This column has been silent due to a lack of readers. The author's feelings aside, that's a loss, because ordinary Americans lose when the conventional wisdom of the mainline news media prevails.
by Jerome F. Winzig
In the five months since this column last appeared, only a handful of readers have asked what's happened to Northern City Journal. (A lot more have sent dummy messages infected with computer viruses.) Truth is, this column hasn't had much circulation in its 2-1/2 years of publication. And it's hard to write a weekly column when no one is reading it. That's too bad, because United States -- and the rest of the world -- face a host of serious problems today. For the most part, however, the mainline news media do not examine these problems with any degree of depth, gravity, or objectivity. Nor do they seem inclined to publish the viewpoints expressed by this author.
I don't know whether that's due to a lack of interest on the part of the media or is attributable to my lack of writing skill and/or marketing ability. However, I think the viewpoints of this column need to be heard. As it is, the mainstream news media either ignore fundamental issues paint them over with silly misconceptions. As a result, there is often a huge gulf between the news media's conventional wisdom and reality. Consider these few examples:
- When the news media examines Africa at all, they usually say African nations need more foreign aid from the United States. Yet in May of this year Ugandan President Yoweri Musveni said that Africa needs free trade opportunity far more than it needs development assistance. His column was not covered by the major networks or the popular print media and it's unlikely the United States will open wide its markets to African goods any time soon.
- During news coverage of the steel industry, the supposed need for steel tariffs is taken for granted, but there's not much coverage of the results. No one seems interested in the fact that the tariffs will cost three American jobs for every steel job they save. Nor does the media seem to care that in the long run the tariffs will not even save America's old-line steel industry.
- With the recent decline in the stock market, almost everyone is afraid to talk about privatizing social security. The Democrats, especially, are even more ready to demagogue this issue by scaring people with claims the Republicans want to gamble away their money. But almost no one points out there is no social security money in the bank (or anywhere) to be gambled away. If incoming current social security revenues are not invested, there will be nothing whatever but worthless IOUs to spend in the coming decades.
- Tax increment financing and other schemes that commit future property tax revenues to paying off the costs of government subsidies for private development are using up a significant share of local tax revenues. Yet almost no one challenges whether it makes sense for government to use its powers of taxation and eminent domain to benefit private enterprise.
- Class action lawsuits have greatly enriched a new class of wealthy attorneys with little discernable benefit for ordinary Americans. Yet most in the news media continue to celebrate large settlements as victories instead of pointing out that we're really suing ourselves. Meanwhile a whole new round of even larger lawsuits are underway in the aftermath of September 11 and this year's stock market decline.
- The news media make a great fuss about airport security. The mass closings of airports when someone skips through a security checkpoint receive inordinate amounts of coverage and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet almost no one asks whether any of these security measures have helped much at all; George McGovern's recent column ridiculing airport security received almost no coverage.
All of this is quite tragic. When the news media's conventional wisdom prevails and they succeed in demonizing their favorite hobgoblins instead of examining issues in depth, the real losers are not the wealthy, the powerful, or the successful. Instead, the poor and the middle class lose when we pursue misguided policies that hamper free trade, stifle innovation, limit freedom, undercut other countries' economies, and waste public resources on ill-conceived projects.
The major issues of our day really do need to be examined from a different perspective. I'm just not sure how to do that.