Remember back in March when Congress had the brilliant idea to retroactively tax bonuses paid out by bailed out insurer American International Group (AIG)? The House voted 328 to 93 for the 90-percent tax on the $165 million in bonuses, but it later died in the Senate.
Steve Moore, a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, explained on CNBC's May 13 "Street Signs" that the punitive retroactive tax was just a distraction to divert attention away from the culpability of Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., for the current financial crisis.
"Remember, Barney Frank was one of the guys right at the center of the financial crisis," Moore said. "I think he had a lot of the blame of this lays at his foot. He said roll the dice on Fanny and Freddie. So the point is I think that these Democrats are trying to redirect the populist storm against members of Congress like Chris Dodd and Barney Frank towards executives. So, I'm not so sure he didn't want that to pass as a way of deflecting criticism."
It is disappointing, but not at all surprising, that the Democratic Party affiliation of the politicians involved in the union-driven campaign to force Wells Fargo Bank not to liquidate the Chicago-area operations of Hartmarx, the high-end clothier which has made suits for President Obama, has not been noted in the vast majority of stories I have reviewed about ongoing developments there.
The two Illinois politicians (there are others named below) are Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who has formed a US Senate seat exploratory committee in hopes of unseating current occupant Roland Burris, and 13th District Congressman Phil Hare.
The situation, for those just learning of it, is described pretty well at this Chicago Sun-Times story by Sandra Guy, who at least flagged Hare's Democratic affiliation:
Even after Hart Schaffner Marx plant workers in Des Plaines unanimously stood up shouting their approval of staging a sit-in if Wells Fargo presses their parent company to liquidate, Wells Fargo said parent company Hartmarx is unable to repay more than $114 million it owes the bank.
The Obama White House revised up 2009's budget deficit projections to $1.8 trillion Monday, and the press blamed it on George W. Bush.
Without considering how the current budget passed last year with virtually no Republican support, and that all spending associated with this record-breaking deficit was either approved by Senator Obama or signed into law by President Obama, news outlets echoed what Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag ascribed as the culprit in his blog:
The deficits in these years, now projected to be 12.9 percent and 8.5 percent of GDP, respectively, are driven in large part by the economic crisis inherited by this Administration.
The New York Times accepted this assessment without question in its article on the subject Tuesday:
During his first 100 days as President, Barack Obama has pushed an audaciously liberal agenda which, if enacted, would have radical consequences for America for decades. With Democrats enjoying monopoly control of the House and Senate, the news media have a professional duty to scrutinize those policies, and give audiences both sides of the story — not just the perspective of a powerful Chief Executive.
Unfortunately, a Media Research Center analysis of ABC, CBS and NBC evening news coverage of President Obama’s first 100 days in office shows network reporters have failed as watchdogs. The networks have raised few doubts about Obama’s left-wing agenda and showered each of Obama’s major policy initiatives with positive press.
MRC analysts looked at all 982 broadcast evening news stories about Obama and his administration from Inauguration Day (January 20) through April 29. Key findings:
On Friday, Media Research Center President Brent Bozell appeared on Fox News Channel's "Hannity" program in the "Great American Panel" segment. The topics included the stimulus package:
BRENT BOZELL: No one read this bill in the Congress, because we had to pass it because there was such a need to get this going so we could create jobs and give everything away. How much of the stimulus bill have we spent? Four percent. So much for that need. This is a fraud.
SEAN HANNITY: So this was really about bigger government? This is a fraud. This was greater control of government.
Also discussed was the resignation of White House Military Office director Louis Caldera, who authorized the ill-advised low-altitude flyover of lower Manhattan by Air Force One:
On the heels of President Barack Obama's weekend radio address, where he lobbied for so-called credit card reform, "CBS Evening News" chimed in calling the legislation "help" for small business borrowers.
"Evening News" anchor Russ Mitchell referred to Obama's address about the need for new credit card regulation on May 10 and backed up Obama's claim with data from the Center for Responsible Lending, an activist organization that calls for more stringent regulation of all lenders.
