LA Times: The Nation’s Worst Newspaper

The LA Times is rapidly turning into the Weekly World News — without the humor.

Josh Marshall is coming close to an aneurysm about the stupidity of Republican comments on the stimulus. First it was Jim DeMint arguing that something couldn’t be a stimulus bill because it is a spending bill. Now comes newly-crowned GOP chair Michael Steele claiming that “not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job” — a statement of transparent idiocy.

But look! Now the LA Times editorial board — or, for all we know, a few guys they found out of the phone book, given the paper’s recent hurtle into stupidity, seems to buy the same idea. From their latest editorial on the stimulus:

Too many of the items have little apparent connection with economic growth — witness the nearly $5 billion for prevention, wellness, “comparative effectiveness research” and training in the health field, the $2.1 billion for Head Start and the $300 million to improve teacher quality, just to name a few examples from the 647-page House bill.

As Dr. Black would say: The stupid! It burns! If you spend $5 billion on preventing disease, then that leads to higher productivity. If you use that $5 billion to hire people — nurses, say — to help people stay well, then that means that those nurses have salaries, and spend money. If you use that money to make the health care system more efficient, then that frees up other resources for productive investment. If Head Start effectively prepares children for school, then that is long-term productivity growth as well. And who teaches in Head Start? Well, uh, maybe teachers, who earn salaries, and then spend the money. Haven’t these guys ever heard of the WPA?

We’ve learned over the last few days that the LA Times cannot do the simple job of distinguishing between “rendition” and “extraordinary rendition.” Its reporters — and now, apparently, its editorial writers — are getting spun repeatedly by the right-wing noise machine.

This comes on the heels of the Times deciding to kill its California section, and deciding to keep its now four-page Business section, which yesterday featured such incisive reporting as the 25 cheapest places to go in southern California (which covered 75% of the front page of the section).

What’s next? Saddam Hussein’s heartbreak?

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.