Military Spending and the US Occupations: Week 12 of the Grand Rapids Press Coverage of the Obama Administration

Obama in the Grand Rapids Press

For the second week in a row, the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have surpassed economic stories published in the Grand Rapids Press on news out of Washington. There were a total of ten articles in week twelve of the coverage and 7 of those stories were US foreign policy/military spending related. Only two stories were specific to the domestic economy and The Press ran one story from the Associated Press (4/12) asking the question, “Where will Obama worship?”

More Money for Occupations

There were a total of seven military related stories during week twelve of the The Grand Rapids Press coverage of the Obama administration. Two of those stories were focused on military spending; an April 10 story on the President’s request for an additional $83 billion for Iraq & Afghanistan, and an April 12 New York Times article that presented information on the proposed changes in the overall Defense budget.

The April 10 article states that the President has made an “$83.4 billion request for U.S. military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The story continues by saying, “his Democratic allies in control of Congress are sure to approve the spending without the type of tortuous battle that characterized their dealings with former President George W. Bush.” The Press version of this AP story omits any critical comments from Democratic lawmakers who oppose the requested funds for war, which gives the impression that all Democrats support the President. However, independent reporter Jeremy Scahill provides several oppositional responses from Democrats in a recent article that challenges the administration’s foreign policy narrative.

The The Grand Rapids Press then ran a New York Times article on April 12 that begins by saying, “Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced a major reshaping of the Pentagon budget on Monday, with deep cuts in many traditional weapons systems but new billions of dollars for others, along with more troops and new technology to fight the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.” However, the article focuses mostly on specific weapons systems and presents the proposed Defense Budget as inadequate for US national security.

Both Democrats and Republicans are cited in The Times article criticizing the President on defense cuts, which probably has more to do with their ties to Defense contractors than their concerns over the size of the military budget. Unfortunately, what the article missed was the fact that the Obama administration’s proposed 2010 military budget is $21 billion dollars more than the 2009 budget under Bush. The Times does cite a military expert from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think-tank with ties to the defense industry, but that comment only looks at the military hardware, not the overall budget. This assessment is significantly different from the analysis provided by the Center for Defense Information, which is made up primarily of former high ranking US military personnel.

More Violence and Omitted Voices

The remaining stories on Obama’s foreign policy plans for Iraq and Afghanistan are very instructive when looking at home mainstream media presents an official narrative. The April 8 AP story on President Obama’s visit with US troops in Iraq focuses on the contrast between the new president’s “spontaneous visit” and “the staid, set-piece visits by the conflict’s author, former President George W. Bush.”

Nowhere in the April 8 AP article does the reporter challenge or even clarify the Obama plan for Iraq. The story just repeats the mantra that the President plans on “ending the war in Iraq by 2010.” Independent reporter Dahr Jamail has much different assessment of the president’s visit to Iraq when he points out that while Obama praised the troops for their “extraordinary achievements,” he still doesn’t raise the issue that more than a million Iraqis have died since the US occupation of 2003 began.

The story on the upbeat visit by President Obama in Iraq is a much different story than the Los Angeles Times article which ran on April 11 in the Grand Rapids Press. The article states that a suicide bomber attacked US troops killing 5 “U.S. soldiers in the deadliest strike against American forces in Iraq in 13 months.” The story focuses on this one attack but doesn’t provide any analysis of the recent rise in violence that Dahr Jamail documents, nor does it mention the Iraqis who have been the target of violence from both insurgent groups and the US military.

Patrick Cockburn, who has been reporting from Iraq since the beginning of the US occupation, also provides some important analysis of the recent violence in Iraq. He also points out that “the Sunni who changed from insurgents to US allies over the last two years are once more fearful for their future.” This fear has increased with the plan to have more US troops leave Iraq between now and 2010.

There were also three stories that dealt with the US military campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan during the past week. On April 6, there was a New York Times piece on the reluctance of Pakistani leaders to support the US attacks against insurgent groups in that country. Unfortunately, the Grand Rapids Press omitted the bulk of The Times story, particularly the section that cites Pakistani leaders and their criticism of US policies. But even the full New York Times story does not provide any independent analysis of US policy in Pakistan, nor does it mention the human cost of the US use of unmanned military drones to bomb inside Pakistan.

