Last week, in his "analysis" of Barack Obama's proposed "bank responsibility fee," the Associated Press's Jim Kuhnhenn got one important thing right and two others very wrong.
The part he got right was describing the proposed fee as a "tax." The first thing he got wrong was identifying the proposed move as a legitimate form of "populism." The second is his claim that the idea is "straight out of 'It's a Wonderful Life,'" the classic Christmas movie.
Here are Kuhnhenn's first five paragraphs:
It's not just about bad banking.
President Barack Obama's biting criticism of big banks frames the problem as a struggle between jobless, suffering Americans and banks making big profits and paying "obscene" bonuses.
It's populism straight out of Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life," and it aims to score political points in the midst of a weak economic recovery that is fueling public doubts about the president's own economic policies.
The charts definitely show how utterly wrong reporters like the Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa are when they claim that there has been anything resembling a "rebound" since the economy hit bottom from a growth standpoint in the second quarter of 2009 (the economy has yet to see an employment bottom). They also explain why AP reporter Martin Crutsinger seems to have tired of trying to put a "getting better" face on things in the past couple of days (as seen here and here at NewsBusters; here and here at BizzyBlog).
Here, after screen captures by Morrissey, are the two mind-numbing creations in question, the first showing changes in output (GDP) and the second showing changes in employment:
Today, Roger Alford and Bruce Schreiner of the Associated Press, reporting from Frankfort, KY, are giving leftist bloggers, columnists, journalists who assumed or gave the impression of assuming that the death of Census worker Bill Sparkman was some kind of right-wing hit job another chance to come clean with an unconditional "I was wrong, I amy sorry." The list of those needing to post corrections and apologies includes the Associated Press itself.
You see, not only is it crystal clear that Sparkman (may he rest in peace) indeed killed himself, Alford and Schreiner tell us that he told a friend of his plans:
Jan 15, 6:09 PM EST
Police: Ky. census worker had told of suicide plan
An eastern Kentucky census worker found naked, bound and hanging from a tree had told a friend he intended to kill himself and that he had chosen the time, place and method to do it, police records show.
Okay, who administered the truth serum to the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger? And will the person who did this kindly inform us when it will wear off?
On Thursday, for the second day in a row following a mostly fact-based report the previous day on Uncle Sam's horrid fiscal situation, Crutsinger ran down a troubling economic report. This time it was December's disappointing retail sales results. The AP writer even took readers on a walk through the historical archives to let them know just how bad December and all of 2009 really were. Pinch me to make sure I'm not dreaming.
In his coverage of yesterday's Monthly Treasury Statement from Uncle Sam, the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger, who I have criticized frequently for cruddy reporting, especially on federal finances, did a pretty good job reporting key facts and conveying very real concerns that are brewing over the country's current fiscal path.
In the process, he made a stunning admission about the economy's situation that has to be seen to be believed.
I find myself concerned that the previous paragraphs might cause Mr. Crutsinger to get called into a closed-door meeting where he gets asked what in the world is going on. If that happens, I have an agenda item he can bring up. I'll get to that later.
Crutsinger's only serious error was his final paragraph's mischaracterization of deficit trends during the Bush administration.
In it, he clearly delineates the difference between "the news" as establishment media outlets want it dispensed and the "market for information" that technology has created. Its only shortcoming is that he gives Arianna Huffington a pass for "coming to the table as an honest broker." I'll point out glaring examples that will disprove that notion later.
First, though, behold the beauty of Breitbart's treatment of the issue of "objectivity" and his clear statement relating to the two types of information choices we have:
The launch of the Daily Caller is a necessary step toward creating ideological parity in the all-too-clearly biased mainstream media. It is a good thing that you, Tucker, are admitting that you come to the table with certain ideological baggage, and my new site Big Journalism will be there to watch your back when the well-funded, organized left’s knives come out to try to discredit and attempt to destroy you. Believe me, they will.
Executives from Government/General Motors and Chrysler are at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit vaguely holding forth on the prospect of reopening previously shuttered production facilities.
Uh, don't sales have to start heading seriously upward before that happens?
Apparently the Associated Press's Tom Krisher, who has his hands in separate stories on the two companies, and Jeff Karoub, who is co-spokesman -- er, co-author -- of the report on Chrysler, aren't asking that question.
On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office issued its Monthly Budget Review for December 2009. It estimates that December's federal deficit will be $92 billion when the Treasury Department releases its Monthly Treasury Statement on Wednesday, and that the deficit for the first fiscal quarter will be "about $390 billion." The CBO director's related blog post is here. The establishment press has virtually ignored it.
