Why is the media so blase about the plight of the long-term unemployed?
This question came to mind after I read today’s New York Times story by Michael Luo about an unemployed woman named Terri Sadler who had, according to Luo, “used up 79 weeks of benefits but was expecting an additional 20 weeks under the extended federal program.”
In a subsequent e-mail to Luo, I wrote that he should have stated “that more than a million unemployed people already have exhausted their benefits (99 weeks is the limit) and will receive no further aid. Even if an extension is passed, those in Ms. Sadler’s position will quickly hit the 99-week wall and be back to zero income.” I added, “The real story here is that there are no jobs and no relief in sight for Americans who ‘max out’ at 99 weeks. Who among our legislative representatives is working to help these people? Why didn’t YOU ask this question?”
Luo sent this prompt reply: “The plight of 99ers has definitely been on my mind. In fact, that’s the story I had intended to write at the outset. I found Terri on a Facebook group for 99ers. I quickly learned, of course, she wasn’t really a 99er. But her situation was still compelling in light of the Senate impasse. I asked my editor what I should do. He said we should do a quick hit on her and come back to the 99ers. The problem, of course, is the story would sound very similar. I told him that. He said we’d have to sort it out, which we will. These things are complicated, what goes into figuring out when a story is undertaken or not… The point is, we’re aware of the issue and mean to get to it. I just ask for some forbearance.”
Luo seems to be one of the good guys — a reporter who seems to want to communicate the urgency of the unemployment problem. Unfortunately, a lot of other people at major news organizations aren’t nearly as conscientious.
My hunch is that indifference to the plight of the 99ers — out of work, out of money and, often, out on the streets — by cynics in Congress is being underreported because the gatekeepers of mainstream news are afraid that right-wingers will accuse them of bias.
Right-wingers pretend to believe that further aid to the jobless will prevent Congress from balancing the budget. They pretend the federal budget deficit that developed over the past decade wasn’t caused by massive tax cuts for the rich and the funding of two foreign wars. They pretend that shining a light on corrupt legislators — those who act in the interest of corporations seeking tax breaks rather than private citizens seeking jobless benefits — amounts to biased reporting.
One of the biggest domestic stories since the Great Depression has been placed on the back burner by the media. Pretty odd, no?