The No News News Media

by Walter Brasch

There was a lot of news this past week.

Some of it was even reported by the news media.

First, there was a football player from Notre Dame who either did or didn’t know that his girlfriend was or wasn’t real, but died sometime during the season. Six column headlines for several days announced the fraud. Network news and talk show hosts rehashed it almost daily.

Two weeks ago, Lance Armstrong admitted he was a dope. Or maybe he just took dope. The news media kept sending urgent flashes all week of what he was going to tell Oprah. And then he told Oprah, and now we’ll be reading stories about it until Schwinn adds a jet engine to a 3-speed.

Subway is accused of making foot-long hoagies that are 11 inches, a problem that the executives wisely didn’t say was due to shrinkage in cold weather. The media seized this major fraud and, ignoring anything Congress or Wall Street was doing, slathered layers of hype on a story that should have died with three paragraphs in one day.

Of course, there was the inauguration. That became another way for bloviators and pretend-journalists to push their own agendas. They told us how unpopular this President is-attendance was way down from the first inauguration. Only 500,000 attended.  They didn’t tell us that second inaugurations always have much fewer people watching them in person than first inaugurations. And, that figure of 500,000? A little short of the actual number of one million. They said the inauguration was over-long and overpriced, although most of it was paid for by private donations. Something they didn’t mention was that the costs and day’s activities were about the same as for the previous president, and most presidents of the latter 20th century-Democrat or Republican.

Some of these pundits suggested that the President didn’t have a mandate, although he easily won by more than five million votes, and a near landslide in the Electoral College. A few of the more extreme even suggested he had stolen the election-how else could he have won over the nice businessman who bought and sold companies and helped improve the economy of Switzerland and the Canary Islands?

For the rest of the networks, the focus was on a constant blather of what would Michelle Obama be wearing. Whose dress? Whose gloves? This, of course, was mixed into all kinds of gushes and comments about her new ‘do. You know, the one that had bangs. The day after the inauguration, the media was all over the story of the BeyoncĂ© kerfuffle. Did she or didn’t she lip synch the National Anthem? Truly great news coverage there.

Hillary Clinton testified before the Congressional Inquisition of Televised Republicans trying to make their bones to either enhance their own chances for re-election or to block what they think may be her plan to run for the presidency in 2016. This would be some of the same people who thought she was faking a concussion to avoid testifying in the first place.

The Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show, scheduled for Harrisburg, Pa., Feb. 2-10 was cancelled this past week. The Expo is the largest in North America, but the organizers decided that in the wake of the Newtown murders, they would put a temporary moratorium on the sale of military-style assault weapons because they believed “the presence of MSRs [military style rifles] would distract from the theme of hunting and fishing, disrupting the broader experience of our guests.” Only a dozen or so of the 1,200 vendors were affected; most were selling clothes, rifles, turkey calls, tents, and anything related to outdoor sports. But, one by one vendors, the media, and dozens of celebrities-all with NRA encouragement and support-decided not to attend, somehow believing that a hunting and fishing exhibition that didn’t allow the purchase of assault weapons was somehow anti-American and gave a message that those who did attend were opposed to the Second Amendment. The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that the cancellation led to a loss of $43 million in the local economy.

More than 32,000 will die from gun violence by the end of the year, according to the Brady Center. This past week, 78 Americans, including four pre-teens, died from gun violence. And, during this past week, as has been the case for hundreds of previous weeks, the NRA leadership, with the egos of a gang of schoolboys who overdosed on testosterone, continue to defy all attempts to reach sensible solutions to allow the purchase of guns, yet reduce the violence.