Here is the initial result of a Google News search on "CBO deficit" (not in quotes) for articles relating to the Congressional Budget Office's Thursday estimate of the federal government's deficit for the first quarter of its fiscal year:
Clicking on the "all 10 new articles" reveals that there are really only four results, that three of them are at blogs, and that only one of the blog posts is from an establishment media site:
Four recent stories out of Venezuela each give readers brief glimpses at how Hugo Chavez's brand of authoritarian socialism is critically wounding what could be a resource-rich, financially prosperous country:
January 9, AP -- "Venezuela faces risk of devastating power collapse."
Collectively, however, they depict a country in the early stages of a headlong free-fall into Cuban-style financial ruin. No U.S. establishment media enterprise appears interested in making the accelerating decays in financial well-being and personal freedom in that country understandable to the average person.
AP's headline at the first item noted seems designed to avoid attention. This isn't a mere "weakening" of the currency; instead, it's a bizarre bi-level devaluation of up to 50%:
The one good thing you can say about Andrew Freedman's "Cold weather in a hot climate" entry at the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang blog (HT James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web) is that he's at least not hiding his bias.
Boiling it down, Freedman believes that weather broadcasters should use the occasions of heat waves and serious storms as global warming teachable moments, yet become strict info relayers when it's extraordinarily cold. In doing so, he advocates a continuation of what Julie Seymour at the Media Research Center's Business & Media Institute has already observed:
The news media constantly misuse extreme weather examples to generate fear of global warming, but when record cold or record snow sets in journalists don’t mention the possibility of global cooling trends. While climatologists would say weather isn’t necessarily an indication of climate, it has been in the media, but only when the weather could be spun as part of global warming.
In a Friday news analysis piece that appeared in the paper's print edition today (teased at its web site as seen on the right), Jackie Calmes at the New York Times began with a pathetic headline, and opened with pity on our poor overwhelmed, stressed-out, stretched-in-all-directions President:
Obama Tries to Turn Focus to Jobs, if Other Events Allow
President Obama keeps trying to turn attention to “jobs, jobs, jobs,” as his chief of staff has put it. But he is finding that it can be hard to focus on any one issue when so many demand attention, often unexpectedly.
This is simply another variation on the "distracted" President theme I noted last year (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog). You know, if those terrorists and other messy realities wouldn't intervene, Barack Obama could do his job sooooo much better.
Calmes resumed the pity party in her seventh paragraph:
The Associated Press's Tom Raum had to work really, really hard to come up with a sunny way to present today's jobs report and the President's reaction to it, which consisted of awarding $2.3 billion in "New Clean Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits."
Here's what he concocted: The weak employment report gave Obama the chance to change the subject from terrorism, where he continues to get hammered by Republican meanies, to something else. It's as if the only reason that the job losses occurred is because the Undie Bomber distracted Dear Leader's attention from his domestic agenda.
Here are key paragraphs from Raum's ramblings:
Obama refocuses on jobs after weak labor report
His agenda altered by the Christmas bombing attempt, President Barack Obama pivoted back to the domestic economy on Friday, promoting new U.S. spending to create tens of thousands of clean-technology jobs.
Toyota and Ford are on the verge of catching Government/General Motors in monthly U.S. vehicle sales. Based on the sales trends at the three companies, GM may lose its domestic kingpin status in just a few months.
I heard the December facts giving rise to the aforementioned tidbit on the radio Monday afternoon, and wondered whether the commentator came up with them on his own or if early wire reports had relayed them. If it's the latter, the relevant points seem to have disappeared from later wire service dispatches, including this one from the Associated Press's Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin. I think they need to be plucked from the ether and emphasized, especially given the boast by the GM's chairman that it will make a profit in 2010.
Despite six months of positive economic growth, Treasury collections are continuing what is now a serious two-year downward slide.
In August, the Congressional Budget Office projected that collections during the fiscal year that will end on September 30, 2010 will be $2.264 trillion (PDF; page 2 at link). That's $159 billion, or about 7.5% higher, than fiscal 2009's final total of $2.105 trillion.
There's a problem. Unless there's a surprise when the final numbers come out next week, Uncle Sam's receipts for the quarter that just ended, i.e., the first quarter of the 2010 fiscal year, are already $60 billion behind the previous year. Somehow, this is not news.
Through November, as seen here, collections were already behind last year by about $40 billion ($268.9 bil vs. $309.6 bil). From all appearances, December was little better, as its estimated take of $218 billion trailed last year's $237.8 billion.
In a report time-stamped January 2, the Associated Press's Philip Elliott relayed what was supposedly important news:
Obama cites apparent al-Qaida link in bomb plot
An al-Qaida affiliate in Yemen apparently ordered the Christmas Day plot against a U.S. airliner, training and arming the 23-year-old Nigerian man accused in the failed bombing, President Barack Obama said Saturday.
You don't say?
The story was on the front page of Sunday's Cincinnati Enquirer, and likely many other papers across the nation.
