Friday, March 18, 2005

At Risk of Belaboring the Obvious

Timohty Noah is a lefty whacko.

There, I said it. Everyone was thinking it after this article, but I'm the one that said it.

The run down:

Noah thinks Ari Fleischer's new book is full of lies. Ari says the press is biased and liberal. He backs up that point by making these observations:

1. The press thinks the government's job is to solve problems.
2. They use lots of tear jerker stories of losers that are out of work.
3. They concentrate on the unemployment numbers.

Noah responds by saying (this is a cut and paste from his article):

At risk of belaboring the obvious:

1. If the government doesn't exist to solve problems, what the hell do we have it for? We can argue about the particular problems government should solve, and about how successfully government addresses them at any given time, but not, I think, about whether government should be in the problem-solving business.

2. Un-picturesque though they may be, people do tend to suffer when the economy is faltering, as it did throughout the period covered in Fleischer's memoir. If a lagging economy didn't cause people to suffer, there would be no great reason to keep track of the economy at all. Anecdotes about individual sufferers help the public understand in a concrete way what it means to have a weak economy.

3. The principal way people suffer when economic growth is weak or nonexistent is by losing their jobs. The statistic that keeps track of the people who lose their jobs is the unemployment rate (at the moment a so-so 5.4 percent). Fleischer doesn't want the press to focus on the "micro" story of individual suffering, but neither does he want the press to focus on the "macro" story of economic statistics. In effect, Fleischer is saying that it's unfair for the press to cover the economy at all.

First, Noah's first point proves Ari's first point. Noah really does think the government's job is to solve problems. I'd wager that there is a large number of people who disagree. Those people would not be liberals. There are also a large number of people that do agree - liberals. I'm no genius, but I do have a college degree and took some government classes. I also read the constitution. It seems to me that the job of the government is to provide for the nation's defense, regulate interstate trade and administer our legal system. I don't recall ever seeing or reading anything that said the government's job was to solve problems. If anyone can show me valid proof that the U.S. government's job is problem solving, I'll print this post and eat it.

Second, I've seen the unwashed masses. Yes, they are very sad stories. They are poor, they are unemployed, they have massive money problems and you can go pretty much anywhere to find a few and get a sob story. Talk to nearly any member of my family. Life is tough. Life is tougher when you don't have a job. I don't feel sorry for any of them. Everywhere you turn, there are job listings. If it means feeding your family, take a job at McDonald's. If you didn't have enough pride to go to college and get an education, why do have enough pride to say "no" to a job you don't like. Suck it up and get to work. When I had trouble finding a job, I delivered pizza for Dominoes during the day and worked as a short order cook at night. I cut back on everything - cable, phone, eating out, etc. - to make ends meet until I found something better six months later.

Third, I remember being taught that 5% unemployment is as close to full employment that we could ever get. I expect certain fluctuations. The problem I have with the press is the way they spin it. 4.5% means that lots of people just stopped looking, or the military is counted or the number is flawed in some other way, 5.4% means the world is coming crashing down.

So, basically, Noah proved Ari's points while claiming to refute them. That sounds pretty much like a lefty whacko to me.

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