State media, Jerry Brown ignore CA’s worst-in-nation poverty rate

October 20, 2013 - By Chris Reed

media blackout efxIf you were a resident in the state with the nation’s highest poverty rate, wouldn’t you think you’d be aware of that fact? That a higher percentage of your family, friends, neighbors and others in your community struggled to make ends meet than the same folks in any of the other 49 states?

Of course. But here in California, where the incompetence of the media can scarcely be exaggerated, almost nobody is aware that the Golden State is no. 1 in economic misery.

This malpractice is nothing new. On the debate over whether California should encourage hydraulic fracturing of its massive oil reserves, the state media never note that the Obama administration considers fracking safe. On the debate over education policy, the state media never note that Gov. Brown’s prescription for education reform — local control — is the same flawed, status-quo-reinforcing policy choice that led to the two big education reform moments of the past 30 years. On AB 32, the state’s landmark 2006 climate-change law, the Los Angeles Times waited until March 2012 to note that it was a risk to California’s economic competitiveness to force its energy costs to be higher than rival states and nations. On this front, the L.A. Times trailed the New York Times by years.

So on the economy, why would the fact that California has the highest effective poverty rate in the nation be mentioned? If key details are routinely ignored on other big stories, why change the template on poverty and human misery?

The governor thinks he’s the bomb. Why won’t media push back?

Which brings me to my Sunday U-T San Diego editorial.

“… what one would never guess from his press clippings is that Brown presides over the state with by far the nation’s highest poverty rate. According to a 2012 Census report, once the cost of living is factored in, nearly one in four state residents — 23.5 percent — live below the poverty line. And according to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measure that includes those who have given up looking for work, California has the second worst unemployment rate in the nation. More than one in six Californians who want to work full-time — 18.3 percent — can’t find such jobs.

“How anyone can look at this picture and conclude the Golden State has solved its economic miseries is baffling. Silicon Valley and the Bay Area are doing well. San Diego and Orange counties are much improved. But the Great Recession never ended in the Central Valley, Imperial County or the Inland Empire. Nor did it end for millions of Latino and African-American families in the minority neighborhoods that don’t reflect the tidy picture offered by the national media.

“Brown, alas, won’t acknowledge the depth of our economic woes. Such is his hubris that he’d rather enjoy the fawning than push back at the narrative of a booming, healthy California. Last month, he even gave a boastful interview to The Los Angeles Times that carried this headline: ‘Gov. Brown sees his ambitious agenda as a template for nation.'”

A normal newspaper would see a politician being this boastful and choose to point out the counter-narratives that undercut his claims. But not the L.A. Times’ reporting staff. Or its editorial page. Or its Sacramento columnist George Skelton.

What’s news vs. what’s not news: Aaauuugghh!

I have seen pack journalism my entire professional life. But I have never seen anything like the last few years out of Sacramento. I don’t think that the following four questions are only ones that would occur to a partisan individual. I think they’d occur to anyone who is reasonably well-informed.

Why isn’t it relevant that the Obama administration considers fracking safe?

Why aren’t Jerry Brown’s education policies placed in historical context?

Why did it take more than five years for a small part of the media to admit AB 32 was risky?

And on poverty, why isn’t the fact that California is worse off than Mississippi and West Virginia front-page news? Or back-page news? Or news at all?

I await sincere answers. But what do I expect, at least from Sacramento journalists? Snark.


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  1. Let It Collapse says:

    This hasn’t been any secret. We’ve known it for years. Our last governor publicly stated that California has 12% of the nation’s population and 33% of the nation’s welfare recipients. This was reported in the news. But it seems everyone ignored it except for a few of us. So while I agree that in many respects our media has taken the route of Pravda – a big part of the problem is that the general public in California ignore that their state is being turned into a banana republic. Public apathy has reached an all-time high. And whatever you tolerate you deserve.

    Heck, you even have people who claim to be social and fiscal conservatives who applaud Jerry Brown when he signs bills that gives illegal foreigners official California drivers licenses and forbids local authorities to hand illegal foreigners in our state jails over to the feds for deportation unless they’ve committed serious VIOLENT felonies! So even if the illegal commit felonies or misdemeanor assaults, the locals must defy Federal law and release them back into the general public!

    Do you not think that this will only invite more indigent illegal foreigners into our State, bringing more blight, poverty and all the problems that come with it?

    Yet so-called self-described social and fiscal conservatives support Jerry Brown’s style of immigration reform.

    There’s your problem.

    • Micha Elyi says:

      a big part of the problem is that the general public in California ignore that their state is being turned into a banana republic.
      –Let It Collapse

      The “general public in California” isn’t ignoring that their state is being turned into a queer sort of banana republic. But when unelected judges overturn proposition after proposition (187, 108 et al.) passed by that same general public in order to right some of the problems and steer the state back to the right path, fatigue does set in.

  2. jetty says:

    “But here in California, where the incompetence of the media can scarcely be exaggerated…”
    I utterly despise the “news” media. We no longer have cable TV in our home because I can’t stand ABC/CBS/NBC/CNN – the propaganda arm of the Democratic Party.

  3. Milan says:

    These 60’s inculcated activists have become “the man”. I really don’t know why they can’t be normal and just see what’s in front of them. It’s probably something like Dennis Prager and other suggest: that the Zeitgeist of the then and their now was and still is a fervent religious-like secular humanism that is part of a rigid self-identity that obliviates or obviates what for “normals” would be a simple self-check.

  4. Orson says:

    “Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind” by UCLA, in which poli sci and econ prof Tim Groseclose explains why: THEY don’t want the people to know because the can.

  5. Blacque Jacques Shellacque says:

    “The governor thinks he’s the bomb. Why won’t media push back?”

    Because they are both on the same team.

  6. Mkelley says:

    Hey, don’t knock AB32. It’s already working to stop global warming. Here in Montana, I have already had 3 snowstorms, one of which toppled trees, and it is only October. Thanks, California, but too bad about all the job destruction down there.

  7. askeptic says:

    We’ve become what we used to mock and scorn:

  8. knewshound says:

    The state media is simply following the lead of the national media in their coverage of Obama.

    Remember when Bush was presiding over the “worst economy since the great depression”? You remember, the one with 6.5% unemployment and 2% GDP growth?

    If a Republican was in office with over 10% REAL unemployment, part time work as the norm and stagnant GDP growth, there would be front page headlines on every website and newspaper.

    However, since Obama is a liberal Dem, *crickets*.

  9. Ulysses says:

    Now now. Fast food jobs are career opportunities for rural immigrants. Ten dollars per hour minimum wage, prevailing wages, unionizing your mother-inlaws to inflict more angst on you, medical, welfare, subsidized utilities, free phones, public housing, food stamps, free health care——-no copays or deductibles or shakeeeee web sites……

    Your really chumps for beating your car up commuting, getting calloused fingers for writing checks, supporting media and exploitive service businesses.

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