But the problem with the big stories is that they tend to crowd out other stories. With a 24/7 news media, this should not be the case, but it is. It's rational in a sort of televised car chase way; even if nothing's happening right now, it's inevitable that something will -- the chase will end one way or another -- and if you cut away to cover something else, you may miss the big crack up (or, as is more often the case, the anticlimactic peaceful arrest). In this case, if network cameras take their viewfinders off Libya, they may miss the money shot of Qaddafi himself being arrested or gunned down or blown up or even fleeing.
But the real world doesn't cooperate with the media world's programming decisions. Things are scheduled to happen linearly; people in the world aren't waiting for Qaddafi's last hour as dictator to run out before moving on to other things. It all goes on simultaneously, with stories overlapping. If one story becomes the story, other stories get sidelined. Take, for example, the fact that Republicans want to raise taxes on nearly half of Americans:
News flash: Congressional Republicans want to raise your taxes. Impossible, right? GOP lawmakers are so virulently anti-tax, surely they will fight to prevent a payroll tax increase on virtually every wage-earner starting Jan. 1, right?
Many of the same Republicans who fought hammer-and-tong to keep the George W. Bush-era income tax cuts from expiring on schedule are now saying a different "temporary" tax cut should end as planned. By their own definition, that amounts to a tax increase.
The tax break extension they oppose is sought by President Barack Obama. Unlike proposed changes in the income tax, this policy helps the 46 percent of all Americans who owe no federal income taxes but who pay a "payroll tax" on practically every dime they earn.
One Republican explained the opposition. "It's always a net positive to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling, "but not all tax relief is created equal for the purposes of helping to get the economy moving again."
Yeah. Some tax relief actually works, while that preferred by Republicans has about a decade-long track record of failure. After all, if lightly taxing the wealthy helps the economy, then explain why it never has. Words you will never, ever hear anyone say; "Wow, look how those Bush tax cuts created all those jobs!"
And the story here isn't just the "man bites dog" type of story that Republican opposition to tax cuts would seem to be. It's a demonstration of just how awful and stupid and counterproductive Republican economic ideas have become. In fact, GOP ideas are becoming so bad that it would be legitimate to question whether they were actively trying to slow down, halt, or even reverse economic recovery. Supply side tax cuts have never worked to boost the economy, while demand side tax cuts often do. But here's the party, standing in the way of something that history shows may help -- and in defense of something that history shows does not.
While the Libya story may overshadow this particular tax fight, the media doesn't have that excuse for the lack of coverage of the broader story -- that GOP policies have no basis in fact or history and run counter to long accepted economic principles of supply and demand. In this particular case, that means actually raising taxes on the poor to pay for tax cuts for the rich. That's not just shameless, that's not just wrong. That's so cartoonishly evil that you expect it to finally be exposed by a van full of teenagers and their dog, Scooby-Doo.
But what it's not is anything new. Economists and analysts on the left and the right are warning that GOP boneheadedness is heading us for a cliff. And why wouldn't it? Republican policies aren't based on any deep thought. They're based on the reactionary principle that if liberals like it, it must be wrong. It's a talk radio mindset that confuses spin with fact and denial of fact with truth. It's a deeply-ingrained belief -- also demonstrated by global warming denial and creationism -- that, if you don't like a fact, then it doesn't have to be true. If you just believe hard enough and strong enough and clap loud enough,
If the media won't cover that big story -- and they won't -- then the least we can hope for is that they'll give some decent coverage to the facet of the story being presented to them now. Republicans want to raise taxes; man bites dog.
Surely that's worth taking the media eye off Tripoli for just a few minutes?