The Edmond Sun


November 4, 2013

Welfare benefits and the forgotten source

EDMOND — Commenting on what he perceives as the liberal bias of the Associated Press, former University of Texas journalism professor Marvin Olasky suggested that we “think of it algebraically, with AP standing for coverage of person A, who has a problem, and person P, the politician who purports to have a solution. The Associated Press typically did not bother to cover person F, the one paying taxes so that person P can gain glory for sending aid to person A. In the 19th century, Yale professor William Graham Sumner had offered a similar equation and called person F ‘the forgotten man.’ In the 21st century, AP regularly broke its pledge to be evenhanded by highlighting person A and forgetting Mr. F.”

Unfortunately, it’s not just the AP. Each new day brings examples from media outlets nationwide of news stories from which person F is conspicuously absent. For example, in a recent Tulsa World story (“Impasse may endanger aid funds”), we learned that “half of the infants in Oklahoma could be at risk of losing a vital supplemental nutrition program if the federal government shutdown continues beyond this month, state officials said Friday. That’s when the state’s allotment of federal funding for the Women Infants and Children nutrition program (WIC) could run out, said officials with the Oklahoma Department of Health, which administers the program. …

“For Brittany Wilkerson, who attends school at the Margaret Hudson Program Tulsa campus, she said it would be ‘just horrible,’ if funding ran out for the program, which she utilizes to feed her two children. Wilkerson, 18, said she uses the program to purchase baby formula for her newborn and juice and other foods for her 1-year-old. The cost of the formula alone is about $120 a month, Wilkerson said. ‘I could not afford to buy it if they took it away,’ she said referring to the program.”

In the 663-word story the reporter quoted person A and several proxies for person P, but person F was nowhere to be found. Person F was the forgotten source. Had he been included, the story would have been more evenhanded, more informative, and — most important of all — more interesting for the newspaper’s actual customers. In a metropolitan area where (according to the Tulsa World’s own pollster) conservatives outnumber liberals 7 to 1, one can imagine Person F’s contribution to the story:

“‘I don’t mind helping people who are down on their luck,’ said John Q. Taxpayer, a Tulsa welder. ‘In fact, I pay my taxes and still give to folks in need whenever I can. But shouldn’t the babies’ father help buy some groceries for these children that he helped bring into the world? Or heck, couldn’t the grandparents or other family members pitch in? I mean, I don’t see why it’s up to complete strangers to come up with $120 a month. I’ve got my own bills to pay. My wife’s got past-due medical bills and my kids need school clothes.

“Mr. Taxpayer also expressed concern with the nation’s $17 trillion debt. ‘I’m all for helping to feed babies,’ he said, ‘but I don’t want to put it on the credit card of my own babies and grandbabies. We just can’t afford to keep doing all this welfare.’”

I don’t believe media bias is always nefarious, or even intentional. Just as a fish doesn’t swim around all day wondering how he can manage to stay wet, reporters don’t wake up every morning asking themselves how they can construct narrative frameworks that ignore the taxpayer. A fish doesn’t realize he’s wet, and many journalists don’t realize that their J-school training and subsequent existence in a center-left newsroom bubble have conditioned them to ignore person F.

But he’s out there. Yes, the forgotten man is “the real subject which deserves our attention,” as Yale’s professor Sumner said. “He works, he votes, generally he prays — but he always pays — yes, above all, he pays.”

Reporters should talk to him.

BRANDON DUTCHER, an Edmond resident, is senior vice president at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a free-market think tank.

Text Only
  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

  • Putting Oklahoma parents in charge

    Oklahoma’s public schools serve many children very well. Still, for various reasons, some students’ needs are better met in private schools, in virtual schools or elsewhere. That is why two state lawmakers have introduced legislation to give parents debit cards, literally, to shop for the educational services that work best for their children.

    April 11, 2014

  • Israelis, Palestinians are losing their chance

    Developments in the Middle East suggest that prospects of success for the Israeli-Palestinian talks, to which Secretary of State John Kerry has devoted countless hours and trips, are weakening.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teens might trade naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 11, 2014


Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

     View Results