There are only so many stories that even the most avid news-reader can follow, and lately they have been the ones about the various scandals afoot in Washington. These are important matters, and provide the amusing spectacle of White House officials flailing about as they deal with the first press scrutiny of their careers, but it is necessary to step back and take note that everything else is also going to hell in a handbasket.
Thursday brought bad economic news, with jobless claims rising and housing starts falling, and provided a reminder that unemployment remains high, growth slow, and the national debt mounting. Such sad statistics will cause the Federal Reserve to keep printing money at the frantic pace that has led to record highs on the stock market, which in turn has led to some strangely happy talk in the few stories that are reported, but other needed economic reforms are unlikely to become a national priority until the inevitable downturn. The sluggishness of the economy was a widely ignored story even before the current scandals began to dominate the news, with everyone in Washington preferring to talk about same-sex marriage or gun control or who was wearing what at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, even though it remains of some interest to the millions of Americans who are out of work or seeing their incomes fall further as prices rise.
It will be briefly noted deep within the pages of the more staid newspapers that the House of Representatives voted once again to repeal Obamacare, and the story doesn’t deserve much more attention given that it will fail once again in the Senate and that it would be vetoed by the president in any case. This means that Obamacare will continue to provide businesses with strong incentives not to offer employees more than 29 hours of work to any employee or to have more than 49 of them around, among its many unfortunate economic effects, but as previously noted that sort of thing is no longer considered newsworthy. Obamacare was more prominently mentioned in reports that the same woman who is at the center of the Internal Revenue Service’s scandalous targeting of conservative groups is now in charge of the agency’s enforcement of the health care law’s numerous tax provisions.
The distraction of the various scandals might provide an opportunity for congress to pass an immigration reform bill that would otherwise provoke greater public resistance. Several politicians in good standings with conservatives are backing a plan proposed in the Senate, and Democratic constituencies such as unions and blacks that have reason to oppose are apparently being kept in line, but there are widespread doubts that the promised border enforcement will ever happen and those distracting scandals do little to inspire trust. Given the fact of the aforementioned millions of Americans who are out of work there is also reason to question the wisdom of bringing even more millions of people into the workforce, but that once again raises those economic subjects that no one seems to want to talk about.
A short White House visit by the Prime Minister of Turkey, who was in town to talk about the deteriorating situation in Syria before heading off on a trip to Gaza that the Americans had asked him not to take, took up just enough of the news to remind readers that pretty much all of the international scene is also dismal. At a rain-soaked news conference the president agreed to increase pressure on the Syrian dictator, although he avoided any further mention of his widely-ridiculed “red line” declarations, and then wound up fending off questions about Benghazi, the IRS, and the Justice Department’s snooping around in the Associated Press’ phone records. No one wants to talk about that foreign policy stuff, either.
On a more positive note, no one wants to talk about whatever it is that the president wants them to talk about. Things have gotten so bad that even The New York Times reports that “Onset of Woes Casts Pall Over Obama’s Policy Aspirations.” The Gray Lady seems to regard this as an unfortunate development, but it might be best that can be said of a bad situation.
— Bud Norman