"President Obama called, this weekend, for passage of his credit card consumer protection bill by the end of the month," Mitchell said. "According to a recent survey, four out of five Americans are paying lots more since December. The Center for Responsible lending found that an estimated 10 million users were hit by rate increases of at least 10 percent. And, it's not just consumers who are paying the price - nearly half of all small business owners have seen interest rates higher than 15 percent during the past four months."
It's a whole new wrinkle on the old joke about accountants (when asked what 2 + 2 is, he or she replies, "What do you want it to be?").
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the reported results of the financial institution stress tests were negotiated:
Banks Won Concessions on Tests Fed Cut Billions Off Some Initial Capital-Shortfall Estimates; Tempers Flare at Wells
The Federal Reserve significantly scaled back the size of the capital hole facing some of the nation's biggest banks shortly before concluding its stress tests, following two weeks of intense bargaining.
The overall reaction to the stress tests, announced Thursday, has been generally positive. But the haggling between the government and the banks shows the sometimes-tense nature of the negotiations that occurred before the final results were made public.
It's also clear that the negotiations were over clearly non-trivial amounts:
Shoot, he's only talking about pulling $8 billion in state-controlled money because a bank won't go easy on a business borrower who can't pay. What's the big deal?
Well, the story involves the company that makes suits for President Barack Obama (pictured at right). Beyond that, the union at that company is citing the US Treasury Department's Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) as a reason that company's bank should in essence bail it out.
You might think that these two factors, combined with what I'm characterizing as a loyalty oath all financial institutions who do business with the State of Illinois must soon agree to (covered later), might make the Treasurer's and union's threats a national story. You would be wrong.
Here is most of the very short AP item, carried at the Springfield (IL) State Journal-Register, and referred to me by a NewsBusters commenter:
For whatever reason, CNBC keeps lining up challengers to take on its Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor reporter Rick Santelli over his self-reliance, pro-taxpayer persona - whether it's Steve Liesman, Arianna Huffington or this time, Keith Boykin - editor of The Daily Voice, a CNBC contributor and a BET TV host.
ON CNBC's May 7 "The Call," Santelli took on Boykin in the program's "The Call of the Wild" segment. Boykin was armed with the usual anti-George W. Bush talking points to defend President Barack Obama and his policies.
"Look what he inherited first of all," Boykin said.
"He didn't inherit anything," Santelli said. "He ran for office, it was his choice."
"Good Morning America" co-host Diane Sawyer and ABC journalist George Stephanopoulos lauded Barack Obama for his handling of the banking crisis on Thursday. Sawyer even saw the government administered stress tests as a "mission accomplished" moment. On the news that many of the banks given billions in bailout money won't need more, the morning show anchor cooed, "So, George, is this the day that this administration can say, on the banking front, they've sailed through the eye of the needle? They've landed a Hail Mary pass?" [audio available for download here]
At this point, Sawyer engaged in some belated bashing of George W. Bush. In an allusion to the banner above President Bush during his 2003 visit to an aircraft carrier, the host held up a sign that read "mission accomplished." She joked, "And dare I say- I had this sign made just for you. Dare they say it?" Joining in, Stephanopoulos, the "This Week" host and former Clinton aide, quipped, "You're the last person who is ever going to hold up one of those signs. I think President Bush ruined it for everybody."
Call it an ominous warning, but Fox News Channel afternoon host and ratings sensation Glenn Beck on Wednesday cautioned viewers that government is strengthening its grip of power and is not going to stop at the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Beck declared on his May 6 broadcast the government is out of control, noting that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were a weekly occurrence, including efforts to make the TARP bailout more transparent earlier this year from the Treasury Department.
"We've got a government out of control and I'm telling you, it is up to you to control it," Beck said. "These stories of corruption and abuse of power, I'm going to continue to bring them to you as long as I possibly can, and everybody else on this network is dedicated. But it seems like every week this network is filing another Freedom of Information Act request. Even with all the resources of Fox, the truth still can't be fully exposed without you. I ask you, please - help us. Meet us here every day. Tell all of your friends what you learn here. Spread it. E-mail me. Tell me what I'm missing. We will do the best we can to provide you with the information, but it is a little overwhelming."
