It’s been two days since New York Congressman Anthony Weiner confessed that he lied about texts and tweets he sent to numerous women, and that’s still all that most of the news media are reporting. Understandably, Democrats are not happy that one of their own got caught in a scandal. But I have to wonder if the White House isn’t a bit pleased that something – anything – came along to distract Americans from the higher unemployment numbers released on Friday.
Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, was on TV over the weekend trying to neutralize the negative spin Republicans were putting on the increase in the number of Americans out of work. I do agree with Mr. Goolsbee that one month’s increase does not mark a trend. But the administration cannot pass over the numbers as meaningless. Some of us are looking at factors besides unemployment (including housing and food costs) and doubt the economy is improving as much as the White House claims. But even if you buy into the well-on-the-way-to recovery theory, Friday’s 9.1% unemployment figure should cause you to ask what changed last month. Are employers finally feeling the effect of federal policies or worrying about future changes such as the new health care legislation? Are the extra unemployed people long-term jobless who had taken a break from job-seeking or newly unemployed? The answers to those and other questions would give a better picture of whether President Obama’s policies are helping the current economic situation.
When there are questions as to whether a president’s policies are working, the opposing party should analyze the situation and propose reasoned alternatives. But in the last few years, both parties seem to do little but criticize each other. That leaves the news media to investigate and explain what is happening in America. Right now they are failing at their job. There are important issues connected with Rep. Weiner’s confession, such as trustworthiness on the job or security risks in someone knowing secrets about a member of Congress. But the media is not discussing these points; they have shown photos that Rep. Weiner sent and now ABC is showing photos a Texas single mom sent back to Weiner. This is more like celebrity gossip than real news.
Americans deserve to know the actions and policies that will directly affect them. But does the current sad state of news reporting exist because the media is providing cover for politicians, because they are feeding America what they think we want, or because Americans really like this type of sensationalism over substance?