On Thursday, Kevin Williamson at National Review described how "NPR Remains Journalistically Incompetent." His target was Morning Edition anchor David Greene: "If you would like an example of how it is that our political discourse gets dumber by the day, tune in to NPR."
Greene interviewed conservative Sen. James Lankford, an actual conservative who speaks calmly and factually -- not NPR's Never-Trumper type. But Greene came to dance the usual Compassion Dance. The Republicans are trying to cut unemployment benefits, and how on Earth can they do this right now? As if there's ever a time the media wouldn't play Blame and Shame like this. Greene interviewed a struggling, unemployed theater stage manager named Kate, and then used her against the Republican:
Greene claims that the federal government is lowering unemployment benefits from a payment of $600 a week to a payment of $200 a week. He then demands of Senator Lankford: “What makes you think that somebody like Kate can get by on $200 a week?” At which point, one would be tempted to throw the radio across the room in frustration, if the radio were not attached to an automobile.
With a sigh in his voice, Senator Lankford dutifully does his best to explain the actual facts to the NPR audience; i.e., that people in Kate’s position are not being asked to get by on $200 a week but on $200 a week on top of their regular unemployment benefits. Under normal circumstances, the senator explains, unemployment benefits cover about 70 percent of lost income; because of the extra payments authorized as part of the coronavirus response, some people are receiving up to 150 percent of their lost income, i.e., they are making more from unemployment payments than they made from working.
Greene didn't seem to get that Kate herself said in his piece that "One week of regular unemployment without the $600 doesn't even cover a month of health insurance for my daughter and I, let alone rent, child care..."
Greene shamed Lankford that his timing is terrible: "But, I mean, this is a pandemic. I mean, this is a - this seems like a different time." So liberals insist much of the economy should be locked down until a vaccine, and then they shame anyone for trying to keep the economy going and hold any kind of line on the ballooning national debt.
Greene follows up his display of ignorance with a non sequitur. Citing a Washington Post report, he notes that Oklahoma’s unemployment benefits are administered through an ancient, out-of-date computer system. Oklahoma’s system does indeed appear to be a goat rodeo, but that has very little to do with the federal- supplement formula. And James Lankford is a U.S. senator, not the governor of Oklahoma. He has approximately squat to do with the administration of state-run unemployment benefits in Oklahoma or anywhere else.
But he knows a lot more about it than the guy interviewing him does. (It is nice, for a change, for a Republican elected official to be the calm and well-informed person in the conversation.) Senator Lankford, who sounds like an Oxford don in comparison with Greene’s Beavis antics, explains, “It’s a COBOL system from 1985, actually . . . .” According to Lankford, the limitations of this system and the general scarcity of competent COBOL programmers makes it far easier to work in terms of weekly dollars rather than percentages of income. That’s an interesting thing to do. He has to explain this to Greene twice.
Williamson didn't even get to Greene struggling to understand the use of force against violent "protesters" in Seattle. But he concluded "Greene’s performance is an example of the 'often wrong, seldom in doubt' school of journalism. It is one more example of why so many people do not trust the news media, and why the news media so often does not deserve that trust."