The absence of coverage on human suffering in Pakistan and Afghanistan because of the US occupation was further reflected in an April 12 Associated Press story that focused on how Afghani rug makers have developed new designs in order to sell their rugs to US troops. The irony is that while the AP reporter tells readers that Afghani rug makers, who are desperate to make a living, have made rugs with images about the terrorist attacks against the US in 2001. What is not so ironic is that the reporter frames this story in such a way as to convey the idea that the Afghanis are happy that the US military occupies their country, despite growing opposition from Afghanis.

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Media Bites: Frosted Flakes

In this week’s Media Bites, GRIID takes a look at sugar cereals that target children. We look at a recent Frosted Flakes commercial and other techniques that these marketers use to convince kids that they should consume their products:

About Media Bites

On any given day, most Americans are exposed to about 3,000 different commercial messages. These messages are in the form of TV ads, billboards, product placement in movies and video games or online advertising. Media Bites is an effort by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy to provide some regular analysis of these images and messages that corporations and the government use to manipulate the public into supporting products and policies.

NATO Summit and Afghan Policy: Week Eleven of The Grand Rapids Press Coverage of the Obama Administration

Barack Obama and the Grand Rapids Press

One domestic issue and the President’s role in the NATO Summit that took place in on the German/French border dominated the eleventh week of The Grand Rapids Press coverage of the Obama administration.

Three stories were related to the announcement by the Obama administration that GM CEO Rich Wagner would step down, while four stories focused on the NATO Summit in Europe that the President attended. The only other story that received any attention related to the new administration was a short article written by a Grand Rapids Press reporter on an upcoming debate between two national magazine editors on the first one hundred days of the Obama administration.

GM CEO Steps Down

The week’s coverage began with a story from the Washington Post headlined, “Obama pushes, GM chief jumps.” The article states that the “administration effectively rejected as untenable the business plans that GM and Chrysler had submitted to restructure their companies, saying that neither had fulfilled the terms of the federal loans the companies received in December.”

The only sources cited in this story are an unnamed “senior White House official” and a representative from Edmunds, which the articles states, is “a consumer-focused automotive Web site.” In reality, the Web site appears more like a marketing site for auto dealers.

On Tuesday, March 31st The Press ran an Associated Press article on how autoworkers responded to the administration’s decision to not provide any financial assistance to the auto industry. One UAW local president stated, “when it comes to auto manufacturing and middle-class jobs and people that don’t matter on Wall Street, there are certainly different standards that we have to meet — higher standards — than the financials. That is a double standard that exists and it’s unfair.”

Another UAW spokesperson mention the double standard of the government imposing strict conditions on the auto industry in order to receive financial assistance, but the same conditions do not apply to Wall Street. One additional article appeared on the 31st that dealt with a reaction to the administration’s announcement about GM. The Grand Rapids Press published a reaction from current Congressional Representative Pete Hoekstra. However, the article has more to do with Hoekstra’s candidacy for the Michigan Governor’s seat in the 2010 election. Hoekstra states that President Obama should not be able to intervene in the matters of private industry.

NATO, Afghanistan, and US Power

There were four articles during the week of March 30 – April 5 that dealt with the foreign policy pronouncements of the Obama administration during the annual NATO Summit. The first story appeared on March 31st from the Washington Post and framed Obama’s NATO Summit role in terms of his campaign promise to “regain the international community’s confidence in the US.” The Washington Post reporter accepts the administration’s position that the US is ” the world leader.” By not questioning this premise, the reporter never challenges the role that the US plays in foreign affairs. Only President Obama is cited in the article, so readers never hear other opinions on the new administration’s broad foreign policy agenda.

An additional article on March 31st announcemes a conference between 73 nations on the current crisis in Afghanistan. The Press ran a shortened version of an AP story that only included a brief comment from US Secretary of State Clinton and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. This article is also framed in such a way that doesn’t challenge the US role in the current Afghan crisis by stating that nations were gathering “to reinvigorate international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and Pakistan’s lawless western border region.” Unfortunately, there is no analysis of how the Afghan/Pakistan border has become so “lawless,” as the article states, particularly since Obama took office.

