Media-Types Struggle to Get on the Same Economic Page

December 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Economics, Spending

I was amused and intrigued by Sunday’s print edition of our local newspaper.  The business section featured four articles under the following headlines:

“Foreclosure Wave Hits Malls”

“Big Players Scale Back Charitable Donations”

“Global Crisis Jolts Tourism in Caribbean”

“Companies Whack Pay Raises, Bonuses”

Definitely a doom and gloom article collection wouldn’t you say?   This selection came from a newspaper with a definite liberal editorial staff.  (By they way, when did organized crime slang like “whack” become a mainstream media headline verb?)

I then read the “Issues” section of the paper, where all of the opinionated blabbermouths get their say.  (Just like Mr. ToughMoneyLove, only they actually get paid to spout their stuff.)  One of the columns was written by Phil Valentine, a locally based syndicated radio personality and columnist with a significant right wing attitude.  (The column is not yet posted on his website but you can read it here.)   The column headline:  “Don’t Further Economic Woes by Hoarding Cash.” 

In his column, Valentine announces that he has “chosen not to participate in the recession.”   His advice for the “93.5 percent of Americans still working and not in danger of losing your job is to ….. “live your life like normal.”   

Valentine scolds the readers, telling us that we should not be “hoarding cash.”   To clarify, he confides that he has recently hired painters, electricians, and carpet installers to “spruce up his house.”   So “not hoarding cash” and being “normal” (according to Valentine) includes continuing with regular discretionary spending.  To me, “hoarding cash” means saving more and spending less.  What is so awful about that?

To Valentine’s credit, he does warn against going into debt except for buying a house or “perhaps, an automobile.”  Valentine probably had to swallow hard when adding the “automobile” part.  He has been fiercely vocal in his opposition to a car company bailout.

Valentine may be a little confused about what “normal” means when it comes to American consumers and their money.   In fact, if Valentine listened to the local radio station that carries his daily talk show, he would hear Dave Ramsey talk about what it means to be “normal” in our debt-driven culture:  gobs of consumer credit,  more outgo than income, and fixation on credit scores.   Ramsey exhorts his listeners to instead be “abnormal” when it comes to money. 

So if you listen to Ramsey from 1:00-4:00 PM on our radio station, you hear “be abnormal” in your spending.   If you listen to Valentine from 4:00 to 7:00 PM, you hear be “normal.”  Ramsey and Valentine need to talk, don’t you think?  Maybe Ramsey can convince Valentine that a return to “normalcy” is not what we need right now.

That brings me back to the selection of gloom and doom articles on the front page of the business section.  Does anyone other than me find it ironic that a liberal paper is running predominantly negative articles on the economy while one of its token conservative columnists is encouraging us to “spend like normal”?   Wouldn’t you think that a conservative guy would have joined the “cash is king” army?  

I’m confused.  All of this tells me that media intellectuals (or intellectual wannabes) are struggling to anchor themselves to a particular philosophy when it comes to resolving the present economic crisis.  Do we pump the doom and gloom (as in today’s business section) to scare people which may cause them to “hoard cash?”  Or do we believe as Valentine does that hoarding cash is exactly what we should not be doing?  I wonder if liberal media attitudes about the economy will shift away from gloom and doom after Obama takes office.

Where is Ben Stein when we need him?  Bueller?  Bueller?  Anyone?

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3 Responses to “Media-Types Struggle to Get on the Same Economic Page”
  1. While it sounds like verbage is the difference on the surface, I think sadly “normal” is people spending more than they can afford to spend and then wondering why they can’t get ahead on their bills. I don’t think there is anything wrong with people hoarding cash. Sure our economy needs to thrive but it should not be at the cost of your own future. If it takes the current instable environment to make people realize that they are responsible for their own situation, then I am all for people changing their habits and learning what they can/can’t afford.

  2. mike says:

    I think what gets overlooked in a lot of analysis is how the “unknown” factor gets played into the game. When there is a large amount of “unknown” people get scared and don’t do anything with their money except let it sit in cash. What I think these “pretend like everything is normal and spend money” folks are trying to say is that there is no fundamental change in the “unknowns”. The only change is now the media is stoking up fear and making the “unknowns” much scarier and much worse than we previous thought though nothing fundamentally has changed. As for the pundits Ramsey advocates a strategy thats good for good times/bad times, long and short term. (Its weird how good financial advice seems to work in most circumstances) while Valentine tends to focus on what you should be doing right this second under these particular circumstances.

  3. @ beef The reason Valentine can say “don’t hoard cash” is that he is likely in a very good personal financial situation compared to most of us.

    @ Mike I agree with your assessment. It seems we need to have a series of “town meetings” around the country hosted by centrist economists who are also good communicators. They can explain to the masses what is fact and what is hype. I think I will actually write something about this idea, now that I’ve thought about it. Let’s put all of those government economic policy advisors on a road show!

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