As of early Tuesday evening, according to a report by Liz Moyer at Forbes, the latest news on the Chrysler bankruptcy filing is that:
The recalcitrant non-TARP lenders who would not agree to the deal the government attempted to force on them are now attempting to challenge the deal the government and Chrysler have proposed in bankruptcy court.
These lenders want to keep their identities hidden.
In court documents, they have said that "intensifying pressure and name calling by the government threatened to harm them if their identities became public."
Bankruptcy judge Arthur Gonzalez "isn't buying it," and has given the lenders until 10 a.m. tomorrow morning to identify themselves or (though not specifically stated) they will apparently lose their standing in court.
Meanwhile, John Carney at The Business Insider today expanded on what the lenders' lawyer Tom Lauria first brought out on WJR Radio on Friday, when Lauria told talk-show host Frank Beckmann that "One of my clients was directly threatened by the White House."
CNBC's Steve Liesman has always gone after tea party inspiration and network floor reporter Rick Santelli for his views, but this time it was Santelli playing offense.
The CNBC "Power Lunch" crew was discussing Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) CEO Ken Lewis and disclosure of details surrounding his bank's acquisition of Merrill Lynch May 5. Santelli accused Liesman, CNBC's senior economics reporter of saying "dumb things" and acting like Nixon, when he suggested there could be a compelling reason for Lewis was not forthcoming about the acquisition.
"Ask the question in a more compelling way which is - I want you to save the world and not disclose," Liesman said.
Here's a teachable moment: Bad things can happen when the government intervenes in the economy, which Fox Business Network host Cody Willard pointed out on his "Shot Clock" segment on "Happy Hour."
Willard, on FBN's May 4 "Happy Hour" used part of his segment to call for the jailing of the New York Fed's chairman, Stephen Friedman.
"New York Fed [Chairman] Stephen Friedman - this guy belongs in jail," Willard said. "This is the head of the New York Fed - Stephen Friedman guys."
Willard was referring to a report in the May 4 Wall Street Journal that questioned Friedman's current ties to Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) while playing an instrumental role in shaping Washington's response to the financial crisis late last year. Willard explained that Friedman was able to profit after Goldman was approved to be a bank holding company in late 2008, making it eligible for a $10-billion capital injection.
Friday, after the April vehicle sales figures rolled in, Associated Press reporters Kimberly S. Johnson and Dan Strumpf, in the opening sentence of a report carried at USA Today, showed that they finally noticed two things, one of which yours truly caught three months ago (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog), and the other which first became clear last month (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog).
The former point is that the American people are continuing to shun bailed-out car companies General Motors and now-bankrupt Chrysler. The latter one is that Ford's gain has been most the two bailed-out companies' loss.
Here is how the inconsistently-headlined ("Auto sales fall in April; Ford gains market share from Chrysler") AP report began (bolds are mine):
Detroit's Big Three is becoming Ford and the other two.
UPDATE, May 2:ABC’s Political Punch reports that the administration is denying making threats. Uh-huh, Tom Lauria just made it up. My take: Horse manure.
If the Bush White House had engaged in anything similar to what's being described here (actually, Hank Paulson did; the question is how much Bush knew), there would be calls for impeachment.
Maybe there should be similar talk now. As it is, the establishment media will more than likely work very hard to ignore this.
It should not be ignored. What attorney Tom Lauria describes is nothing short of chilling.
What follows is a rush transcription, omitting the intro and wrap-up niceties, of an interview today between WJR's Frank Beckmann and Tom Lauria, attorney for most of (at the moment) Chrysler's non-TARP creditors (audio is here; NYT link in transcript added by me):
Somebody needs to 'fess up. Who put truth serum in Calvin Woodward's coffee this morning?