The coverage of NATO Summit ended on April 5 with an AP story headlined, “NATO support has limits.” The article states that many other nations will only commit to providing security forces in Afghanistan for the upcoming elections, but are hesitant to support the US escalation. The story only provides comments from President Obama and other NATO leaders, but omits Afghani or Pakistani perspectives on the current crisis. There is mention of anti-war protestors at the NATO Summit, but the article provides no details of the protest or any articulation of why thousands of people gathered in opposition to the US/NATO occupation of Afghanistan.

Managing the Economy and Afghanistan: Week Ten of the Grand Rapids Press Coverage of the Obama Administration

Grand Rapids Press and Obama

The economy still continues to be the dominant news story coming out of Washington in week ten of the Obama administration, but US policy in Afghanistan also received significant coverage for the week. A total of 11 stories were published by The Grand Rapids Press on the Obama administration for week ten, with six stories focused on the economy and four on Afghanistan.

Racial Disparity

The only story in the past week not about Afghanistan or exclusively about the economy was a story based on the Urban League’s annual “State of Black America” report. (http://www.nul.org/thestateofblackamerica.html) The Associated Press story provides a summary of the report findings, which state that there is a disparity between Whites and Blacks in the US when it comes to employment, health care, education, jobs, and housing. The article does quote Urban League CEO Mark Morial who says, “Public policy matters, and we have to recognize too that it does require additional and extraordinary investments when it comes to children, to lift up children that are disadvantaged.” The AP article does not include the numerous policy recommendations that the Urban League offers in its annual report, recommendations that could benefit readers by providing them with the idea that the Urban League is not just pointing out what is wrong, but is offering up some solutions.

More on the Economy

The state of the national economy was presented in a variety of stories, ranging from the federal budget to the stimulus package. The week began (3/23) with an article from The New York Times headlined, “Wanted: Buyers for bad assets.” The article provides a summary of a new Obama administration plan that, “relies on private investors to team up with the government to relieve banks of assets tied to loans and mortgage-linked securities of unknown value.”

The only people sourced in this story are administration officials and the chief executive of BlackRock, a money management company, who said, “his firm planned to participate in the program.” It’s unfortunate that no other voices are included in the story, especially since BlackRock recently brought on to its board of directors someone who works for Merrill Lynch, one of the companies receiving billions in taxpayer bailout money that also provided huge bonuses to its staff right after the bailout was announced.

On Tuesday, March 24, the President gave a speech from the White House, a speech that was reported on by The New York Times and published on March 25 in The Grand Rapids Press. The New York Times article focused mostly on the demeanor of the President, with comments from Democratic consultant Joe Trippi, who said, “He said all the right things. But sometimes his confidence makes him seem flat.” The story did not provide readers with many details of the President’s speech, reactions from analysts or any verification of the claims made in the speech.

The Grand Rapids Press did run a follow up story to the President’s March 24 address to the nation, which includes comments from a local non-profit worker and Congressman Ehlers. The comments cited in The Press article from Ehlers are critical of the President’s budget proposal, but a financial counselor with the Inner City Christian Federation said she had “faith (Obama) is doing what he can to make that happen.”

The remaining economic stories reported on how States will lose federal tax money because of the stimulus (3/26), a House panel endorses the proposed federal budget (3/26), and an Associated Press story on March 27 commenting on how government regulation of the market might not be a political liability right now.

Obama and Afghanistan

On Monday, March 23, The Grand Rapids Press ran an AP story that was based on a CBS 60 Minutes interview with President Obama on March 22. The AP story provides a very brief overview of the President’s comments, but offers no investigation into the claims made about the President’s strategic plan for the US military occupation of Afghanistan. In addition, there are no Afghani responses to the President’s plan, nor any independent analysis of what this 3-5 year plan would mean for that region of the world.

