Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A NYT Lesson in Horrendous Economic Journalism-- Guest Post By Jonathan Tasini


On Monday, journalist and author Jonathan Tasini wrote a "Dear colleagues" letter about bias in mainstream journalism, especially in the coverage of economics. It impressed me so much that I asked him if I could publish it here at DWT. He graciously agreed.

Mainstream/traditional journalism is replete with examples of bias and utter cluelessness when it comes to economics. You can’t get a better example of that than the absolutely horrendous piece today in the New York Times entitled Public Servants Are Losing Their Foothold in the Middle Class-- which purports to explain why public workers can’t pay their bills. The piece is full of what I call “immaculate conception economics.” Or, in plain English, shit just happens, and when we can’t explain how it happens, we just fall back on blind theology. Or, as the immortal Warden Samuel Norton said: “Lord! It's a miracle! Man up and vanished like a fart in the wind!” To wit:
The word “union” does not appear a single time in the article. Not to explain why public workers actually made a decent living-- it wasn’t thanks to the munificence of politicians, Republican or Democrat. It was because of union organizing. Nor to explain why, as politicians and right-wing billionaires have prosecuted a relentless war against public sector unions, wages have declined. This is especially glaring when the two “journalists” describe the wave of uprisings by teachers in “red” states-- teachers who belong to unions, unions that are coordinating the protests of their members.
We read: “Many of the jobs created-- most in service industries-- lack stability and security. They pay little more than the minimum wage and lack predictable hours, insurance, sick days or parental leave. The result is that the foundation of the middle class continues to be gnawed even as help-wanted ads multiply.” Why do you think those jobs lack stability and security? It is because union density has declined dramatically in the past 30 years.
This is telegraphed, by the way, early in the article: “But globalization and automation aren’t the only forces responsible for the loss of those reliable paychecks”. Ah, yes, those anodyne terms of “globalization” and “Automation”-- leaders and CEOs, looking to enrich themselves and enslave labor around the world, driving down wages and cutting benefits (think: the Waltons of Wal-Mart and Jeff Bezos), had nothing to do with that. It’s just the inexorable “globalization” and “automation.”
Later: “Short of money, many states have also privatized services like managing public water systems, road repair, emergency services or prisons, transferring jobs from the public sector to private companies that have reduced salaries and benefits to increase their profits.” It’s a miracle! It has nothing to do with those jobs being transferred to NON-UNION companies who cut wages and benefits because there is no way for workers to collectively bargain.
The article repeats the false pension “crisis” meme, describing“… generous pension and benefit commitments made in fatter years came due.” Pensions are DEFERRED COMPENSATION-- not simply some “generous” handout. I don’t even think the “journalists” are conscious that they are using the false pension “crisis” language that has been carefully inserted into the debate by people ideologically opposed to decent retirement standards. And you didn’t need Russian bots or Facebook to assist—this has been political rhetoric encouraged for many years by politicians spanning the political spectrum, funded by billionaires particularly the much-lauded late Pete Peterson. It’s a lie.
About privatization. You would think that, in describing the privatization of work, the two “journalists” would consider inserting even a sentence or two to make the point that lots of data shows privatization is a failure, costs more to the public in actual dollars and results in poorer service. Not a word.
That is just a small sampling. This is terrible journalism. An embarrassment.

Goal ThermometerAfter speaking with Jonathan, I asked three of the most union-forward congressional candidates I know-- Randy Bryce (WI-01), Jared Golden (ME-02) and Jenny Marshall (NC-05)-- what they thought of his perspective. As you may have guessed, all three are as serious as Tasini about the role unions play. Bryce told me that "unions are the only thing keeping corporate greed’s boot from crushing our throats. Work sites that I have been on are safe thanks to the demands of unions. Those sites are safe whether one pays union dues or not. Don’t complain why we have what we do-- ask why you don’t have it."

And Golden's perspective is as Majority Whip of the Maine legislature, not from a construction site. He said he agrees wholeheartedly with Tasini. "I have proudly voted four years in a row in the Maine Legislature against the GOP’s so called 'Right to Work' proposals that aim to gut Maine’s remaining unions, including our public employee unions. For eight years now" he continued, "under the tea party Governor Paul LePage’s leadership the state has frozen pay raises and left department positions vacant, and made it a priority to go after public employment and unions, all while pursuing plans to privatize government services from bridges to prisons to health and human services. This country needs stronger unions in more sectors and in Congress I’ll do everything I can to strengthen the labor movement because like you rightly pointed out as unions have declined so have middle-class jobs, wages and benefits."

Golden picked up another union endorsement last week, IBEW 2327. They now join the ranks of IAM, IAFF, the Professional Fire Fighters of Maine, IAM Local S7, the Maine State Council of Machinists and the UAW BMDA Local 3999 that have all endorsed his candidacy.

And Jenny is a member of the Teachers union herself. Last night, she told us that "Unions are what built the middle class and created stable communities across this country. It was due to the strength of their numbers that they demanded and won fair wages and benefits for workers. Those union shops then pushed private sector employers to do the same. This was not lost on businesses and government leaders who tried to reduce the union’s power to negotiate salaries, benefits and working conditions. After years of systematic assault on their ability to organize, unionization is on the decline and we can see the effects in our own backyards. It’s a race to the bottom and unless we start protecting workers’ rights to unionize. I stand with my union brothers and sisters across this country in our fight for fair labor practices and just compensation."

