MediaWatch: May 1991

Vol. Five No. 5

More Misleading Economic Reporting

BRADY STRIKES AGAIN. The idea of an independent labor market with workers free to make contracts with employers repulses CBS News reporter Ray Brady. On the April 3 Evening News, Brady mourned the plight of striking workers who were replaced by those willing to work. "Captain Jim Gulley's family has worked these waters for a hundred years," Brady began. "But a strike pitted him against the management of the tugboat company he helped to build. Gulley and his shipmates were replaced. Out of the work they loved."

Endorsing the union's arguments, Brady said: "They note that in the past, strikes helped raise living standards for all Americans, because when unions got increases, white collar and other workers usually got them as well. Now, though, a strike can mean you've lost your job forever." Brady worried that "as strikes disappear, swamped by a wave of replacement workers, some wonder if a valuable American tradition is also being replaced." Brady quoted Gulley and other strikers several times, but management was given only one sentence and replacement workers none.

CRY ON AMERICA. The CBS Evening News recently started a new segment, "Eye On America," to focus more time on a single issue. But initial signs indicate the network's purpose is to deliver more liberal cliches without any statistics to back them up. On April 19, Dan Rather introduced a segment on "the growing ranks of America's hungry and the growing network of charity food banks straining to meet the need."

"It doesn't matter where you banks have become a growth industry in America. What's going on?," asked reporter Bruce Morton. To find out, Morton only asked liberal Rep. Tony Hall and Tufts University's Larry Brown, who pronounced: "They are a larger reflection of the inhumanity of us as a nation." Morton continued: "Critics say the government should feed people who don't have enough...there are 20 million of those folks, reflecting a growing gap between rich and poor."

Morton didn't give a source for his 20 million figure or claim the government was spending less on fighting hunger. Maybe that's because federal nutrition spending has risen more than 50 percent in real terms since 1976 as food prices have fallen. But he did have space for one last bromide: "Food banks, now as American as apple pie."

SOAK THE POOR. Two public policy groups released studies in April on state taxes and their impact on the economy. One was the liberal group Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), which claimed the rich are not paying enough taxes; the other, the conservative National Center for Policy Analysis, claimed tax increases drive away jobs. Which study made the news? You guessed it.

On the April 22 World News Tonight, ABC reporter Sheilah Kast relayed CTJ's findings on how "the poor are paying more than their fair share, "without airing anyone or anything to challenge it. So did USA Today in a front-page story the next morning. "Only two states, Vermont and Delaware, put the heaviest tax burdens on the wealthiest," wrote reporter Bill Montague. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both Vermont and Delaware are among the worst ten states for unemployment rates. Both Kast and Montague failed to make the connection. They also failed to explain how the poor are better off in high tax states like New York than in one of CTJ's "Terrible Ten" states, such as New Hampshire, which has no sales or income tax for anyone.