Published Thursday, June 28, 2012

Media reports 'magical' government spending

The sins of the mainstream media, which leans so far to the liberal-left you have wonder what holds them up, are not so much what they tell you as what they distort or omit altogether.

Adlai Stevenson’s description of the journalist as one who “separates the wheat from the chaff and then prints the chaff” was never more accurate than in the April 5, 2009 edition of The New York Times. Adam Nossiter’s article, “Louisiana, a Test Case in Federal Aid,” makes lowly chaff seem like nothing less than the cream of the crop. I could have chosen any one of endless examples from the past week but this piece from three years ago has become a classic case of the problem.

Imagine a thief who spends an afternoon pick-pocketing a sizable crowd. In a few hours, he’s nabbed thousands of dollars in cash and a bag full of credit cards. He then spends a small fortune at jewelry stores and makes off with the loot as a suspicious citizen who recognizes him cries, “Stop!”

If Nossiter were covering this little episode, the story in The Times the next day would read: “A Good Samaritan yesterday gave several gem shops a big boost when he bought more diamonds than the stores usually sell in a month. The benefits of the spending binge were confirmed by no less an authority than the store owners themselves, who promise to hire more employees if the generous customer comes back regularly. An obviously disgruntled passerby attempted to interfere in the matter by shouting as the customer left, but he was told by an angry store manager to leave well enough alone.”

Make these substitutions and you have the gist of the article that appeared in The Times: The Good Samaritan is the federal government, the jewelry store is Louisiana and the passerby who tried to rain on their parade is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The Times story notes that the feds had dumped more than $50 billion in money on Louisiana since Hurricane Katrina. “Indicators suggest,” notes Nossiter, that “dumping a large amount of reconstruction money into a confined space . . . has had a positive outcome.” Apparently, not even the government can spend $50 billion on construction without yielding some construction.

Gov. Jindal raised objections to this “free” money. He warned of “dire consequences” of the federal spending spree. But Nossiter says not to worry: “In Louisiana, the consequences have hardly been dire — just the opposite, in fact.” He’s looking at the few upon whom the money was spent and ignoring all those from whom the money was taken (including future generations to whom Washington is sending most of the bill through its monumental debt).

Sadly, The Times story is typical of what passes these days for mainstream journalism. Its reasoning is so infantile, its evidence so transparent, and its economics so woefully deficient that one can’t help but wonder if it was printed simply to advance somebody’s brainless big government agenda.

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(Lawrence W. Reed, a resident of Newnan, is president of the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, N.Y., and Atlanta.)

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