Thursday, March 7, 2013

Grand, Stupid, Distractions

We hate the news media today.

Not just "today," Thursday, but also today, in the sense of our modern news media. This has been a week filled with many in the media screaming multiple different stories at you. From the sequester and its effects, to what was supposed to be a massive snowstorm in DC (that wasn't), to the talking filibuster by Sen. Rand Paul, and new all-time highs reached on the stock market, our national media colleagues have been racing from one story to another as though their pants were on fire - which in some cases, they have been.

What few media outlets have discussed in all the hoopla, however - either directly or obliquely - is our economy. Sure, the stock market is back - but our economy, specifically the jobs of millions of Americans - has yet to return. What's worse, our level of wealth inequality is at an all-time high, while the real median wage for working Americans is 8 percent lower than it was during the last year of President Clinton's tenure.

That said, we're going to do our best today to drag our colleagues into talking about the REAL economy - not just headlines flashing across some building-wide electronic ticker that screams "Dow Hits New High!"

The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the official jobs numbers for February tomorrow, and the private firm ADP released its survey of February's jobs numbers yesterday. Both numbers show significant improvement, as jobless claims fell to a near five-year low. Further, in a different survey by the Fed, economic growth has been found to be widespread and improving. That said, employers are still sitting on their hands, waiting for some mythical 'perfect' conditions that will likely never come.

As Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton makes note of this week, there are several other reasons workers are still getting the shaft in our economy, from productivity gains, to globalization, to the current bargaining power of workers. As Wonkblog's Neil Irwin notes, another reason workers are still getting the shaft is because Congress is too busy also sitting on its collective hands, trying not to do anything other than posture effectively, so they can get re-elected in 2014.

The only government organization that's actually been able to be successful in helping give the economy a boost back towards a healthy state is the Federal Reserve. The problem is, the Fed only really has one blunt tool - monetary policy - to help spur the economy forward.

It's true that President Obama and Congressional Democrats have put forward a slew of ideas to try and help more Americans get back to work - everything from raising the minimum wage, to the American Reinvestment Act (also known as the Obama stimulus, which professional economists agree worked), to more sensible tax policies that would close loopholes and spur hiring. Still, they can't do it all themselves.

Congressional Republicans have been doing everything in their power to implement economic austerity - like the sequester - which has resulted in countless numbers of jobs lost already, and will result in even more unless their insanity can be brought to a screeching halt.

The simple facts are clear - something even our colleagues in the rest of the news media can see, even if they don't want to report on them.

Americans must stop allowing our nation to be distracted with grand gestures like Sen. Rand Paul's pointless filibuster, and unnecessary hype about debt and deficits. Instead, we must focus on jobs, as President Obama has been trying to do now for four years, so we can get millions of Americans back to work.

There are some positive economic signs popping up, as we noted earlier this week, and as the jobless numbers show today. Still, the American people have yet to fully recover, even if the stock market already has. Until the massive building-wide electronic tickers scream "Unemployment 2%" and American wealth inequality is gone, we'll keep drawing attention back to this issue - because that's where the focus of our nation, at all levels, really belongs.