NYT Blames Workers for Inflation • A Climate Deal • Labor Solidarity
This is the newsletter of OptOut, a free news aggregation app for exclusively independent media that's available for Apple and Android devices. Find out more about the app at optout.news.
Today's newsletter is a little different. I'm going to criticize The New York Times on its portrayal of inflation and then round up some coverage of climate and labor issues by the independent outlets in our news network.
New York Times Blames Consumers and Workers for Inflation
LABOR NOTES reporter Jonah Furman tweeted on Thursday that the day's episode of The Daily (sponsored by Saks and Amazon Business), a hugely popular podcast produced by The New York Times, was full of "stunning propaganda" blaming workers and consumers for continued inflation.
I took a listen, and...yeah. He's right. It's even worse than I imagined.
To begin, the featured Times reporter, Jeanna Smialek, seemed to uncritically accept the Fed's conventional approach to warding off inflation—raise interest rates to decrease spending, which lowers demand and leads to companies lowering prices—despite plenty of smart people disputing the "keep people unemployed" strategy's efficacy today.
Then comes the "individual choice" part. The episode casts us, the workers and consumers, as the force behind rising inflation, and it's us who need to make the right decisions to control it. It's not, for example, the fault of feckless politicians, corporate profiteers, a pandemic, a war in Europe, or geopolitics.
By refusing to buy a $6 Starbucks coffee, we can tell huge global corporations that they need to stop inflating their prices.
By working more hours, workers can enable their employer to sell more goods "without having to hire somebody else," which "likely means that it doesn't have to pay more in wages," so higher labor costs "aren't getting passed along to the consumer." (Just work overtime so your bosses can save money and aren't forced to keep inflating their prices!)
After a commercial break, host Michael Barbaro asks, "Ok, so, what are the examples of reactions to inflation that make inflation worse?"
Asking for a raise, says Smialek. Yes, this really happened: inflation is allegedly getting worse because workers in a recession ask for a wage increases instead of offering to work extra hours. It's workers' fault, folks. Barbaro responds by characterizing asking for a raise as "bad economic behavior." Smialek says, "I think I'd call it more worrying than bad."
And there's more "concerning" behavior from consumers. If we splurge on big purchases because we think inflation will continue and goods will cost even more in a few months, it pushes up demand—a recipe for even higher inflation.
Absent from all of this is any other culprit. Bosses have no choice but to raise prices—they're forced to do it, especially if people are buying already overpriced goods today. They must exploit the situation! The government? Powerless. War, a pandemic, fossil fuel opportunism? Never heard of 'em.
The piece concludes with Barbaro suggesting that a recession could help slow inflation and Smialek concurring but saying that the Fed is trying to demonstrate to people that they'll get inflation under control. The Fed's "worst nightmare" is people thinking inflation will continue long-term and acting accordingly, says Smialek. It's on individuals—workers and consumers—to purchase wisely, to work overtime, and to not ask for raises—to save the U.S. economy.
It's hard not to conclude that this episode of The Daily truly is corporate propaganda. The host and the reporter and the producers may not realize what they've done, but plenty of critical thinkers like Jonah Furman sure did. From those 30 minutes, millions of listeners likely internalized that individual choice, not an impotent government, unregulated capitalism, global politics, or anything else is to blame for inflation.
The folks at the Times would benefit from reading about inflation from journalists who question authority and make their own conclusions based on a wholistic approach to reporting. Instead of being "forced" to raise prices, major companies for some time now have been exploiting the circumstances. As of November 2021, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT's David Dayen writes, "Telling a story about corporate price-gouging and sustaining a push against it is a key component to resolving the crisis—and, perhaps, reversing Biden’s slump." (Spoiler alert: Biden didn't push very hard, and his slump got worse, as did inflation.)
I'm glad I saw Jonah's tweet, because this episode perfectly encapsulates why we founded the OptOut Media Foundation. Corporate and legacy news outlets, which dominate our media consumption and set the national narratives, often screw up. While they do produce some very good reporting, they also mischaracterize reality. They promote false equivalence. They toe the government line. Financially independent media—outlets free of corporate ownership and big advertisers' demands—are better equipped to honestly analyze society's challenges. That's why, with a growing independent news ecosystem and a free app and newsletters to distribute the content, we're working towards our ultimate goal: to strengthen democracy and social justice through the power of media.
In Other News
Somehow, coal millionaire and powerful Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia has agreed to a budget deal that includes hundreds of billions of dollars in tax credits and spending for renewable energy over the next decade. The deal also gives concessions to fossil fuel companies, however.
The bill would mandate that the Interior Department could not offer federal lands for wind and solar development without also offering substantial oil and gas lease sales on federal lands.
While an "all of the above" energy strategy is reckless, at best, in 2022, the deal is still historic. It's passage into law, however, isn't a guarantee. From STATES NEWSROOM:
More on the deal from THE MAJORITY REPORT:
FAIR details how nightly news programs somehow couldn't connect the sharp rise in gas prices to the climate crisis.
FAIR looked at all transcripts of ABCWorld News Tonight, CBSEvening News, NBCNightly News, CNN’s Situation Room, Fox Special Report, MSNBC’s The Beat, PBS NewsHour and NPR’s All Things Considered in the month of June, identifying 93 episodes that discussed gas prices. Only 18 of these mentioned climate, environmental regulations or green energy even in passing. And only one of those mentions—an episode of All Things Considered (6/24/22)—made a pro-climate argument.
In his new blog about inequality, I HATE IT HERE AND NEVER WANT TO LEAVE, Jordan Uhl analyzes record profits for the oil giants while Americans pay record-high prices for their product.
At OptOut, we are committed to bringing you independent news coverage of today's most important issues, including climate change. The uncompromising news outlets in our network give you honest reporting and diverse perspectives while critiquing the dominant narratives that the corporate and legacy media produce.
OptOut is a nonprofit charity, and we are raising funds that will allow us to become a sustainable organization. Please consider donating $5/month or $55/year, or making a one-time donation to the OptOut Media Foundation, to help us succeed. Join us in our mission to elevate independent media and accurately inform the public!
"The villains attacking our right to abortion care should look familiar to workplace activists, too—they’re the same ones pushing to lower our wages, weaken our unions, and speed up our work," write Alexandra Bradbury and Sarah Hughes for LABOR NOTES.
AFRICA IS A COUNTRY updates us on the labor movement in South Africa.
In South Africa, the seismic shifts in unionism triggered by the Marikana Massacre have sadly not resulted in a union movement better equipped to tackle the issues that workers face.
Thanks as always for supporting the OptOut independent media network! See you soon.
The OptOut Media Foundation (EIN: 85-2348079) is a nonprofit charity with a mission to educate the public about current events and help sustain a diverse media ecosystem by promoting and assisting independent news outlets and, in doing so, advance democracy and social justice.
Download the app for Apple and Android
Sign up for OptOut's free newsletters.
Learn more about OptOut.