The headline and opening sentence in Derek Kravitz's Associated Press report this morning on the Census Bureau's homebulding industry data release gives readers the impression that industry activity increased impressively during September. It increased a tiny bit, but certainly not by the percentage indicated.
The headline ignorantly assumes that a double-digit increase in housing starts is the same as an increase in "home building." It isn't. That headline, the first four paragraphs from Kravitz's report, and some other indicators of housing market progress -- and the stunning lack thereof, three full years after the politicians promised that the Troubled Asset Relief Program would right the ship -- follow the jump (bolds are mine):
UPDATE, 4 p.m.: NB gets results? The Lowe's story is currently #10 on the AP's Business home page (saved here).
It's a good thing I heard this on the radio at about 11:00 a.m., because I might otherwise have missed it. With yours truly's opinion along for the ride, I'll let readers judge whether the news of the Lowe's home improvement chain announcing that it will close 20 stores and cut its new store opening plans by one-half to two-thirds deserved to be in the top ten business stories at the Associated Press as of 12:52 p.m.
Here are the ten which made the cut in order of appearance on the wire service's Business home page (saved here for future reference, fair use, and discussion purposes; original link not made because of frequent changes):
Yesterday, Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider reacted to the mixed economic news of the day by observing: "Lots of folks are scratching their head about today's dismal UMich/Reuters consumer sentiment number coming in so ugly, just as retail sales for September came in so strong."
It seems that the folks at the Associated Press were not among the head-scratchers. From all appearances, the self-described Essential Global News Network, whose acronym might as well stand for "The Administration's Press," didn't cover the consumer sentiment story at all. What follows are several paragraphs from Alex Kowalski at Bloomberg News describing just how ugly it was, complete with the "U-word" we've all come to know and laugh at (bolds are mine throughout this post):
The Occupy Wall Street protestors have received overwhelmingly positive coverage from the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) news networks, as they used their airtime to publicize and promote the aggressively leftist movement. In just the first eleven days of October, ABC, CBS and NBC flooded their morning and evening newscasts with a whopping 33 full stories or interview segments on the protesters. This was a far cry from the greeting the Tea Party received from the Big Three as that conservative protest movement was initially ignored (only 13 total stories in all of 2009) and then reviled.
Where the Tea Party was met with skeptical claims of their motivations -- with some reporters claiming they were merely corporate backed puppets and others implying they were spurred on by their racist opposition to the first black president – the Occupy Wall Street crowd was depicted as an almost genial “grassroots” movement.
One day after lauding the persistence of the "Occupy Wall Street" protests, CNN's American Morning pressured conservative contributor Erick Erickson to "admit" that the protests are indeed "resonating," and that his own counter-movement is much smaller.
"You've got to – you've got to admit it. The 'Occupy Wall Street' folks are resonating," Romans insisted to Erickson. "I mean, we just had an ORC poll this week that showed that majority of Americans have heard of the movement. The 'We Are the 53' is much smaller." [Video below the break. Click here for audio.]
A study by the Media Research Center finds that the three broadcast networks are providing virtually no coverage of the Solyndra scandal, a solar energy firm that went bankrupt after getting more than $500 million in taxpayer money from the Obama administration. This is not the approach the networks took after the collapse of Enron, an energy company with Republican ties. In just the first two months of 2002, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts cranked out 198 stories on the Enron debacle, compared to just eight so far on Solyndra, a 24-to-1 disparity. Details after the jump.
Yesterday, in a different post about long-term unemployment, I wrote: "Of all the reality-denying aspects of Obama administration press coverage, the usually implicit but occasionally explicit assertion that he and his people are just helpless bystanders in an economic calamiity is easily among the most annoying."
Bloomberg's Mike Dorning triggered the annoyance meter today with an "analysis" contending that President Obama's move from being a "conciliator" (quoting an alleged "expert") to supporting "populist causes" and sympathizing with the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street assemblage "may provide some inoculation" against the continuing bad economy -- as if Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the their party bear no conceivable responsibility for current economic conditions. Here are the first seven paragraphs of Dorning's dreck (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
Chicago Mayor and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel went after GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney yesterday over the 2008-2009 state of the auto industry. Emanuel, as paraphrased by the Associated Press, believes that "had Republican candidate Mitt Romney been president the nation would no longer have an auto industry" -- though last time I checked, Ford Motor Company, which did not accept federal government bailout money, is still headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, which is still in the USA.
In his coverage of Emanuel's comments, the Detroit News's Dave Shepardson -- who infamously and falsely claimed in February 2010 that Toyota executives "bragged" and "boasted" about saving money on safety recalls when Japanese culture deeply frowns on the practice to the point of shunning people who engage in it -- headlined Emanuel's "no industry" howler, and committed several factual errors. In addition, he missed a quite relevant and critical March 2009 episode of support from Romney -- for better or worse (readers can decide) -- when President Obama engineered the ouster of General Motors' CEO. Here are excerpts from Shepardson's shilling:
As shown in Part 1, this afternoon's report on long-term unemployment at the Associated Press by Sam Hananel attempted to create the impression but provided no actual evidence for the notion that complaints by many who have been unemployed for an extended time period that many employers are reluctant to consider and sometimes even refuse to consider their employment inquiries and applications equals support for provisions in President Obama's American Jobs Act which would for all practical purposes make them another protected class.
