Watchdog or lapdog? It depends on who is in power

On Friday, the government announced the unemployment figures for May. The numbers were grim — unemployment soared from 8.9 percent to 9.4 percent, the highest level since 1983.

On Saturday, the Washington Post ran two front-page stories about unemployment. One concerned the consequences of long-term unemployment on people’s “lifestyles” (to use the term in the story’s headline). The other was about how a spa offered free injections of Botox to 50 of its jobless clients.

The story about the May unemployment data appeared on page 9. It was previewed on page 1 with the teaser that said: “A smaller decline — the pace of job losses slows in May, raising hopes for recovery.” In short, good news.

The page 9 story was more of the same. The first sentence stated: “Employees are slashing jobs at a more measured rate than in recent months, the government said yesterday, the strongest evidence yet that the economy is no longer in a state of near-collapse.”

That’s one way of spinning an increase of the unemployment rate of half a percentage point in just one month.

Continuing its pro-Obama spin, the Post claimed that the May job loss of 345,000 was far smaller than economists had predicted. It failed to mention that the employment picture is not only worse than what the Obama administration predicted it would be if Congress passed the stimulus package, it also is worse than the administration predicted it would be without that package.

It’s certainly fair for the administration, and its allies at the Post, to point out that the rate at which jobs are being lost is decreasing, a fact that is not without significance. But the primary fact — the one that should be reported first ahead of the gloss — was the sharp rise in the unemployment rate.

This surely is how the Post would have written the story if a Republican were president. And, in that scenario, the Post certainly would have thrown the far too rosy predictions of the administration back in the president’s face. Here, though, the Post ignores the Obama administration’s prediction and claims that the situation is far better than expected.

The Washington Post — watchdog during Republican administrations; lapdog wnen the Democrats are in power.


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