The Opportunity Cost of Trump TV
I’ve been on the road a bit and catching up on email’s been hard; staying up with social media even tricker because I have been failing, failing to keep up with Trump TV.
Now don’t get me wrong. The Attorney General’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee and his standoff with the House may be important. Something, sometime, may come of it. But let’s consider the opportunity cost of all that one-note coverage.
For weeks Bill Barr has every other topic beat bar none, and while he’s been allowed to dominate every news cycle, especially on TV, which is still the most influential source for most Americans, a whole lot of stories have been scarcely covered, or altogether edged out.
Take just one beat: healthcare and reproductive rights. In the past week alone, I bet you didn’t see the ashen face of the director of the UN agency for women as she learned that the Trump administration was threatening to veto a UN resolution on rape as a weapon of war. I did.
A decade ago, after the mass rape of women in Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the UN Security Council passed a historic resolution, for the first time forcing UN forces to gather information and act, to stop sexual violence. This April the US delegation threatened to veto the whole thing until every reference to sexual or reproductive health was stripped out. Apparently, someone in the White House was worried that some poor conflict survivor, made pregnant by an enemy rapist, might somehow manage to avail herself of an abortion and someone think she had White House consent.
Later in the week, in honor of National Prayer Day, President Trump issued a proclamation, allowing doctors to deny service to people seeking procedures including abortions, sterilization and assisted suicide. While you may have heard that, what you probably didn’t learn is that researchers have shown for decades that so-called “faith based exemptions” spread, creating a climate of denial that can extend from abortion to contraception and even counseling on birth control, and beyond the procedural to the personal. In a faith based exemptions culture, LGBT people routinely find themselves denied basic medical care.
When it comes to rights, the fish of state rots from the head, and its rarely broadcast on Trump TV. When the federal government stops defending equal rights, bigotry has a way of bubbling up. In 2016, for example, Mississippi passed a law that singles out LGBT people and unmarried parents by creating a right to discriminate for those who oppose equality or believe that sex outside of marriage is immoral. Legislators in the Alabama House last week approved a bill that would ban abortion even in cases of rape and incest. State representatives hope it will go all the way to the Supreme Court.
While, the Barr/Trump show plays on, we’re slipping into a silenced health crisis. I get it, measured in ratings and likes and ads, all-the-time-Trump TV is priceless. What we don’t know is the opportunity cost of all that not-reported news. That’s being paid right now, in lives, and choices and constitutionally protected rights.