Ho Hum: NYT Strangely Sanguine About Job Loss During Obama Administration

Thursday's front-page story by economics reporter Catherine Rampell from Jacksonville, an entry in the paper's "The New Poor" series, took an oddly sedate tone with a subject usually frought with emotional appeals: "In a Job Market Realignment, Some Workers No Longer Fit."

Many of the jobs lost during the recession are not coming back.


For the last two years, the weak economy has provided an opportunity for employers to do what they would have done anyway: dismiss millions of people - like file clerks, ticket agents and autoworkers - who were displaced by technological advances and international trade.

The phasing out of these positions might have been accomplished through less painful means like attrition, buyouts or more incremental layoffs. But because of the recession, winter came early.


This "creative destruction" in the job market can benefit the economy.

Pruning relatively less-efficient employees like clerks and travel agents, whose work can be done more cheaply by computers or workers abroad, makes American businesses more efficient. Year over year, productivity growth was at its highest level in over 50 years last quarter, pushing corporate profits to record highs and helping the economy grow.

But a huge group of people are being left out of the party.

In one sense, Rampell took a refreshingly realistic if fatalist approach. But it begs the question: Would the Times be so sanguine about job loss if this was a "Republican" recession? Its biased treatment of economic news under Bush suggests a double standard at work.

Who's to blame? Don't look at Obama. His name isn't even mentioned in the story, and the only reference to his administration is a single reference to the White House.

There is no easy policy solution for helping the people left behind. The usual unemployment measures - like jobless benefits and food stamps - can serve as temporary palliatives, but they cannot make workers' skills relevant again....The White House has publicly challenged the idea that structural unemployment is a big problem, with Christina D. Romer, the Council of Economic Advisers chairwoman, instead emphasizing that stronger economic growth is what's needed. Still, the administration has allocated dollars for retraining in both the 2009 stimulus package and other legislation, largely for clean technology jobs.

Tom Maguire noticed the strange lack of sympathy for the jobless, and asked of the story, "try to imagine it being written in 1983," during the conservative Reagan administration.

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