Partisan by Omission
Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 23, 2021
Forbes Magazine, hardly a partisan liberal news organization, says the performance of financial markets on Joe Biden’s watch has thoroughly thumped the same markers under Donald Trump — one of several recent reports insisting that the economy is structurally strong despite concern about rising prices.
“By President Trump’s favorite measure of success President Biden’s post-election gains in the S&P 500 Index have soundly beaten Trump’s equivalent at just over their one-year election anniversary,” said Forbes, adding that the trend is there for Dow Jones, Nasdaq and other market measures.
The story of inflation depends on who’s doing the talking, apparently. The economic story being told by Biden opponents is both selective and less than comprehensive.
As jobs and wages are increasing — the Bureau of Labor Statistics upped job gains by again this week and dropped unemployment rates in 28 states — and Biden has signed a trillion-dollar infrastructure projects bill, public polling — and recent voting — on the economy shows more concern with immediate prices for gas and food.
Breitbart News, for example, headlines repeatedly how “Bidenflation” is responsible for higher Thanksgiving dinner costs, without mention of effects of weather, covid or worldwide supply chain issues — or how retail spending is through the roof. Plus, companies find creative ways to raise prices with reduced services or size of goods.
For sure, Biden faces battles over perceptions of the economy, and specifically in naming a head for the Federal Reserve, for hatching better efforts to deal with temporary and long-term price inflation, releasing gasoline from strategic reserves, investigating reported price-gouging, easing port backups and addressing employers who still say it is hard to find workers, as well as husbanding the prospects for his big social services spending bill.
But the half of the country that tracks news through Right-leaning sites are not hearing that the economy is simultaneously both better and worse.
We Are What We Choose to Hear
As we all can see if we look, this issue of selective reporting is hurting understanding of what is behind our Divide and what constitute our lasting problems as a country.
The misinformation campaigns over vaccines and public health measures are elongating the pandemic, allowing for development of mutations, and still allowing for upwards of 1,000 covid-related deaths a day nationwide.
And while news outlets of all sorts jumped on the Rittenhouse verdict from Kenosha, Wisc, only some dared to air opinions that perhaps there were deeper roots here in perceptions of policies and treatment of race, guns, and policing.
Like other presidents, Biden helps neither himself, nor his party, nor the country by insisting on happy talk about the future when today’s reality is far more nuanced. Failures to properly anticipate the rapid fall of civil society with an Afghan pullout, the pernicious and continuing effects of covid despite upbeat projections, the scenes of migrants gathering at and over the Southern border, the squabbling in Washington over incremental advantages all contribute to polls reflecting declining trust in government as well as administration popularity.
None of that excuses the public’s unwillingness to hear news, information, and opinion that challenge going-in assumptions. Doing so take work.
Interestingly, of course, for vaccine resisters, a common plaint is that individuals “need to do their own research” as a reason not to trust the FDA, the CDC or Dr. Anthony Fauci. But on economy, race, guns, abortion, immigration, education and others, a simple slogan seems to suffice. How else do we explain “Let’s Go Brandon!”
This week’s special mention for selective reporting goes to Newsmax, the Right-leaning news outlet, which managed to find a reference to Hunter Biden in the 67th paragraph of a three-page New York Times examination of how U.S. policy has ceded an advantage in clean energy minerals to China over at least the combined presidential terms of Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Newsmax headlined that Hunter Biden was a founder of an investment firm that raised money for the sale of one such cobalt mine, but omitted the contents of paragraph 68, in which The Times said there was no indication that Hunter Biden was involved. It did report that Hunter Biden no longer holds financial interest in the company.
Meanwhile, the Newsmax report seemed to downplay the entire import of the investigation, that because of its aggressive tactics, China has established a firm industrial lead in the coming clean energy wars.
It is just so much easier to blame Joe Biden for China’s advances than to actually read what the investigation was about.