In addition to the story on the President’s interview, The Press ran an AP article on the same day that touched on the possible increase in private military contractors in Afghanistan. The story cites Michigan Senator Carl Levin who expresses some concern over the proposed increase of private security forces in Afghanistan. Levin was quoted as saying that the increase in private contractors in Iraq is what led to “widespread abuses” of human rights. The AP article provides a response to Levin from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, but offers no details on what private military contractors would do in Afghanistan or what they have already been used for since the 2001 US invasion began.

The remaining two articles on Afghanistan were published on March 27 and March 29. The March 27 article from the Los Angeles Times was headlined, “Afghanistan Taliban still a puzzle.” Most of the article relies on comments from State Department officials and Dennis Blair, the director of National Intelligence discussing how to combat the resurgence of the Taliban. The only other source cited in the article was Michigan Senator Carl Levin. Levin’s comments are a criticism of how NATO has not done their part to prevent the Taliban from regaining significant portions of the country. Again, no Afghani voices are sourced in the story, nor are there any independent assessments of why the Taliban control much of the country once again.

The last article for the week’s coverage was a Washington Post article on President Obama’s new strategic plan for Afghanistan. The article is based upon a speech the President gave on March 28 where he laid out his plan for US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Washington Post article does a pretty good job of summarizing the President’s comments. The article did acknowledge the US missile attacks in Pakistan, but there is no mention of civilian deaths from those attacks. The only other sources cited in the story besides the President are a CIA consultant, Richard Holbrooke and Michigan Senator Carl Levin. All three of these sources had favorable comments about the new US plan for Afghanistan.

Media Bites: Nike

In this week’s Media Bites, GRIID looks at the global sports apparel giant Nike. The Nike commercial we deconstruct is a new one featuring NBA All Star LeBron James. This commercial continues the same stylized approach that was used when Michael Jordan was the company’s main marketing icon. However, the company continues to use sweatshop labor abroad and slick ads can not hide that fact:

About Media Bites

On any given day, most Americans are exposed to about 3,000 different commercial messages. These messages are in the form of TV ads, billboards, product placement in movies and video games or online advertising. Media Bites is an effort by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy to provide some regular analysis of these images and messages that corporations and the government use to manipulate the public into supporting products and policies.

AIG Bonuses Dominate Coverage: Week Nine of Grand Rapids Press Coverage and the Obama Administration

Grand Rapids Press Obama Coverage

The 9th week of the Grand Rapids Press coverage of the Obama administration was dominated by the “outrage” directed at the financial company AIG. Out of the total of 13 stories in the past week that dealt with the new administration, seven were about AIG alone.

In addition to AIG, there were three other stories that focused on the economy. The US military occupations of Iraq (2 stories) and Afghanistan (1 story) made up the rest of the stories for week nine.

Outraged Over AIG

Beginning on March 17, the Grand Rapids Press ran seven stories that focused on American International Group’s (AIG) decision to provide $165 million in bonus money to company executives. The March 17 article from the Associated Press was headlined, “Taxpayers unlikely to be repaid by AIG.” This AP story, while critical of AIG’s decision, only provided the opinions of one Democratic Congressman, a University professor who teaches risk management, and a financial consultant. None of these sources discuss how companies like AIG function or how the bailout money was managed.

In fact, most of the coverage surrounding the AIG scandal is focused on the $165 million in bonus money, but little is said about the practices of companies like AIG over the past couple of decades. Instead, the coverage provides a venue for politicians to express frustration over AIG’s decision to give bonuses after being the recipient of bailout money. One example is from a March 17 story that focuses on the reactions of two West Michigan Congressmen, Rep. Vern Ehlers and Pete Hoekstra.

Politicians are also the main sources used in a March 18 article titled, “Bonuses are part of Wall Street culture.” This AP story provides some mild criticisms of AIG, but there is no analysis of how and why companies like AIG needed bailout money in the first place. The lack of substantive coverage was also reflected in another March 18 story that began with the sentence, “Cue the outrage.” Unfortunately, the article doesn’t provide readers with any investigation into how AIG was able to get away with paying its executives the large bonuses.

