Doesn’t USA Today Care About the Poor?

August 28th, 2007 1:23 PM

Front and center of USA Today’s homepage right now are two stories that are quite frightening. The first titled, “Home Prices: Steepest Drop in 20 Years; No Recovery Soon.” Then just below that a story dubbed, “Business May Keep Their Wallets Closed.” While these two doomsday stories on the economy are front and center, full with color pictures, off to the side is a very different article entitled U.S. Poverty Rate Down.” (see update below)

This should come as no surprise to anyone that follows the media. Good news is rarely is ever front and center, while the doom and gloom is almost certainly above the fold. Here are a few highlights from the article in case you missed it:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s poverty rate dropped last year, the first significant decline since President Bush took office.

The Census Bureau reported Tuesday that 36.5 million Americans, or 12.3% — were living in poverty last year. That's down from 12.6% in 2005.

The median household income was $48,200, a slight increase from the previous year. But the number of people without health insurance also increased, to 47 million.

The last significant decline in the poverty rate came in 2000, during the Clinton administration. In 2005, the poverty rate dipped from 12.7% to 12.6%, but Census officials said that change was statistically insignificant.

The poverty numbers are good economic news at a time when financial markets have been rattled by a slumping housing market. However, the numbers released Tuesday represent economic conditions from a year ago.

Not only is that a “highlight” of the article, but it is in fact the entire article. For something that the left cries and screams about so much you’d think a drop in the poverty level would be front page, above the fold, color picture, kind of news. Alas, readers only get 134 words (counting the Washington in the beginning).

This is business as usual for the mainstream media. Even when there are positive things to report on we seldom hear about it.

I should also point out that even this little AP story emphasizes the plight of the uninsured. The Business and Media Institute.took a detailed look at the uninsured “crisis” earlier this year and found that the situation is not as bad as the media make things sound.

After subtracting people that are not citizens, 9.487 million, the people who can afford insurance but don’t want it, 17 million, and the people who are simply between jobs and will have insurance in four months or less and the problem becomes a lot smaller.

In fact, even the left-wing non-profit Kaiser Family Foundation (frequently cited by the media) puts the number of uninsured Americans who do not qualify for current government programs and make less than $50,000 a year between 13.9 million and 8.2 million.


(Update 15:40) Apparently CBS and the New York Times were jealous at the colossal amount of negativity that the NBC homepage was putting out, so they decided to try and match it. The NYT’s headline, “Poverty Rate Falls, but More Are Uninsured,” and CBS’s headline “Poverty Drops But Ranks of Uninsured Grow,” are both front and center on their respective homepages.

- Stuart James is a Research Analyst at the Business and Media Institute.