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Friday, September 13, 2002

The Morning After


Yesterday afternoon I had a spare hour and decided to sit outside and read. As is my custom, I pedaled the two blocks over to the Seattle Center and sat down on a park bench in the sun.

A large memorial had been set up and a crowd of people ambled past. No less than four news vans were here to cover this “story.” As I read Joseph Stiglitz’s article in the October Atlantic Monthly on the disastrous economic history of the past decade, I couldn’t help but feel contempt for the fluff being reported daily by TV networks and passed off as news.

How many Americans understand even the rudiments of how corporations have fleeced shareholders during the past decade? Why are the news agencies so shy in reporting economic news, news that has a tremendous impact on all of our lives every day? Perhaps the TV news people simply need a little help with finding stories that really matter to the people of this country. What they do well is cover non-issues like a runaway Ford Bronco driven by a murderous superannuated athlete and fourth-rate movie actor. They are experts at covering bullshit celebrity news. They try to make us believe that a fifty-year-old civil war in Israel/Palestine is of vital importance to the American citizenry.

How about more stories on the plight of the American worker? American workers in 1950 toiled the fewest hours yearly compared to workers in Japan, France, Germany, and Britain but today work more hours than workers from any of those countries.

In 1982, 49 percent of employees in the bottom 10 percent had health insurance as opposed to only 26 percent who did in 1996.

The ratio of pay of CEOs to the hourly wages of production workers soared from 93 times that of workers in 1988 to 419 in 1999.

Perhaps the “liberal media” (I choke when I hear that phrase) could explain how the current rate of income inequality and wealth stratification in this country could possibly be a good thing. The income share of the top 1% in this country has risen from 9.5 % in 1981 to 15.8 % in 1997.

How about a story on how family income growth for the lowest fifth has seen a decline of 16% since 1977 while the top 1% has seen an increase of 72%? How can this be a good thing?

Why don’t TV reporters make an effort to explain the current crisis engulfing many corporations? Why haven't they explained the balooning CEO compensations that have wrecked company after company?

I know the answer to these questions. TV news will never adequately cover economic news because they lack the interest to pursue these difficult stories. It is up to the voters of this country to become educated on these subjects which means turning off the TV and reading. A great place to begin would be Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich by Kevin Phillips. Get started and don’t forget to vote.

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