Whoever it is, they're in a heap of trouble, as Woodward produced a fact-checking critique of Barack Obama that is so good you'd swear most of it was ghostwritten by a conservative talk host.
It will be interesting to see how much distribution it gets. I would suggest not counting on too much, but being open to a pleasant surprise.
Regardless of its distribution, you'd better believe they've read it in the White House, and they're wondering what in the world happened.
Here are key paragraphs from Woodward's rundown, which is really, seriously, a read (and save) the whole thing item (it is saved at my host for future reference; HT to Mark Levin, who excerpted the report on his show tonight):
Playing off Keith Olbermann's "Worst Person in the World" shtick, some clever fellow started a petition recently at WorstBailoutIntheWorld.com calling on the "Countdown" host to return his recent pay raise to "Turbo Tax" Tim Geithner's Treasury Department. (h/t NewsBusters contributor Amy Menefee; see related story here)
The petition's full wording:
Dear Mr. Olbermann,
While General Electric, the parent-company of your MSNBC network, was negotiating a $126 billion taxpayer-funded bailout, you signed a new contract raising your salary from $4 million to $7.5 million annually. You have used your show as a platform to call for the resignation of corporate executives accepting excessive bonuses on the backs of taxpayers who are picking up the tab for these atrocious bailouts, yet you yourself have no problem engaging in the same “class economic rape” that you accuse them of.
While the business press has been preoccupied with day-to-day events in the ongoing saga of Government, er, General Motors, it has failed to note that its two closest competitors have gained substantial ground -- and quickly.
Leave it to CNN host Rick Sanchez to unintentionally give us a moment of comedy in an afternoon cable news broadcast.
On "CNN Newsroom" on April 28, Sanchez interviewed Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., about the departure of Sen. Arlen Specter, Pa., from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party. He asked the senator from South Carolina if Specter was correct in his analysis that the conservative wing of the Republican Party was squeezing out a segment of the electorate.
"You're shrinking the electorate to an extreme - to a point where a regular Republican can't win," Sanchez said, paraphrasing Specter. "What do you make of that argument?"
It was just a question of time. While it was hard to know where it would come from (although MSNBC is always a safe bet), someone was going to make the entire swine flu pandemic a partisan political issue.
"Well, here we go again - Republicans are playing politics with our health," Schultz said. "This kind of stuff just makes my temperature go up. I'm boiling over this - as many as 150 have been killed by this flu in Mexico. Cases are popping up allover the United States."
Remember the outrage over the compensation paid out to AIG executives earlier this year, after the federal government had to extend a lifeline to troubled insurance provider? Will the executives of a media company receive the same treatment - should they get their wish and receive help from the government for their company?
There's a little-publicized story that the parent company of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia Newspapers LLC allegedly sought a $10-million bailout from the state of Pennsylvania according to lawsuit filed by a Chester County, Pa. charter school. However, the Associated Press reported on April 24 that the company's chief, Brian Tierney - received $1.175 million in salary and bonus compensation in 2008, despite being forced into bankruptcy protection in February for $395 million in debt.
"Recent court filings also show that Tierney collected $1.175 million in salary and bonuses last year, somewhat higher than previously disclosed," Maryclaire Dale wrote for the AP. "Tierney's compensation included $650,000 in salary, a $350,000 bonus for 2008, a $175,000 bonus for 2007 and $81,000 in transportation costs."
"The liberal media deserve the Tammy Wynette Award for their coverage of Obama’s radical agenda, as they continue to devotedly stand by their man," quipped Media Research Center President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell in an April 27 statement.[see bottom of post for full press release]
"For the pro-Obama liberal media, the Obama honeymoon is nowhere near over," Bozell argued, reacting to the results of a study in which MRC analysts looked at 852 stories on the Obama administration from January 20 through April 15 on ABC's World News, the CBS Evening News and the NBC Nightly News.
