One thing I've tried to make abundantly clear is that this time of great economic storm and stress is exposing just how structurally insufficient the current media practices are, as far as covering the economy. The Jon Stewart/Jim Cramer battle went a long way to demonstrating how badly the typical Wall Street coverage is misaligned -- a playing field that favors the self-interested pronouncements of financial sector titans over news that we laymen can use -- but the problem is more fundamental than that. The poor practices are revealed in the way the media relays information -- arcana goes unexplained and predictions go unprobed -- and forms correlative links, such as the frequently unchallenged contention that the Dow Jones is tied specifically to political minutiae.
And yet, even these examples aren't fundamental enough. The bottom line is that the people who are reporting this crisis are often revealed to be completely out of touch with the people most affected. And I couldn't be more grateful for an example of this pulled by Digby and Crooks and Liars earlier this week. Check out this seemingly run-of-the-mill story that tries to take a ground level view of our economic times. Thelma Gutierrez introduces us to Mildred Copeland, an 84-year old woman still working as a waitress to earn a living.
You wouldn't think that finding yourself needing to wait tables at the age of 84 would be a fortunate set of circumstances. But, according to Ali Velshi and Gutierrez, you'd be wrong!
VELSHI: That woman who you had in your story, the woman who'd been a waitress, I almost wonder whether people who live close to the edge, but don't carry a lot of debt are not as affected by this recession. They've sort of been living in that state for a while. There's not a lot of room they've had to fall.
GUTIERREZ: Ali, you're absolutely right. I think that's the lesson here. You look at somebody like Mildred, she's 84 years old. She's still waiting tables, but she's doing it to supplement her social security income. The most important thing here is that she has no mortgage..
VELSHI: Right ..
GUTIERREZ: She doesn't have the monkey on her back that we all have and so she doesn't have to worry. She feels that she can move through this crisis because she lives simply, she was able to pay off her house, and she doesn't have the big worry so many people out there have, which is a mortgage.
VELSHI: We hear a lot of people talking about their grandparents who experienced the recession, or the depression and how they learned the value of a dollar. That might be the silver lining to this thing. We might have a new generation who knows how to stretch a dollar and how to stay clear of as much debt as we've gotten ourselves into.
GUTIERREZ: Absolutely. And that's Mildred's point. You have to learn from this crisis. You have to take it to the future, you have to learn to live within your means, and make sure that you pay off that house and that you buy a house you can afford. She says that that's really the way that she's able to sleep at night.
As Digby says:
Lucky, lucky Mildred. After all, she could be out of a job and then where would she be? I guess if we all play our cards right we too can be waiting tables when we're 84. As long as we live prudently, of course, and make sure we don't have any housing expenses at that age. Otherwise, it could get dicey --- and we'd only have ourselves to blame.
I'll go further, and ask: just how out-of-touch with reality do you have to be to report news in this country? These two news professionals have gone and reported out this story of a woman twenty-years past the typical retirement age still waiting tables, and instead of recognizing how powerfully unfortunate that is, they conclude the following:
1. "People who live close to the edge, but don't carry a lot of debt are not as affected by this recession."
2. "...the lesson here...The most important thing here is that she has no mortgage."
That is ASININE. ASININE! You don't think an 84-year old waitress is going to be affected by the recession? It's almost as if they don't understand that people spend DISCRETIONARY INCOME AT RESTAURANTS, and that waitresses are PAID IN TIPS, and that if MORE PEOPLE have LESS MONEY, our 84-year old waitress is going to be affected by the recession.
Oh, and I'd have to say that the "important thing here" is that THIS WOMAN IS EIGHTY-FOUR. How much longer is she going to endure, waiting tables!
It's just implausible that anyone could examine this woman's plight and come away with these blinded-by-the-brightside conclusions, and suggest that it's good news that she isn't carrying a mortgage! Great! Rick Santelli won't be yelling at her, I guess! But that's precisely what these two media professionals conclude. Mildred Copeland is a WINNER, in this economy. FEEL GOOD FOR HER. BE RELIEVED!
These two could not be more out of touch with the world. This means they probably have no idea why anyone could watch this segment and not get angry. But like Ted Leo sang: "You didn't think they could hate you, now did you?" But they do.