According to government data released today, the unemployment rate rose to a 26-year high
of 9.8 percent in September as 263,000 more Americans lost their jobs. The last president to govern with such high unemployment was Ronald Reagan in 1982. Back then, the TV news media often aired footage that showed union leaders, the unemployed, and Democrats characterizing Reagan's economic policies as sadistic. Yet for some reason, in 2009 most TV news outlets are giving President Barack Obama a free pass on equally bleak numbers.
The Business and Media Institute just released a special report that exposes the double-standard in unemployment coverage. Here are some of the major findings:
In 1982, an overwhelming majority (91 percent) of stories mentioning the Reagan Administration were negative, while in 2009 only 7 percent of Obama Administration mentions were negative.
Unemployment stories in 1982 mentioned the Reagan administration 71 percent of the time, but unemployment stories in 2009 mentioned the Obama administration only 40 percent of the time.
Shame On You, Charles Gibson: The unemployment rate reached 9.4 percent under both Reagan and Obama. But ABC's Charles Gibson covered the identical rate very differently in 1982 and 2009. Gibson told viewers on May 7, 1982, "There really isn't any good news in the statistics. All the numbers are bad." But this year Gibson turned into an optimist, saying on August 7, 2009, that he hoped "the economy may be finally turning the corner."
Instead of using stimulus money to immediately create jobs for millions of unemployed Americans, Obama first gave our taxpayer dollars to the so-called "too big to fail" financial firms, a decision some are calling a bad precedent. It's hard to argue with business journalist John Cassidy, who had this to say in the New Yorker magazine this week:
Since the federal government has now demonstrated that it will do whatever is necessary to prevent the collapse of the largest financial firms, their top executives will have an even greater incentive to enter perilous lines of business. If things turn out well, they will receive big bonuses and the value of their stock options will increase. If things go wrong, the taxpayer will be left to pick up some of the tab.
Compare Obama's strategy to the approach of former president Franklin Roosevelt, who used taxpayer dollars to provide nearly 8 million jobs between 1935 and 1943. FDR's program, while not perfect, employed people to build public buildings, projects, and roads. The program fed children, and redistributed food, clothing and housing. Today almost every community in America has a park, bridge or school constructed by Americans working for FDR's new deal agency, the Work Projects Administration.
Naturally President Obama has agreed that job creation is "the single most important thing we can do," but talk is cheap. Obama predicted the stimulus plan would likely create three to four million jobs, but that hasn't happened yet. Today 15.1 million people are unemployed in the United States, and the number is still growing. Some 52 percent have exhausted state jobless benefits, and some are reaching the end of the makeshift strands of emergency extensions.
But, hey, no worries -- the President and First Lady are appearing on all the TV news broadcasts this week, super-excited about trying to lure the Olympics to Chicago.
Obamanomics isn't just jobless, it's heartless.
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UPDATE 10.02.09 Despite President Obama's whirlwind trip to promote his adopted city, Chicago was eliminated in the first round of International Olympic Committee consideration today.
Meanwhile, upon hearing the grim unemployment numbers, Obama said simply, "We'll just have to grind it out." (Easy for him to say, he's got a job.)
UPDATE 10.03.09 "Wanted: Leadership on Jobs" says the NYTimes editorial staff.
UPDATE 10.04.09 "It's the Unemployment, Stupid" says Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the American Prospect.
UPDATE 10.05.09 "Does Obama Get It?" asks Bob Herbert, NYTimes op/ed columnist.
UPDATE 11.1.09 "Are 650,000 jobs enough?" asks Benjamin F. Carlson at the AtlanticWire.