Covering the Neglect of Working People

Russ Baker – Editor, WhoWhatWhy.com,  author, Family of Secrets: Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years – Posted: January 27, 2011 12:00 PM


A common theme runs through a variety of news stories: There isn’t enough money around, and so working people must take a hit. But is that really the only solution? First, let’s look at the stories. There’s growing talk of letting state governments declare bankruptcy so they can get out of paying pension benefits to retired state workers. As the New York Times put it:

“Policymakers are working behind the scenes to come up with a way to let states declare bankruptcy and get out from under crushing debts, including the pensions they have promised to retired public workers.”

The article does not really get into why this is all happening, and the only real defense of not going this route is from — surprise, surprise, a union leader, making it sound like this defense is of only parochial interest:

Still, discussions about something as far-reaching as bankruptcy could give governors and others more leverage in bargaining with unionized public workers. “They are readying a massive assault on us,” said Charles M. Loveless, legislative director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We’re taking this very seriously.”

It also does not interview anyone who would point out that retirees who have less, spend less, meaning less “recovery.” In that sense, it is typical media narrative compartmentalization. Meanwhile, it notes, only very briefly, and so it is easy to miss, the crux of what is going on here:

“Discussion of a new bankruptcy option for the states appears to have taken off in November, after Mr. Gingrich gave a speech about the country’s big challenges, including government debt and an uncompetitive labor market.”

Thus, it cites the consistently pro-corporate presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, without reminding us of what constituency he represents. Also, the Times