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An Honest Moment in the Media

Another lousy jobs report came out on Friday, and it is an encouraging sign of a newly recovered feistiness in the mainstream media that they mostly acknowledged it was a lousy jobs report. The unemployment rate dropped down a tick to 7.3 percent, which in the recent past would have been the headline atop all the stories proclaiming happy days are here again, but this time it was widely reported that the reason was a further increase in the number of discouraged workers who have given up any hope of finding a job and thus were no longer counted among the unemployed, that most of the jobs which had been created were only part-time, and that 7.3 percent is still a lousy number even as it grossly understates the economy’s woes.
Such frankness about the facts of life in the age of President Barack Obama has been seeping into the rest of the news lately. Coverage of the president’s threatened military action in Syria has been conspicuously unenthusiastic, and no longer pretends that recent foreign policy in its entirety hasn’t been disastrous. Almost all of the widely predicted problems with Obamacare are now given attention, even if the predictions and those who made them go unmentioned, and the administration’s fanciful claims for the law’s successes are treated with a sudden skepticism. There’s been enough news to provide the media with a plausible excuse to ignore the still-unfolding scandals of Benghazi, the Internal Revenue Service’s partisan behavior, the Justice Department’s crackdown on journalism, the National Security Agency’s indiscriminate snoopiness, and other serious matters, but they often rate a passing mention in the increasingly frequent critiques of the president’s performance and contribute to a growing perception in the media of a diminished presidency.
This abrupt change in the formerly worshipful media is a welcome development for the president’s long-time opponents on the right, but not wholly satisfying. As nice as it is to see that so many of the media are at last admitting what can no longer be denied, they have not yet given the president the same scathing coverage that was inflicted on his predecessor. The politeness of the press is still particularly evident in its reportage about the economy, which despite its recent bluntness is mostly brief and perfunctory and usually tied to obligatory stories such as the latest jobs report. We were employed by one of the big newspaper chains back when the unemployment rate was stuck around 5 percent during a Republican administration, and can well recall all the tear-inducing human interest stories about unemployed machinists that were commanded to emphasize that dire economic crisis, and such sob-sister efforts are now conspicuous by their absence from the front pages of the contemporary press. Any journalist hoping to “personalize” the current economic doldrums need only buy a beer at any of the hipster hang-outs around here, where unshaven and unemployed young people with pointless degrees and mortgage-sized debt loads are happy to share their hard-luck tales, but editors somehow remain uninterested.
Perhaps the editors correctly perceive that their readers have little interest in the subject, and that even those unemployed youngsters don’t want to hear about it. The conservative media also pay less attention to the economy than might be expected, liberal pundits seem to prefer to ignore the matter altogether, and those in between are presently distracted by the new National Football League season. Everyone seems to agree that the situation is to dreary to talk about and unlikely to be resolved through discussion. A Reaganesque policy of aggressive tax cuts and de-regulation and private sector initiative is an impossibility so long as Obama or a like-minded Democrat remains in office, that tax hikes and regulatory binges and public sector supremacy of Obamanomics will be at least somewhat restrained so long as the House of Representatives remains in more or less Republican hands, and so there’s not much point in arguing which is better. Related issues such as Obamacare’s creation of a part-time economy are leaking into the news, and there is some uncertainty about issues such as immigration which will greatly affect the economy, but bigger issues will swept aside until at the mid-term elections still more than a year away.
By the time that moment of reckoning comes around we expect the press will revert to its usual politeness, and that any problems with the economy will be attributable to the slight “sequester” budget cuts and that Obamacare’s only problem will be the Republican obstructionism that has delayed its implementation. The unemployed hipsters at the local hang-outs will probably buy it, a few of them will find their way to polls, and many of those relegated to public assistance will be inclined to believe those who promise to keep it coming rather than those who offer the possibility of a job. Those who would oppose the president’s policies should seize the opportunity of this moment of clarity, as it is not likely to last long.

— Bud Norman

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