It wasn’t until March 19, when the Press ran a Los Angels Times article that there was any acknowledgement of the historical relationship between Wall Street and Washington. The article states, “Prominent Republicans, joined by some Democrats, suggested that the answer could be found in longtime ties linking Washington to Wall Street.” However, even this article failed to provide any details of that historical relation, such as can be found in a new report from the Consumer Education Foundation entitled, “Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America.” The report shows that:

“From 1998-2008, Wall Street investment firms, commercial banks, hedge funds, real estate companies and insurance conglomerates made $1.725 billion in political contributions and spent another $3.4 billion on lobbyists, a financial juggernaut aimed at undercutting federal regulation. Nearly 3,000 officially registered federal lobbyists worked for the industry in 2007 alone. The report documents a dozen distinct deregulatory moves that, together, led to the financial meltdown. These include prohibitions on regulating financial derivatives; the repeal of regulatory barriers between commercial banks and investment banks; a voluntary regulation scheme for big investment banks; and federal refusal to act to stop predatory subprime lending.”

The week of coverage ended with a March 22nd article headlined, “AIG’s cool head in a hot seat.” The article mainly provides a venue for AIG chairman Edward Liddy to defend the company. The only critical voice in the story was from Congressman Barney Frank, despite the fact that there were protestors there to greet the AIG chairman. The article did mention that the protestors had to put their signs down during the hearing, but there was no mention of who organized the demonstration. the Grand Rapids Press did include a picture with the story, which shows that the peace group, Code Pink, was the ones protesting the AIG executive, but there was no mention of their perspective.

Six Years After the US Occupation of Iraq

There were also three articles in week nine of the coverage that dealt with the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. A March 19 Associated Press story provided a short explanation for the new administration’s announcement to possibly send some civilian personnel to Afghanistan “to reinforce the non-military component in Kabul and the existing provincial reconstruction teams in the countryside, officials said.” The article provides comments from US diplomats, but no Afghani perspectives are included.

On March 22, the Press ran two stories that dealt with the sixth anniversary of the US occupation of Iraq. The first story, headlined “Protestors mark Iraq war milestone,” provides a short summary of a demonstration organized by the group ANSWER. The story does mention a few of the reasons why protestors demonstrated, but the article spent an equal amount of time on the “tensions” that existed between protestors and police.

The other article on March 22nd was headlined, “Iraq better than before but still shaky,” presents the situation in Iraq as one where violence has decreased and the future threat of violence will emerge from “sectarian violence.” This New Wire Service story does have a few Iraqi perspectives, but both are government officials. There is no mention of what the six years of US occupation has meant in terms of Iraqi deaths nor was there mention of the organized demonstrations in Iraq that were protesting the US occupation.

Media Bites: E-Trade

In this week’s Media Bites, GRIID looks at the online investment company E-Trade commercials that use babies to brand their company. We deconstruct a commercial from the 2009 Super Bowl and provide links to reports and analysis on the recent Wall Street crisis:

About Media Bites

On any given day, most Americans are exposed to about 3,000 different commercial messages. These messages are in the form of TV ads, billboards, product placement in movies and video games or online advertising. Media Bites is an effort by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy to provide some regular analysis of these images and messages that corporations and the government use to manipulate the public into supporting products and policies.

Coverage of the New Administration Continues to Decline: Week 8 of the Grand Rapids Press and the Obama Administration

Coverage of the Obama Administration has Declined in The Grand Rapids Press

The Grand Rapids Press coverage of the Obama administration continues to decline for the second week in a row. Week eight of the coverage is the lowest since we began our coverage of the first 100 days of the new administration, with only five stories for the entire week. There was one story about federal funding for stem cell research (3/9), and one story on partisan positioning (3/12), where the president sided with his party rather than support legislation proposed by his campaign challenger John McCain.

Wilderness and Greenhouse Gases

For the first time since the new administration took office, environmental stories dominated the coverage.

On March 12, The Press ran an Associated Press (AP) story headlined, “House defeats Wilderness bill.” The article states, “The House Wednesday defeated a bill to set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness.” The House voted 282-144 in favor of the Omnibus Lands Management Act, but it needed a two-thirds majority to pass and was two votes short.

