New Budget: No Conflicts? No Interest!

Politics image courtesy Flickr user Newfrontiers

Politics: full of hot air?

By now I’ll bet you’re just about sick of the barrage of news coverage over this month’s big story, amirite? Just over two weeks into 2014, Congress has passed a budget to keep the government open and functioning through the end of the fiscal year (i.e. their job).  I mean, you turn on the tv, and it’s just budget, budget, budget, everywhere you look.

Wait, you mean you haven’t been watching this? Well, where has the media coverage been, and why haven’t we been deluged with minute-by-minute progress as negotiations progressed?

Not only have the Members of Congress managed to keep the government open while they decided what to do with $1.1 trillion between now and the end of September (again, their job), they even managed to work with each other across the aisle (shocker!).  The principal authors of this budget are Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI).

The agreement that Murray and Ryan reached at the end of 2013 is a true compromise, leaving both sides grumbling but ultimately voting to accept it. Further, if used in the way its authors intend, this deal will guide the budgets of both 2014 and 2015.  The huge support that this budget got from both sides of the aisle and the length of time that it will impact what we spend our money on makes this a big story!

Now, let’s compare this (lack of) budget coverage with the “Bridgegate” coverage that has occupied the forefront of recent political news.

Now, granted, I fully appreciate that this whole situation with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the George Washington Bridge, and the town of Fort Lee is newsworthy and deserves full investigation.  To quote Governor Christie, “Mistakes were made.” Further, as a widely acknowledged contender in the 2016 presidential campaign, Governor Christie’s public profile and reputation are of major concern to Republicans and significant interest to political junkies of any stripe. But you’re trying to tell me that this is such a critical story that something as impactful as our national budget ought to receive next to no major media coverage? I don’t buy it.

It seems to me that the major difference between the 2014 federal budget and Bridgegate is conflict and the lack thereof.  With the budget, two sides came together, neither really got exactly what they wanted but they managed to agree (i.e. politics), and now we’ve got a clear picture of how our elected leaders will spend our tax money in the next year or two (i.e. like it says in the Constitution).  Not much conflict here.

With Bridgegate though, there’s plenty of conflict to go around: between Christie and the mayor of Fort Lee, Christie’s aides and the mayor, the press and those with the answers to what happened, and any two people who have different suspicions of how much Christie knew and when he knew it.

Is it only conflict that draws our interest to particular news stories, leaving us bored with compromises and solutions?  Why do we pay such little attention to some important issues while focusing so heavily on other stories, even if they matter less?  Feel free to weigh in in the comments section!

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Politics image courtesy Flickr user Newfrontiers

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