Time Editor: America Has 'Appetite for Big Government'

     Time magazine Managing Editor Richard Stengel told the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on July 17 that “there’s incredible despair out there and there’s a sense that, that something needs to be done and people have kind of an appetite for big government in a way” in America.

     Stengel was citing a new poll, but the interview did not discuss the fact that the poll also found 80 percent of respondents said they should be responsible for carrying their own financial burdens.

     The poll was a joint effort of Time magazine and the Rockefeller Foundation, an organization Stengel characterized as “on a mission themselves to help the American worker and find out about the economy.”

     He suggested an appetite for big government might help Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). “If you say that favors Barack Obama, maybe it does, I don’t know,” Stengel said.

      There is an “appetite of the American electorate for the federal government to take action,” Stengel said. “There’s 85 or 88 percent of people support public works projects.”

     The interview touched on several aspects of the poll, including the finding that 85 percent of respondents believe the country is on the wrong track economically. That statistic is covered in the current issue of Time.

     A few questions included in the poll that were not discussed on the show may have led Stengel to his “big government” conclusion:

    “Are state and local governments helping you a great deal in achieving economic security, helping somewhat, hurting somewhat, hurting a great deal, or not having much effect one way or another?”
    “How much are each of the following a part of achieving the American dream in your mind?” Respondents were asked to rate a group of statements, including the following:  
      “Being economically secure and not having to worry about being able to afford things.” “Having the time to enjoy the good things in life without having to work too many hours.” “Being able to feed myself and my family.” “Reducing the effects of global warming.”
    “Do you agree or disagree with this statement? ‘The social contract of the 20th century has been broken and needs to be rewritten to reflect the current realities of life today.’”

     Stengel has a history of offering his own interpretation of what America needs.

     The editor appeared on MSNBC April 17 advocating for a government led “cap-and-trade policy” and saying the United States needed to make a “massive effort” to fight climate change. He’s also said people shouldn’t look for objective journalism.

     “But this notion that journalism is objective, or must be objective is something that has always bothered me – because the notion about objectivity is in some ways a fantasy,” Stengel said. “I don’t know that there is as such a thing as objectivity.”

     He later said as for journalistic ethics, “We sort of make it up as we go along and I think that is what will continue to happen.”

     The Rockefeller Foundation describes itself on its Web site as a foundation that “ has sought to identify and attack at their source the underlying causes of human suffering.” The foundation also says that it focuses on areas like repairing weak, outmoded health systems” and “reweaving frayed social contracts.”

     The July 17 broadcast appearance by Stengel was to promote the most recent issue of Time that focuses on the war in Afghanistan, where fighting has increased as the summer months began.