evidence of an underlying conspiracy i.e. they were compiled by George Soros or something like that.

    Interesting to note: the Bailout which was to bankrupt the country, was about the money we spend on defense in a year. and the entire national debt was about equal to the amount of money pumped into the markets by the Treasury and Fed during the meltdown. Social Security payments go directly into the pockets of millions of Americans, including my disabled brother as millions upon millions of dollars of the interest payments to people who have bought government securities.
    Bullets, bombs, tanks and predator drones have a far more limited, useful life in the economy.

  2. Anonymous6:58 AM

    Social Security and Medicare are really trust funds and should not be considered part of the annual budget. If those are taken out and we look at our federal tax dollars then half of the federal budget is military spending. The real cost of cheap gas must include the cost of the aircraft carriers we pay for that float in the Persian Gulf. The real cost of cheap food in the U.S. must also include the subsidy paid to farmers to grow corn. And if we THINK about the consequences of these behaviors then we must also add the cost of the carbon emitted into the environment and treatment of children for diabetes because they eat so much cheap crappy food.

    It is unfortunately not just the local T.V. news that oversimplifies the News.

  3. yes, a component of the rhetoric is how you structure and define terms like budget, taxes, war, and news.

    the point i'm making, Anonymous, is that it took less than a half of a second of time for me find and to provide some actual context to what is otherwise ultimately a "news" story of some apparently overfed, selfish and willful uninformed but angry white people, though what they have to be angry about, i do not know.

    and yet - here on this humble but lovable blog, you and i and others who decide to spend just a little bit of thought and time and go beyond cheap, sensationalistic and mindless 'reporting' and we have moved more into the are of actual discussion of governmental policies and behaviors. it isn't really that difficult to reveal useful and thoughtful information to the local community - but TV news does not do that at all.

    and likely too - making a more useful 'news' report is the easiest of all the problems herein described to repair.

  4. Anonymous7:59 AM

    My closing comment was a poorly worded indictment on the mainstream national news which suffers from the same problems of local news coverage. Not a comment about your narrative in your blog post. To the contrary I find many places on the internet which make me think a lot about things and yours is one of them.