The Obama administration's Home Affordable Modification Program (known as "HAMP" to lenders and services, and MHA, or "Making Home Affordable" to the general public) is "failing."
I only learned this because I looked at the Associated Press's feeds on Christmas evening and saw this headline -- "No consequences for lying borrowers."
In an item time-stamped December 25, AP national business columnist Rachel Beck (note: not a reporter) used language that would ordinarily cause many in the press to characterize such a person as a hard-hearted meanie to describe the results of this core Obama initiative this far:
No consequences for lying borrowers
The government shouldn't reward liars. But that's the effect of changes to the Obama administration's failing program to help homeowners modify their mortgages.
UPDATE, Jan. 1, 2010:This post at BizzyBlog shows that the there was recognition of likely Al Qaeda involvement in two separate press reports based on sources in a position to know on Christmas evening. Thus, the administration's delay in acknowledging that reality was actually three full days.
In their initial December 26 report ("Passengers’ Quick Action Halted Attack") on the attempted terrorist attack on Flight 253, New York Times reporters Scott Shane and Eric Lipton told readers that the "episode .... riveted the attention of President Obama on vacation in Hawaii."
In an article later that day ("Officials Point to Suspect’s Claim of Qaeda Ties in Yemen"), Lipton and Eric Schmitt reported that:
.... officials said the suspect (Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab) told them he had obtained explosive chemicals and a syringe that were sewn into his underwear from a bomb expert in Yemen associated with Al Qaeda.
The authorities have not independently corroborated the Yemen connection .... But a law enforcement official briefed on the investigation said on Saturday that the suspect’s account was “plausible,” and that he saw “no reason to discount it.”
Any reasonable person would say that this second report establishes "reason to believe that there is some linkage" between the suspect and Al Qaeda, and that a "riveted" president would have known that there was "some linkage" by Saturday night. That's why the following opener to a Washington Post item by Anne E. Kornblut dated yesterday is especially hard to take:
This is the fifth year I have looked into how the media treats these two topics:
The use of “Christmas shopping season” vs. “holiday shopping season” (note how the AP photo at right uses “holiday” and not “shopping,” even though there is a C-C-, Chr-Chr-Christmas tree in the picture).
The frequency of Christmas and holiday layoff references.
I have done three sets of simple Google News searches each year — the first in late November, followed by identical searches roughly two and four weeks later. The results of this year's first two sets of searches are here (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog) and here (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog).
A table showing the results from this year, plus key comparisons to prior years, follows:
The Associated Press's business writers and many others in the establishment press spent just over a year reminding readers at seemingly every conceivable opportunity that the recession began in December 2007, simply because the supposedly apolitical collection of academics at the National Bureau for Economic Research said so.
Lo and behold, in her year-end roundup of 2009's top business stories, an article so biased and error-prone that I am devoting my next weekly column to deconstructing it, the Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa writes that:
After four quarters of decline, the economy returns to growth during the July-to-September period, signaling the end of the deepest and longest recession since the 1930s.
On Thursday, the Treasury Department issued a press release, called "Update on Status of Support for Housing Programs." Its fourth paragraph reads as follows:
At the time the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship in September 2008, Treasury established Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements (PSPAs) to ensure that each firm maintained a positive net worth. Treasury is now amending the PSPAs to allow the cap on Treasury's funding commitment under these agreements to increase as necessary to accommodate any cumulative reduction in net worth over the next three years. At the conclusion of the three year period, the remaining commitment will then be fully available to be drawn per the terms of the agreements.
Translation: No matter how badly things further deteriorate at these former government sponsored enterprises, both of which since last year in essence have become government-controlled enterprises, Uncle Sam (i.e., current and future generations of taxpayers) will cover their losses.
Here is how three different news outlets headlined this Treasury/Obama administration move:
Minimizing to nearly zero the possible relevance of the suspect's home country of residence and of the possibility that he might be affiliated with what one publication refers to as the "Nigerian Taliban."
The wire service's 11:04 p.m. report (not linked, as original was revised by AP), had this to say about the relevance of Nigeria in its 23rd paragraph of 26:
The Associated Press should seriously consider renaming itself "Associated Dems" or "Associated Leftists."
This morning, the AP's Charles Babington uncritically relays the latest Democratic Party talking point about its statist health care plan that has been passed in two very different forms in the House and Senate. The supposed point is that anyone who voted to create Medicare Part D in 2003 and voted against ObamaCare is "obviously" a flaming hypocrite.
Along the way, Babington ignores a Congressional Budget Office report response issued just before Christmas asserting that characterizations of the Senate's bill as reducing future government deficits are wrong. Beyond that, the litany of other distortions and errors in Babington's report is perversely impressive in its no-fib-or-spin-left-behind comprehensiveness.
