One of the more interesting things about our American life is that since 2008, we have had a financial sector crisis and then an unemployment crisis and then a foreclosure crisis and then an aggregate demand crisis and then a sequestration crisis and then a government shutdown crisis and now we may even get to see what a debt ceiling default crisis looks like, too.
The American people have pretty much taken all of these punches on the chin, and have been left in a state of constant economic insecurity and suffering.
All of which should be a really fertile piece of territory for reporters. But the folks over at Politico -- where post-concern journalism reigns supreme -- take a look at this teeming landscape of possibilities and ask themselves, "Wait, are we supposed to care about these normal human Americans who aren't even thought-leader elites and don't attend all the good ideas festivals? They aren't in our advertising demo! We don't get anything out of having access to these people!"
But every so often, President Barack Obama gets up in front of microphones and talks about the ways in which these manifold calamities impact normal human Americans. And it's apparently left Politico feeling BORED BORED BORED OMG:
This time, President Barack Obama warns, the sky really is falling. Really.
His problem: The pitch isn’t a new one — not to a public weary of fiscal disaster countdown clocks and breathless deadlines, one that heard Obama’s predictions the fiscal cliff would be calamitous, his analysis that the sequester would hamstring the economy or his warning that a government shutdown could mean a recovery slowdown.
You see, the biggest problem with the constant economic strain everyone is under isn't the constant strain that everyone is under, it's that Obama keeps noting the fact that everyone is under this constant strain. It's not a new "pitch," you see. The pitch always has to be new, or else it doesn't count. That's just the way things are, guys. Everyone knows that the biggest burden someone being treated for cancer faces isn't the cancer itself, it's all those doctors who keep talking about the need for cancer treatment, for some reason. Get some new messaging, oncologists!
Of course, while I think the whole "fiscal cliff" was overrated, it was just a tad overrated. But the sequestration is hamstringing the economy, and a government shutdown is imperiling the recovery. Why does Politico think otherwise?
Those predictions could still come to pass. But when the various strokes of midnight didn’t deliver the worst on those fronts, many Americans breathed a sigh of relief, and moved on.
Hey, guys, I am pretty sure that the fiscal cliff predictions won't come to pass because, if you recall, the fiscal cliff was averted. But where are you guys seeing all of this "Americans breathed a sigh of relief" stuff?
Now, with a historic default looming, Obama’s doomsdaying is drawing a been-there, heard-that response from much of the country. More than a few Republican members are publicly skeptical of the risk of failure to raise the debt limit. Polls show a majority of Americans aren’t sold either. And the stock market continues to mostly shrug at the prospect of a default.
Oh, so when Politico says "much of the country," it means "more than a few Republican members [of Congress]" (who are wrong on the debt ceiling), and a lot of whistling-past-the-graveyard Wall Street elites. When you add a handful of Democratic strategists to the mix (and, seriously, who knew that we are still soliciting opinions from Chris Lehane in 2013?), that represents the sum total of the "much of the country" that Politico has bothered to talk to about all of this.
And so, Politico projects its bubblicious perspective upon "much of the country," like so:
It isn't entirely Obama's fault. But his dramatic messaging, combined with the frequency of fiscal crises, has induced an advanced case of apocalypse fatigue. The whole country - including, to hear him tell it, Obama himself - is bone-weary of semi-annual brushes with financial calamity. The result: Obama's still talking. But he's not breaking through.
I don't doubt that Politico is suffering from "apocalypse fatigue," because it is doing just fine, relative to "the whole country" which is currently suffering from apocalypses. Attentional bias, however, causes a blinkered perspective. For another, more realistic take on what's going on in the country, let me pass the microphone to Esquire's Charles Pierce:
It might just be me, but part of the reason that "the country" may not be paying attention may be that the people Out There are too busy scrambling to hold their lives together after being knuckled repeatedly by the frequent fiscal crises. Perhaps someone should go out and report something, and find out if this is the case.
I can help with this, Charles! A vast amount of reporting that my colleagues have produced confirms that you are absolutely, 100 percent correct when you posit that "the people Out There are too busy scrambling to hold their lives together after being knuckled repeatedly by the frequent fiscal crises" to adequately respond to political messaging, in a way that gives Beltway toffs their jollies.
Similarly, our reporting confirms that you are correct when you go on to say, "I think I can assure the kidz here that both the sequester and the government shutdown are having serious material effects on the lives of millions of people all around the country, regardless of what the polls say about their exhaustion with the rhetoric coming out of Washington."
I have examples!
My colleague Arthur Delaney has, for many years, spoken to ordinary Americans about their lives after the financial crash. He wrote an ebook about it, which you can get here. My colleague Sam Stein has repeatedly confirmed that the sequestration is having dire, dreadful economic impacts on ordinary Americans, some of which you can sample here. We are already well ahead on confirming the fact that the government shutdown is having similar dire, dreadful effects on America. I can also point to many other pieces of reporting that confirm our own: try Gawker's "Unemployment Stories" series or Dale Maharidge's "Someplace Like America," or Frontline's "Two American Families."
So, based upon the preponderance of the evidence, I can say without reservation that the whole idea that "Americans" have "breathed a sigh of relief, and moved on," is monumentally insipid bullshit, born from a profound disconnection to, and contempt for, ordinary human Americans. The end.
Things In Politico That Make Me Want To Guzzle Antifreeze, Part The Infinity [Esquire]
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