Among the key findings thus far, MRC analysts noticed that the media have actively worked to:
It's a response that might incite laughter, as it did from conservative pundit Monica Crowley and MSNBC paleocon talker Pat Buchanan. According to Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, the current problems facing the country and President Barack Obama are due to capitalism.
"I give him a B+ because there's a lot of outcomes that haven't come in yet," Clift said. "But look, this isn't about the failure of government and the Republicans are on the wrong tact talking about big government. This is a failure of capitalism. He's trying to save capitalism."
On CNBC's April 24 "The Call," Santelli expressed his frustration with an overreaction by the government to solve the financial crisis when Kudlow asked him about the expansion of bailout obligations from the original TARP bailout price tag $750 billion to the $3 trillion.
"Listen - I'm glad I didn't say that, I'm glad I didn't say all that," Santelli said. "Do I disagree with it? Probably not. But, I'll take it a step farther - in the beginning, whether it was the commercial paper program, there was a need just like babies have a need for milk. But I don't need to drink a couple of gallons anymore."
Of all the things for CNN to pick as an e-mail alert topic, AutoNation's profitable first-quarter results seemed quite an odd selection. But there it was:
It appears that CNN wanted harried readers who wouldn't dig deeper to think that the "auto industry" as a whole is recovering, or at least stabilizing, and that maybe there's even a way out for General Motors and Chrysler that doesn't involve a real bankruptcy.
Memo to CNN: Nice try, no sale. A desktop review of AutoNation's situation indicates that it is holding its own precisely because is relatively less dependent on Detroit's output than dealers as a whole, and less dependent domestically on Government, er, General Motors and Chrysler than it is on Ford.
CNN's actual report on AutoNation's results by Peter Valdes-Dapena told us how much sales declined in each of the company's major segments, but failed to tell us how important each segment is:
Almost a year ago, I was posting on what I called the "Supply-Side Stunner" (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog).
In April 2008, the US Treasury collected an all-time record $407.3 billion ($403.75 billion after subtracting the first $3.35 billion wave of stimulus checks, which really should have been treated as outlays, that went out just before month-end). It was an indication that, as I said at the time, "many (entrepreneurs, businesspeople, and investors) are thinking, in the face of relentless media harping to the contrary, that 2008 will be at least as profitable (as 2007)."
This year, it's shaping up to be the "Bailout Year Bummer." Uncle Sam's fiscal year began on October 1 of last year, mere days before Congress passed the legislation that has come to be known as TARP, and a bit more than three months after Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, and Harry Reid promised to starve the economy of energy and punitively tax its highest producers, creating what I have since called the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy.
Through March, federal receipts were running 14% behind the previous year. Each month during the fiscal year has trailed the previous year, and degree of the difference has steadily increased.
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Lamestream Media The media coverage of the more than 800 Taxed Enough Already (TEA) Party protests that took place in all fifty states on April 15 ranged from disdainful dismissal of their nature, significance and import, to outright hostility towards the events and individual participants, to sexual innuendo-based full-on ridicule.
In this summary, we focused on the three major networks - NBC, ABC and CBS, the two left-of-center cable news networks - CNN and MSNBC and the three major "national" newspapers - the USA Today, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
While not an exhaustively comprehensive oeuvre of TEA Party bias, it contains many, many examples which serve to illustrate the broader antipathetic themes.
Update at end: NBC5's Bob Sirott responds to this post
Persuading Americans that Barack Obama is an effective president won't be easy. So local news outlets are lending a hand when they can. This was obvious last night on Chicago's NBC5 News at 10. Anchor Bob Sirott reported:
And now to a sign the president's economic stimulus is working. Bank of American today announced a $2.8 billion profit for the first quarter. That report was much better than expected and followed positive results from other banks. It also comes after a loss of more than $2 billion for the last three months of 2008. Bank of America received $45 billion as part of the financial rescue package.
Sirott's positive assessment of Obama's plan isn't justified. The big profits he touted are largely illusionary. Andrew Ross Sorkin explained why in "Bank Profits Appear Out of Thin Air," which appeared in yesterday's New York Times: