Thomas Sowell Says Media Still Wield Enormous Power

June 1st, 2006 12:57 PM
Economist Thomas Sowell says it's too soon to cheer on the destruction of the mainstream media, who still wield enormous clout.
Conservatives who point out the declining audience for the big television network newscasts, and declining public trust of the media in general, often underestimate how much clout the liberal media still have.

For example, while the economy has had near-record highs in growth rates and in the stock market, with near-record lows in unemployment and inflation, polls show that the public thinks the economy is in big trouble. A steady diet of gloom-and-doom spin in the liberal media has worked. The death of media influence has been greatly exaggerated.

More is involved than partisan attempts to undermine the Bush administration. For decades, the liberal media and the intelligentsia have had to struggle mightily against good economic news. Their whole vision of the world -- and of themselves -- is at stake.

One of the media's favorite stories is that of the single mom on minimum wage, struggling to make ends meet, just hoping the evil Republicans can give her a break.

The liberal media inundate us with stories about those exceptions, who are presented as if they were the norm.

The middle-aged single mother struggling to make ends meet, while working at a minimum wage job, has become a staple of these journalistic tales. In reality, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that only about 2 percent of workers who are 25 years old or older have minimum wage jobs.

But you would never guess this, judging by media hype.

In general, people earning the minimum wage have been a declining proportion of the population during the past quarter century. In absolute numbers, they have declined from 7.8 million to just over 2 million, even though the population as a whole has been growing.

Liberals need the poor like window makers need broken windows.

Some people want to preserve historic buildings and others want to preserve forests or art. But the liberal media and intelligentsia are strenuously trying to preserve the vision of poverty and economic distress.

Why these desperate attempts to preserve poverty as a vision while it is eroding as a reality? Because it is "the poor" who give the left its moral authority and political clout. The very phrase "the poor" suggests that we are talking about some permanent group of people rather than transients in low income brackets who will be in higher income brackets in a few more years.

The poor are the very lifeblood of the left, attracting activists, support among the intelligentsia, and -- perhaps most important -- allowing the left to indulge in self-congratulation as people who "care."