Saturday, February 04, 2006

Disinformation in the Times

Leading up to the Iraq war, the front page of the NY Times became a transmission belt for Judith Miller to rewrite Pentagon press releases warning breathlessly of the specter of Iraqi WMDs.

Now, Paul Craig Roberts says the Times is repackaging Bureau of Labor Statistics press releases as well, parroting the administration line that everything is just swell. For example, this Times article breathlessly reports that, "The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in four and a half years in January, the government reported today, as the economy added construction, education, health and other jobs." Ah, those commiepinkolyinglibs in the mainstream media. They're always out to get Republicans.

Wondering exactly when journalists lost their curiosity, Roberts puts a different spin on the numbers:

The export and import-competitive sectors of the US economy have been tanking for a long time. To keep the story manageable, let’s just go back to January 2001. The latest BLS payroll jobs report says that January 2006 is now the 61st month that the US economy has been unable to create any jobs except jobs in domestic nontradable services, most of which are low paid. Of the 194,000 private sector jobs created in January, 46,000 were in construction (and most likely went to Mexican immigrants, both legal and illegal) and 136,000 were in domestic services: Financial Activities (essentially credit agencies) account for 21,000. Administrative & Waste Services account for 17,600. Health Care & Social Assistance account for 37,500. Waiters, Waitresses and Bartenders account for 31,000. Wholesalers account for 15,100.

There were 7,000 new jobs in manufacturing in January, but the total number of manufacturing jobs in January 2006 is 48,000 less than in January 2005. Over the past five years, millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost. At the rate of 7,000 new manufacturing jobs per month, the lost manufacturing jobs over the past five years would not be regained for 34 years.

The unemployment rate is a notoriously inaccurate barometer in that it cannot account for those who have given up looking for jobs, who are no longer considered part of the workforce, nor can it take account of the "underemployed," i.e., those with engineering degrees displaced by the latest graduate from Cal Tech--The Calcutta Institute of Technology--who are now looking for jobs at Wal-Mart.


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