While corporate media outlets have a recession blind spot, the working class has no such delusions.
There is an increasing disconnect between what troubles the minds of average American voters and what troubles the minds of media personalities and journalists in the mainstream.
For working class voters in America- which far outnumber the elite, ivy-league educated media blue-checks of Twitter- there is one central issue this election season so far out in front of all the others as to be in a class of its own.
The economy is blowing the bell curve for all other social concerns and political issues at the moment, at least for the working class.
To wealthy elites, Twitter mandarins, and corporate media CEOs, these concerns may seem short-sighted, selfish, and most of all- to an industry running on ad-clicks- boring.
Every major media organization could spend the new two weeks waxing exclusively about every aspect of America’s current economic woes and still not come remotely close to showing the level of growing concern plaguing working class voters near the poverty line.
Rent is up. Buying a house is further out-of-reach than ever. Used cars are unaffordable. New cars are out of the question. Groceries have skyrocketed. Gas is more expensive- and about to get even more so, again. It is going to cost us more to heat our homes this winter; a lot more.
For members of working class living paycheck-to-paycheck, fighting cycles of generational poverty, addiction, and the decimation of jobs in small town America or the impoverished catacombs of the inner cities, it is very difficult to imagine someone living their entire lives never having heard the phrase, “we can’t afford that.”
But they exist. Many of them work in media.
Likewise, for members of the media- who by and large tend to be upper middle class, white-collared, well-educated and living in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, or some other major metropolitan area, they can’t imagine being so financially destitute as to care more about personal financial woes than greater existential questions like global warming or threats to democracy.
Those people have never been evicted, faced homelessness, gone hungry, or had essential utility services shut off due to nonpayment. Their credit cards don’t get declined at the grocery store- or anywhere else. Their kids aren’t going to be disappointed this Christmas; they aren’t forced to go without.
For everyone else, there’s MasterCard. There’s the good old-fashioned poor person’s tradition known as, “Robbing Peter to pay Paul,” whereby you spend money desperately earmarked for one overdue bill to pay another, even more desperately overdue bill, buying a little time.
But surviving on credit cards, paying only what essential bills you can afford to pay, running later and later on payments like rent is a game that never lasts forever. It is a house built out of playing cards on a sandbar in hurricane season. Sooner or later- usually sooner- someone gets sick and can’t work, the car breaks down, wages are garnished, debt collectors begin piling on.
Desperate money troubles are like serious health problems. When you are suffering, the entire world is reduced to a pinhole through which only your affliction is visible. It’s all you can think about.
For the wealthier journalistic class of America, many of whom are wealthy in the “attended a Swiss Boarding school” sort of way most of us have only dreamed about, economic woes are the last thing they think about.
Sure, things are more expensive, but they can afford it in the short-term and believe everything will turn out alright in the end. For this class of people in America, things usually do turn out alright in the end, so journalists can perhaps be forgiven for attempting to turn working class America’s economic frown upside down with a few media pep talks.
From calling America’s economic woes a “self-fulfilling prophecy”- that is blaming the victim for their difficulties and suggesting the power of positive thinking- to arguments in favor of “economic contraction”, mainstream media outlets just don’t seem able to report about the economy in an objective manner.
In addition to being overstaffed with the wealthier members of the upwardly middle class, mainstream media outlets are corporations in their own right, often owned by other corporations, both sets having something of a stake in tweaking the narratives of popular opinion.
Bad economic news might make consumers spend less. Can media outlets beholden to advertisers and stock returns really afford to tell the truth about the recession?
Telling Americans collapsing under the crushing weight of rising inflation to, “take the bus,” or that, “There’s a right way and a wrong way to think about inflation,” makes journalists and media outlets seem more than a bit out of touch with the lives of ordinary Americans.
Those stimulus checks were nice, but reminding Americans of them isn’t cheering anyone up about the economy just now. Those stimulus checks have since been completely eaten away by higher prices and rising inflation: And then some.
As conservative media outlets are perhaps correct to point out, “Inflation Can’t Be Censored.”
It’s not the, “Everything is Weird Economy,” as the Atlantic contends, nor an underrated but secretly thriving economy. Americans living in poverty aren’t “better off”, except in an, “it could always be worse,” sort of way.
The journalistic class should understand a fundamental truth about the struggling working class electorate worldwide: They know it can always get worse; they in fact fully expect things to get worse.
Impoverished members of working class know this fundamental truth far better than their wealthier counterparts.
Instead of presuming to lecture about esoteric economic theories and political morality, journalists and the media class should perhaps lay their myopic viewpoints aside and try to learn something from working class graduates of the School of Hard Knocks.
People are financially suffering in America; and in ways they were not suffering two years ago or even one year ago. The sooner America’s journalistic class comes down from its ivory tower, the better they will understand the woes of the working class. Media outlets might even find some wisdom in the working class, in places they never thought to look.
During the height of stimulus money largesse, so many checks were sent out that billions of dollars were stolen due to lack of proper oversight, loses which still haven’t been accounted for let alone recovered.
“What are you going to buy with your stimulus check?”, one unassuming, paycheck-to-paycheck landscaper was asked by his boss.
“Oh, I’m gonna save that money,” the man replied without a moment’s hesitation, before uttering a very profound and prescient truth:
“The government’s gonna want that money back.”
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)