- The U.S.’s food safety watchdog was accused of ignoring its own scientists when it recently declared that BPA, a chemical compound found in almost all food packaging and plastic bottles, is safe for consumers despite studies that show the contrary.
- The U.S. Labor Department is rolling back a child labor rule for thousands of teenagers working in nursing homes and hospitals, raising alarms among worker safety advocates.
- The Trump administration is sparing corporate wrongdoers billions of dollars in penalties—with a 72% decline in corporate penalties from the U.S. Justice Department’s criminal prosecutions.
- Tough new rules on payday lenders (you know, those loan providers that charge up to 900% annual interest) have been indefinitely delayed by the federal Consumer Protection Financial Bureau.
- And the backlog of claims by veterans to get funding for their education under the GI Bill skyrocketed 68% over the last year.
There’s a good chance that you didn’t see any of those important stories this week about how the government is using (or misusing) our taxpayer dollars and undermining key protections—because you were distracted by President Donald Trump calling Jim Acosta a “rude, terrible person” and deriding April Ryan as a “loser.” Those kerfuffles generated front-page headlines (including, I admit, a story that I wrote yesterday) and led news broadcasts around the world. Search “Jim Acosta” on Nexis and you get more than 1,200 hits over the last two days. Here’s the Google trends chart for the CNN reporter’s name over the last week:
Don’t get me wrong. The president should be lambasted for his treatment of the press as the “enemy of the people,” and Acosta shouldn’t have had his credentials pulled. And I don’t expect sometimes-complicated regulatory debates over government policy to make the network news or inspire viral Instagram memes. And I’m the first one to admit that I’ve chased my share of celebrity scandals and juicy news nuggets in my 20-plus years in journalism.
But it’s time to step back, take a breath, and reassess what we’re doing—to stop chasing every little tweet and comment and fuss, just because it comes from the president. The fable of the boiling frog has been repeated many times in the Trump era, but it may be a metaphor in need of a revamp, because it’s no longer adequately conveying the gravity of the situation. At this point, the frog isn’t paying attention to the water that’s slowly getting hotter around him because he’s also distracted by the monkey sitting on the rim of the pot making faces at him and occasionally doing somersaults.
It’s time to wake up and get out of the damn pot. And we can start, as reporters, at a very simple level by boycotting the damn White House press briefings, even for just a day (as recommended by the New Yorker‘s Jane Mayer and the Guardian‘s Suzanne Moore), and covering the myriad agencies in government whose policies and regulations are notoriously undercovered.
Agree- all those hard pass holders should spend the day covering the undercovered agencies and policies- skip the WH briefing-presidents need the press as much as the opposite if not more so.
— Jane Mayer (@JaneMayerNYer) November 9, 2018