The AP story tries to paint the issue in partisan terms, but there were several Republicans who voted in favor of the bill, like Michigan Representatives Fred Upton and Vern Ehlers. There were also some Democrats who voted against the bill.

The other environmental story for this past week was on Sunday, March 15, headlined, “House misses Green goal, but lightens carbon footprint.” The article was about a proposal by the House of Representative to make the Congressional building more energy efficient. The AP story said that the House was not able to guarantee that they could reduce carbon emissions 100% so they set aside money to invest in other green projects. This strategy follows the carbons credits system, where businesses can buy pollution or carbon credits if they invest in some other sustainable practice elsewhere in the world.

Drug Wars near the Border

The only other story during the week in The Grand Rapids Press that dealt with the new administration was a March 15 story about the difficult task that the new US Drug Czar will face. Just days after Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske was named head of the Office of National Drug Policy, questions were raised about the growing drug war problem in Mexico. About half of the original AP story was omitted in The Press version and there wasn’t much information on why Obama chose Kerlikowske. The story does quote the President who said, “We’ve got a very big border with Mexico. I’m not interested in militarizing the border.” This comment was part of the President’s response to a reporter at a press conference on March 14.

Interestingly enough, this AP story was featured right next to a longer piece from the AP with the headline, “Bodies from Mexico’s drug war cram morgues.” Two pictures–one with Mexican policy surrounding a suspect and another one with a car that has its front windshield shot out–accompany the Associated Press article. And while the violence has increased as a result of the drug war in Mexico, neither story provides any information on Plan Merida, a policy adopted by the US and Mexican government last summer.

Plan Merida is primarily a military solution to the drug trafficking that originates in Mexico, which is not what the new Drug Czar said in the March 15 article. He was quoted as saying he wanted to focus on reducing the demand, “And that starts with our youth.” The Washington Office on Latin America, a non-partisan group, said this of Plan Merida:

“The Merida Initiative is important in terms of bilateral cooperation to address drug trafficking and drug-related violence in Mexico, but effectively tackling these problems will require more emphasis on structural reform. Mexico’s civilian institutions, not the military, should be receiving support.”

Nominee Omissions

There have been numerous articles over the past seven weeks in The Grand Rapids Press about Obama administration nominees. Many of those stories have focused on nominees that have dropped out after some controversy, such as former Senator Tom Daschle. Last week, another nominee dropped out.

President Obama had named Charles Freeman to be part of the National Intelligence Council, but Freeman withdrew his name after accusations from pro-Israel groups and even some Democratic Senators. The New York Times on March 11 even acknowledged that pro-Israel groups were behind the effort to block Freeman from being the nominee.

The independent media has written a great deal about why Freeman not only pulled out of the nomination, but also why President Obama remained silent (http://www.zcommunications.org/znet/viewArticle/20899) on the matter. Peter Lee–writing on CounterPunch–said that the pro-Israel lobby pressure to block the Freeman nomination had little to do with the traditional stance of defending Israel and more “to do with trying to disrupt Obama’s initiative to engage with Iran — an initiative that has the active encouragement of Russia, probably tacit support from China, and the active interest of Iran itself.”

Whatever the reason for the opposition to Freeman as Obama’s choice to be part of the National Intelligence Council, it is unfortunate that The Grand Rapids Press chose not to print any stories on this issue.

Media Bites: Bridgestone

This week’s Media Bites deconstructs a commercial by Bridgestone/Firestone that ran during the 2009 Super Bowl. The commercial uses Mr. & Mrs. Potato Head to brand their image, but we show you how the company treats its workers abroad:

About Media Bites

On any given day, most Americans are exposed to about 3,000 different commercial messages. These messages are in the form of TV ads, billboards, product placement in movies and video games or online advertising. Media Bites is an effort by the Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy to provide some regular analysis of these images and messages that corporations and the government use to manipulate the public into supporting products and policies.