Here are the first several paragraphs of Babington's babble, followed by its final sentence:
GOP lawmakers change tune on costly health plans
Democrats are troubled by the inconsistency of Republican lawmakers who approved a major Medicare expansion six years ago that has added tens of billions of dollars to federal deficits, but oppose current health overhaul plans.
It looks like the PC Police will have to put out an APB for Time Magazine's Bobby Ghosh, his layers of editors, and his managers.
First, Ghosh had the unmitigated gall to write an item called "Domestic Terror Incidents Hit a Peak in 2009." In it, he notes that the "2009 saw an unprecedented surge in terror 'events' on U.S. soil." Clearly Ghosh doesn't understand that we're in a new era where the rest of the world reflexively loves us, thanks to our ever-apologetic president.
Ghosh compounded his error by saying that the November killings at a U.S. military base were t-t-t- .... terror-related:
On December 8, Susan Gustafson at MLive.com proclaimed that "GM's announcement of no more layoffs is good news after years of hemorrhaging jobs":
General Motors' announcement this morning that it plans no further layoffs in the immediate future is huge news for both the automaker and Michigan as a whole after years of steady erosion in the ranks of hourly and salaried workers.
.... the company doesn't expect the numbers of hourly workers on indefinite layoff to increase.
Not to worry, Aversa said, because the fourth quarter is going to be really good ("[possibly] the strongest showing since 5.4 percent growth in the first quarter of 2006"), and the first quarter of 2010 will be okay ("growth will slow to a pace of around 2 or 3 percent in the first three months"). To be fair, she did entertain the possibility of a double-dip recession in 2011 in her 18th of 21 paragraphs. But of course most readers won't get that far, and most editors trimming her piece down will leave it on the cutting room floor.
Uncle Sam's Bureau of Economic Analysis today revised economic growth in the third quarter downward a second time. After originally estimating annualized growth of 3.5% in October and then reducing it to 2.8% in November, the bureau's "third estimate" issued today came in at 2.2%.
If that "third estimate" term seems odd, it's because this is only the second quarter the BEA has labeled its reports "first estimate," "second estimate," and "third estimate." Previously, the respective terms for the three monthly reports were "advance," "preliminary," and "final."
If you're thinking that today's BEA figure is bad news, you obviously haven't gotten the word from Associated Press reporter Jeannine Aversa, who after a brief "not to worry," seemed to wax almost rhapsodically over how great the current quarter and next year will be (a partial screen cap of Aversa's first six paragraphs is saved here for future reference, fair use, and discussion purposes; bold is mine):
In its obituary on the passing of Nobel economics laureate Paul Samuelson, who died on December 13, Michael Weinstein at the New York Times lavished well-deserved praise on the winner of the 1970 Nobel Prize in Economics for building "one of the world’s great centers of graduate education in economics" at MIT, but erred seriously in recounting his most visible public policy role.
Also worth noting is how the Times headline at Samuelson's obit compares to those the paper accorded Milton Friedman and John Kenneth Galbraith upon their deaths. Friedman and Galbraith were also pioneering economists in their own right who passed away after living into their 90s during the final half of this decade:
Friedman (November 16, 2006) -- "Milton Friedman, Free Markets Theorist, Dies at 94."
Galbraith (April 30, 2006) -- "John Kenneth Galbraith, 97, Dies; Economist Held a Mirror to Society."
Of the three, only the free market capitalism-championing Friedman, who like Samuelson but unlike Galbraith was a Nobel-winningeconomist, was deemed undeserving of being identified as a member of his chosen profession in his Times obit's headline.
More seriously, Weinstein rewrites history to give Samuelson significant credit for the prosperity of the 1960s where very little is due.
On January 1, 2009, the final 4.2% stage of a four-year, 21% cut in individual income taxes took effect in Ohio. State tax withholding tables reflecting the lower rates went into effect. Ohio employees began seeing a bit more net pay in each paycheck.
This past week, the state legislature, faced with an $850 million shortfall and threats of immediate school funding cuts by Governor Ted Strickland, repealed that 4.2% cut for both 2009 and 2010. Ohioans who had taxes withheld throughout all of this year at lower levels will have to make up the difference when they file their 2009 returns next year. They will also see higher state income tax withholdings from each paycheck all of next year.
Thus, Ohioans will be paying more in income taxes for quite a while longer than they would have if things had been left alone.
But apparently we're not supposed to call this a "tax increase," and a clearly retroactive one at that. No-no-no. According to Strickland, Ohio Democrats, a few alleged Republicans, the Associated Press, and Ohio's compliant establishment media, this is a "tax cut delay." Journalists are going to extraordinary lengths to avoid writing or uttering the words "tax" and "increase" consecutively. Is there a new stylebook rule against doing that?
Here's a roundup of some the reality-avoiding language used: