Ed Schultz at a motor home in Fargo, North Dakota. (AP Photo/Dave Samson)
Saturday morning’s editions of The New York Times report that “the nation’s unemployment rate would probably be nearly a point lower, roughly 6.5 percent, and economic growth almost two points higher this year if Washington had not cut spending and raised taxes as it has since 2011, according to private-sector and government economists.”
That’s headline news in the nation’s newspaper of record.
But Ed Schultz could have told you that a couple years ago.
That’s because Ed consults with the folks who really understand the economy: the working men and women who do their research on Main Street—as opposed to Wall Street.
I’ve known Ed since he was making his name as a populist radio host, broadcasting out of Fargo, North Dakota, on a handful of small stations. He is now consistently ranked by Talkers magazine as one of the ten most important talk radio hosts in America.
Ed built his national following on the strength of what he referred to as “straight talk from the heartland.” And he remains distinct from most other hosts in that he’s still rooted in the upper Midwest, not just as a proud Minnesotan but as a host who is genuinely interested in what the whole of America is talking about.
When Ed joined the MSNBC cable television network, he kept doing his radio show—an uncommon move in an industry that tends to focus on television gigs. Ed wanted to keep talking with people across the country, especially the listeners in what media insiders on the East and West coasts deride as the “flyover country” between New York and Los Angeles.
As he has moved through various time slots and hosting duties with the cable network, Schultz has had more demands on him. Yet he has always kept the radio show, doing three hours a day, when other cable hosts were, for the most part, focused solely on television. Ed never wanted to lose the connection to the working people who formed his base of listeners: the farmer in North Dakota, the factory worker in Illinois, the snowplow driver in Minnesota, the teacher in Wisconsin. As his prominence has grown, that base has expanded to include the baggage handler at LaGuardia, the taxi driver in Washington, the small business owner in Denver, the retiree in the Florida panhandle.
When I do Ed’s radio show, I am always struck by the calls—from all those listeners, in all those small towns and cities across the country. No matter what the issue of the moment might be, they tend to remain focused on fundamental economic concerns. Washington spin doesn’t sway them: They’ve got no taste for “grand bargains” that would cut Social Security cost-of-living increases with a chained CPI scheme. They know Paul Ryan’s austerity economics don’t add up.