Fewer Stories in Week Seven of the Grand Press’ Coverage of the Obama Administration

The 7th Week of the Obama Administration was Covered with the Fewest Number of Stories since the Inauguration

Week seven of the Grand Rapids Press’ coverage of the Obama administration saw the least amount of stories for a one-week period since inauguration day. There were a total of ten stories focusing on a variety of topics, with health care policy generating the most. Here is a breakdown of the coverage:

  • 4 Stories on Health Care Policy
  • 2 Stories on the Economy
  • 1 Story on Foreign Policy, 1 Story on Energy Policy, 1 Story on the national GOP and 1 Story that reviewed Obama’s campaign promises with his policy decision to date.

Health Care Reform?

On March 6, the Press published a New York Times article entitled “Obama ready to negotiate on health reform.” President Obama was cited warning “lobbyists and special interests not to stand in the way of efforts to rein in costs and guarantee coverage for all Americans.” Most of the story was devoted to a partisan debate about the proposed health care plan, but the Times story does point out, “Mr. Obama provided no new details of how he would extend coverage to the 46 million people who have no health insurance.”

Indeed, there were no details of the plan, nor was there any information on the health care forum that was hosted by the new administration. Journalist John Nichols, writing for the Nation, pointed out that most of those in attendance were CEOs of the major health insurance and pharmaceutical industries. The representation of those in attendance was a reflection of whose interests would be protected as was pointed out in a recent Washington Post article. This should come as no surprise considering that President Obama was overwhelmingly the number one recipient of campaign money from the pharmaceutical industry and the health professionals sector.

The other health stories were a March 2nd story on the difficult task that will face the new Health Care and Human Services nominee, Kathleen Sebelius and two stories on the administration’s plan to end the ban on federal funding for stem cell research. The Press followed a March 7 story announcing the President’s plan on stem cell research with an article on March 8 that solicited local reactions.

The Economy and Energy

In a March 8 story that summarized the President’s weekly radio/video speech, Obama was quoted as saying, “people should be prudent and get back to fundamentals, with an eye on steady savings, reasonable returns and long-term investing.” He also admonished the American people to not “suddenly mistrust all of our financial institutions because the overwhelming majority of them actually have managed things reasonably well.” There was nothing in the Associated Press article or in the President’s speech about the need for corporations or Wall Street to be “prudent.”

On March 2nd, the Grand Rapids Press ran a story on local reactions to the President’s Energy policy proposal, headlined, “Obama energy proposal gets heat.” The article featured three Republican Congressman, all critical of the President’s “cap and trade” plan for reducing carbon emissions. Congressman Hoekstra said this plan would have a negative impact on Michigan manufacturers, Congressman Ehlers didn’t think it would work unless “other nations adopt similar systems” policies, and Congressman Camp felt the cap and trade policy would “tax middle America.”

The Press reporter challenged none of the claims made by the three GOP Congressmen, however they were juxtaposed with two favorable comments from the Executive Director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and a Lansing-based group, the Delta Institute. Both of these environmental groups support a cap and trade system, even though many global critics, such as Indian activist and author Vandana Shiva, argue that a cap and trade system is woefully inadequate to address the serious global warming problems the world faces.

Change?

The last article published in the Grand Rapids Press for week seven of the Obama administration was the first story we have seen that attempted to critique the larger claim that the new administration would be a significant departure from the Bush administration. The article begins by saying:

“For all the sweeping changes that President Obama has delivered, there also has been an ample helping of more-of-the-same. The Bush policy of imprisoning enemy combatants in Afghanistan without trial? The Obama White House is OK with that.

The Bush tax cuts for the rich that candidate Obama promised to wipe out early? President Obama will let them run their course. The Bush team’s claim of a “state secrets” privilege to avoid releasing information? The Obama White House has agreed thrice over, even as it reviews the policy.”

This Associated Press story does a pretty good job of providing readers with an assessment of the new administration’s claims about change to date by looking at the policies already mentioned above, but also addressing continued immunity for telecom companies that allowed the government to spy on the public, the Iraq troop withdrawal plan, and the Obama administration’s continued support of Bush’s “faith-based initiative.” Unfortunately, for readers of the Grand Rapids Press, over half of the original AP story was omitted in the Press version and the story was buried on page A-17.