A 38-year-old sergeant died from wounds received near Kabul, Afghanistan. The U.S. had invaded Afghanistan to find Osama bin Laden, but he became a lower priority less than a year later. The Bush-Cheney administration almost abandoned the war in Afghanistan and turned to Iraq. More than 7,600 American and allied soldiers were killed, and more than 50,000 wounded in both wars. President Obama, fulfilling a campaign promise, ended the war in Iraq and is months from ending the one in Afghanistan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who numerous times promised to reign in the abuse of the filibuster that blocked any meaningful legislation or presidential appointments, turned wimp this past week. He and minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who once vowed his top priority was solely to prevent Barack Obama from serving a second term, may have been last seen hugging, kissing, and preparing to be married in Massachusetts.

This past week, the stock market hit new records, and it looks President Obama may receive some of the credit for helping to stop the Great Recession, something that upsets Republicans, delights Democrats, and has no meaning to anyone homeless or unemployed.

Yes, there was a lot of news this past week. Some of it may some day actually be reported.

Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting With Disaster. It is available from www.greeleyandstone.com at a pre-publication discount.]

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Skill Mismatch Is Back and It Is Still Wrong

( – promoted by John Morgan)

A blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

The view that people who lost a job due to the economy are lazy and shiftless dilettantes has spread from the editorial page of The Patriot-News to the newsroom with a particularly misleading story Monday.

The jobs are out there. Companies just can’t find the workers to fill them….Economists and business leaders point to a factor contributing to the pervasive disparity between available jobs and workers: attitude. Prospective work candidates simply want their cake – and on a silver platter. Some don’t want to commute, others want to work only the day shift, and others don’t want to take a job they feel is beneath them.

Dejesus gets creative with the presentation of facts, noting “3.2 million jobs remained vacant as of the end of July, even as 14 million Americans were jobless.” How does the BLS report this number? “There were 3.2 million job openings on the last business day of July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.” The reader of the Dejesus story is left with the impression that the problem is unfilled job openings.

Now for some math: divide 14 million unemployed workers by 3.2 million job openings and you get a ratio of 4.4 or a little over 4 unemployed workers for every job opening. Let’s put that number in perspective by looking at it over time (figure below). When the job market is healthy, this ratio is well less than 2. The problem in the economy remains a shortage of job openings, not people unwilling to take those job openings.

Well perhaps there are lots of openings in manufacturing and no unemployed manufacturing workers? In the figure below, those little blue bars are number of job openings and the big red ones are unemployed workers.

Here is another misleading passage from the Dejesus story: 

Research shows the longer unemployment benefits are extended, the longer people rely on them. ‘It used to be a social stigma,’ [Penn State Harrisburg Management Professor Ray] Gibney said. ‘Now with the economy the way it is, it’s not uncommon for people to be on unemployment benefits for a year.’

So you have a story, which stigmatizes thousands of unemployed Pennsylvanians and then quotes someone saying that there is no stigma to being unemployed? Is this satire?

Now, on to the research on unemployment benefits, which actually shows the effects of unemployment extensions on the amount of time people remain unemployed are very small (pdf). In fact, if you look across the states, the higher the unemployment rate in a state, the longer it takes people to find a job in that state. This is logic; the more people who are applying for each and every opening, the longer it will take them on average to find a new job.   

Now to be clear, it is not unusual, even in this economy, for some employers to have difficulty filling job openings. If the wages and working conditions being offered by a local employer are below what is on offer in the rest of the industry, workers with jobs are unlikely to leave their existing jobs to take those new openings. This limits the pool of available workers for new openings to new labor market entrants and the unemployed. And here you may see instances of skill mismatch with unemployed workers and new labor entrants lacking the skill necessary to fill the positions on offer. 

However, this is always the case, and there is NO rigorous evidence that this is a widespread problem in the economy. If the bulk of employers couldn’t meet demand with their existing workers, they would begin competing for workers by bidding up wages. We are not seeing that.

Employers that proclaim to have persistent difficulty finding workers are likely either exceptionally bad problem solvers or not being forthright about the nature of their business model. An employer with high turnover that finds nobody wants to work for them signals more about the character of the employer than it does about the pool of available job applicants.