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At 5:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And yet Bryce, golden and marshall are all members (in good standing, one would presume) of one of the two sects of the political party that serves the money and, pursuant of that end, ratfucks workers including those who are members of unions. The democraps do gleefully take union money and endorsements (though one is flummoxed why they waste either on democraps), but the 40-year digestion of unions has included 16 years under democrap admins where that digestion has not slowed. In fact, globalization, privatization and automation have been accelerated under democrap admins.

The democrap tyrants in congress are still there and are still dictating the same anti-worker policies.

So... guilt by association? Damn straight!

At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“On Monday, journalist and author Jonathan Tasini wrote a "Dear colleagues" letter about bias in mainstream journalism, especially in the coverage of economics.”

Need link to Tasini’s letter, please.

At 8:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish there was a way to correct the real problem - workers not understanding what a union is, what it can do, and most importantly how the membership has the power of how the union is run and not the officials.

I am myself a union worker. The majority of our members bitch about the fact that the "have" to belong to the union. Considering that most of them vote Republican and are fervent FAUX viewers, their eyes glaze over once you start challenging their externally-imposed anti-union views.

They think unions can tell employers what to do without understanding that the employer can completely ignore the union with impunity if they want to. It is literally a case of how much money the union has to work with if they are to get anywhere. This is why Republicans force "right to work" (for less) laws all over the nation. Starve the unions and they can't fight back.

Caterpillar locked out their unions back in the '90s, and it took years of court action paid for by the members to get Caterpillar to agree to rehire those locked out as positions opened. Without the courts, those workers might never have gotten another decent job. Without the members covering the costs through their dues, there could never have been any lawsuits to get them back on the job, despite the hostile ruling by the courts limiting the grievance in favor of Caterpillar. considering how things have gone since, we may not be too far away from repeating those historic times when union members were gunned down for standing up for their rights.

Until we can break the hold FAUX has on too many blue-collar workers, and until the GOP does not represent attractive representation to them as well, there is little a union will be able to do to reverse the trend to wage slavery and impoverishment.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger SipSip Titimo said...

God I love me some tone trolling troll

At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:16, truth. But the problem is that the blue collar workers got stupid and lost perspective. The reason their union exists is bid'ness exploited their forbears, often to death. Those workers' forbears had to LITERALLY fight for their right to organize. Many were maimed and several died.

Get a couple of generations past those memories, factor in the massive degradation of education (history) and you now have workers who have had it much better plus are not aware of who gave them their relative condition nor how it was achieved.

And those remaining union workers support a party that has been part of the long-term strategery to eliminate unions from the worker landscape. They are all Kansans.

Cat locked out workers in the '90s. Remind me... who was president in the '90s? Was it the liar who said "I feel your pain" and "I didn't have sexual relations with that woman"??? And why is that liar still adored by lefty voters?

At 11:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't explain "lefty voters" for you, 10:21. But it isn't just a coincidence that Perot got such a large percentage of the votes in each election he stood for despite running terrible campaigns each time.

At 12:43 PM, Blogger News Nag said...

'Anonymous Democrap' commenter: Unlike you and your incessant give-up whining, Bryce, Golden and Marshall know that the ONLY way to enact positive change in this country is now to make the Democratic Party more progressive again to the greatest extent possible, necessarily over time. Luckily some people give enough of a damn to do something about conditions other than, like you, intentionally trying to troll and demoralize people who really do care. I am convinced you really don't want things to change.

Lefty voters aren't so enamored of President Bill any longer. Most affinity for him among them is strictly personality, as most know their way around a Glass-Stegall and ending-welfare-as-we-know-it debacle when they see it.

At 12:44 PM, Blogger News Nag said...

Thanks for posting the fantastic song. I play it often. Beautiful songwriting and performance. Deserves much more play than it gets, and such would be useful!

At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If electing a few decent new democraps COULD enable change, why does it NEVER do so?

Could it be because no matter who fills the junior rolls, the same tyrants remain and dictate all policy?

Tell me, News Nag, why don't you remember Kucinich's articles of impeachment? The PO some in the house managed to add in to obamneycare a couple of times? Why did PATRIOT and all those NDAs pass so unanimously? Why isn't Jamie Dimon in prison?

It's because the 'craps will never be progressive if humankind and earth live another 5 millennia (they won't). Once the lust for money merges with the lust for power, only total destruction can stop it.

Your strategery is surrender. Not mine.

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any DxCC troll will advocate things which ensure that nothing will ever change, yet they chide those of us who advocate for doing something different. That is the only way that change can happen, and the DxCC trolls are charged with doing all they can to prevent that.

At 6:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just what are you advocating that is different?

I chide you for never, ever doing anything different.

At 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As if you matter, 6:23. Go back to Pelosi and return some of those click fees you haven't earned.

At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another legitimate request to engage met with ad-hominems. Thanks for making my point for me better than I could.

Come back when you actually got something.


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