« Reading really is fundamental | Main | Watch this space »

Self vs. Un

The New York Times reports on the latest unemployment data in its usual unbiased way.

The Labor Department announced yesterday that 93,000 jobs were lost in August, countering expectations that employment would finally begin to expand. The economic recovery in the United States is now in its 22nd month, without reversing constant job losses.

The unemployment rate declined to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent in July, but economists said that was apparently because of a surge in the number of people who, having lost jobs, listed themselves as self-employed rather than unemployed. The Bush administration, however, cited the drop as a positive sign.

First, note how the Times sets up the story: to begin with, it describes what "economists" say, as if there's some well-established, undisputed Economic Truth here. Only then does it describe the Bush administration position, introducing it with a "however" to make it clear that the Bush administration is in opposition to "economists" generally, and hence wrong.

Second, note the phrasing: they "listed themselves as self-employed." The Times is apparently accusing these people of lying. No evidence is presented to support this accusation, of course. Why shouldn't we believe that people who list themselves as self-employed really are?

By the way, the few people who bother to read to the end of a story like this will find, in paragraph twenty-four, the one economist the Times quotes in support of this theory of dishonest unemployed losers:

"Whenever you see a spike in self-employment in this kind of economy, you know that is involuntary entrepreneurship," said Jared Bernstein, a senior labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
Ah. Count the problems with that:
  1. One economist is not "economists."
  2. The Times fails to identify the left-wing orientation of Jared Bernstein and the Economic Policy Institute.
  3. It's yet another statement made without any backing.
  4. Even if true, it doesn't support the Times' version of analysis. So what if the entrepeneurship is "involuntary"? Either the people have jobs or they don't. That they wish they had different jobs is in no way synonymous with them not having jobs at all.
I remember hearing, a few years ago, a radio interview with a self-styled advocate for the poor; he was talking about the "hidden homeless" in this country. But he wasn't talking about people who slept in sewers and couldn't be seen; no, he was talking about people living long term with friends and relatives. Well, that may not be ideal, but the only reason their homelessness was "hidden" was because it was completely imaginary. Same here; the Times and their pet economist are trying to spin possibly-less-than-ideal-employment as unemployment, because it fits their agenda. Can't the Times try not spinning things for a change?


TrackBack URL for this entry:


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 7, 2003 5:43 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Reading really is fundamental.

The next post in this blog is Watch this space.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.31