Feb 1 2008


Good News and No News Amid ongoing violence in Iraq, the Associated Press reported (7/31/07) the “U.S. Death Toll in Iraq for July Hit 8-Month Low.” The newsworthiness of this statistic is debatable; the 79 U.S. troops who were killed in July were only two less than had been killed in both March and February, making it a fairly unremarkable month for U.S. casualties. In fact, there have been 34 months in the first four years of war when the U.S. death toll was lower than July 2007’s. A more unusual, and therefore more newsworthy, statistic about U.S. deaths in […]

Oct 1 2007

City of Terror

Painting Paraguay's 'casbah' as terror central

When we arrived in Ciudad del Este, we were petrified. After all, we were in the Paraguayan city known in the American press as a “Jungle Hub for World’s Outlaws” (L.A. Times, 8/24/98), and a “hotbed” “teeming with Islamic extremists and their sympathizers” (New York Times, 12/15/02). The U.S. media’s portrayal of this city, the center of a zone on the frontiers of Argentina and Brazil known as the Tri-Border Area, left us expecting to see cars bombs exploding, terrorists training and American flags burning. We soon realized that picture painted by U.S. media was inaccurate. In the Cold War, […]

Sep 1 2007

Fencing Off the Immigration Debate

Why workers cross the border is off the agenda

Upon the proposed omnibus immigration bill’s final defeat in the Senate, the Washington Post (6/29/07) published an editorial titled “An Immigrant’s Lament,” which told the sad story of Ernesto, “a 31-year old Salvadoran handyman” who “watched ruefully as the senators dealt their lethal blow to his prospects for a normal life on the right side of the law”: He does better here as a painter, carpenter, landscaper and electrician than he ever could in Cabañas, his hardscrabble native region of northern El Salvador, which is rich in beans and sugar cane but bereft of jobs. The Post scolded politicians for […]

Sep 1 2007

The Poor Will Always Be With Us–Just Not on the TV News

FAIR Study

The PDF version of the study is available here. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data, 37 million Americans—one in eight—lived below the federal poverty line in 2005, defined as an annual income of $19,971 for a family of four. Yet poverty touches a far greater share of the population over the course of their lives: A 1997 study by University of Michigan economist Rebecca Blank found that one-third of all U.S. residents will experience government-defined poverty within a 13-year period. The poorest age group is children, with more than one in six living in official poverty at […]

Sep 1 2007

Letters to the Editor

Violence & Worker Control I always appreciate—and enjoy—reading Extra!, and the July/August 2007 issue was no exception. I was surprised, though, to read that Noam Chomsky believes that in democratic societies, “the state has lost the capacity to control the population by violence.” Rather, it seems to me, violence is the last resort of the ruling class, when the working class has become too powerful to control by other means. Weak and disorganized working classes require little effort to control. In the United States, for instance, the working class is so thoroughly disorganized and powerless that it has little ability […]

Sep 1 2007

A Poverty of Coverage

Why aren’t the poor on the media agenda?

During the 20 years of FAIR’s existence, there have been two periods when mainstream journalists made promises about dedicating themselves to greater coverage of poverty, racism and inequality. The first followed the Los Angeles riots of 1992 (Extra!, 7-8/92); the second was after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of New Orleans (Extra!, 7-8/06). Both promises went largely unfulfilled. Following Katrina, national news coverage of poverty increased before returning to a normal, almost undetectable baseline. According to the Tyndall Report, a newsletter that tracks what’s covered on the nightly network news, poverty reporting increased in the eight months following Katrina from two-and-a-half […]

Sep 1 2007

Millionaires Working for Billionaires

When you’re exposed to network TV news, it’s always good to bear in mind that you’re watching millionaires working for billionaires, telling stories whose main purpose (from an economic perspective) is to get you to hold still long enough for corporate advertisements to rearrange your value system. It’s not surprising that such an institution does a poor job of informing viewers about poverty, as a new FAIR study by Neil deMause and Steve Rendall documents. How could it do a good job? It’s impossible to explain why some people are poor without explaining why other people are rich. And that’s […]

Sep 1 2007

Cheerleading for Inequality

Rich getting richer is all for the better, pundits say

At this point, it is no longer possible to contest the fact that there has been an enormous upward redistribution of income since 1980. Dozens of economists have reached the same conclusion, using different methodologies and different data sets (e.g., The State of Working America, 2006-07, Lawrence Mishel et al.; “Where Did the Productivity Growth Go? Inflation Dynamics and the Distribution of Income,” Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon, 2005; “The Evolution of Top Incomes: A Historical and International Perspective,” Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, National Bureau of Economic Research, 1/06). Income has risen far more rapidly for the top 5 […]