The AP reporter also completely failed to tell readers why the problem has reached an unprecedented post-Depression level, namely that the economy, largely due to failed public policy choices, has thus far taken three times as long to recover from its recession than it did during any other post-recession period after World War II. The following single paragraph is as close as Hananel got:
The headline this afternoon at the Associated Press to a report by Sam Hananel attempted to create the impression that complaints by many who have been unemployed for an extended time period that many employers are reluctant to consider and sometimes even refuse to consider their employment inquiries and applications equals support for provisions in President Obama's American Jobs Act which would for all practical purposes make them another protected class.
No doubt there is some support for the (in my opinion) misguided notion, but Hananel's underlying report never quoted an actual long-term unemployed person supporting the idea. Additionally, as I will cover in Part 2, the AP reporter also failed to tell readers why the problem has reached an unprecedented post-Depression level, namely that the economy, largely due to failed public policy choices, has thus far taken three times as long to recover from its recession than it did during any other post-recession period after World War II. Here are key paragraphs from Hananel's dispatch concerning the problem:
Does Bill Maher ever listen to the nonsense coming out of his mouth to make sure he doesn't contradict himself from one minute to the next?
On Friday's "Real Time," the host paid his respects to Steve Jobs by claiming how liberal the Apple founder was adding "He was not a corporate type" only to minutes later accurately note, "Apple makes their s--t in China. And they could still make it here and make a big profit, but they make more of a profit by making it in China" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
In a report filed at the Los Angeles Times's Politics Now blog earlier today, Washington Bureau reporter James Oliphant relayed a number of whoppers delivered by Vice President Joe Biden without anything resembling a challenge. In Part 1, I noted how Biden, who in August described Tea Party sympathizers as "terrorists" and in September as "barbarians," today spoke in complimentary terms of how much the Occupy Wall Street crowd has in common with them. In Part 2, I dealt with the Veep's hit at financially struggling Bank of America for having the nerve to try to recover some of what the Dodd-Frank "financial reform" legislation took away by charging some customers a $5 monthly fee for debit-card use.
This final part will deal with Biden's rendition of how the "bank bailout" portion of TARP operated, which is quite different from the reality. The relevant excerpt from Oliphant, which necessarily overlaps the first two parts, follows (bolds are mine throughout):
If you only read Thursday's coverage of Bank of America's decision to impose a $5 monthly debit card fee by Associated Press Personal Finance Writer Candice Choi, you would have no idea that last year's "Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act" triggered BofA's decision. The legislation gave the Federal Reserve the power to limit debit card interchange fees. The Fed's limit -- 21 cents plus 0.5% of each purchase transaction -- basically cut the banks' fees by about half from their pre-Dodd-Frank level. CardHub.com estimates that the cap will reduce banks' fee income by $9.4 billion annually.
Ms. Choi only cited the existence of "a new rule" in her opening paragraph. She then waited until the ninth paragraph to vaguely cite the existence of "a regulation." It hardly seems accidental that most news consumers who didn't follow the fee fight a year ago will probably have the impression that banks are driving the fee increases, as the following excerpt will demonstrate (bolds are mine):
What if I told you that the government put out a report today which would lead one to infer that the economy might barely have grown last year, and that it even may have contracted -- and that the reporter who appears to have been the only one who covered it didn't grasp its potential significance (or, conceivably, chose to ignore it)?
Today the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual "Consumer Expenditures Survey" for 2010. As of 8:30 p.m., a Google News search on "consumer expenditures government" (not in quotes, past 24 hours, sorted by date, with duplicates) returned 72 items (the first page says over 2,400, but it's really only 72). All relevant results represent Associated Press reports filed by Marting Crutsinger (Yahoo Finance version here).
Here are the key paragraphs from Crutsinger's report which gave away the problem -- or at least should have, if the AP reporter had made one obvious comparison:
The Conference Board's September Consumer Confidence Survey came out this morning. Overall, it rose very slightly from a miserable 45.2 to a still-miserable 45.4. Consumers' assessment of near-term prospects slid from 34.3 to in August to 32.5, while their longer-term outlook improved from 52.4 to 54.0.
At the Associated Press (saved here for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes), Retail Writer Anne D'Innocenzio characterized the element of the report relating to jobs thusly:
Let's note the likely reason why what Julia Seymour observed earlier today is the case -- namely, that network news reports have taken to calling the Solyndra situation an "embarrassment."
The use of that term probably dates back to September 16, which is as far as I can tell the first time the Associated Press filed a beyond-perfunctory report about now-bankrupt Solyndra, the beneficiary of over $500 million in Energy Department loan guarantees. In January, the government also gave Solyndra's principal investors preferential treatment in advance of what was a clearly inevitable bankruptcy. Tuesday evening, the AP's Matthew Daly went to the E-word again in the final paragraph of the excerpt which follows:
UPDATE: BizzyBlog commenter "Rich in Iowa" notes that what the AP is criticizing is "a clearinghouse for employers and job seekers hosted by the State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development and this site pre-dates Walker’s Governorship by, oh, maybe a decade."
Boy, Scott Bauer and the Associated Press have really, really nailed Scott Walker this time -- not.
Bauer found that some of the jobs listed in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's "Job Center of Wisconsin" website are located in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan). Imagine that: The Badger State's governor is including jobs in neighboring states because he apparently believes that his state would be better off if some of its unemployed workers found jobs across the border. Oh the humanity.
The Solyndra scandal is certainly an "embarrassment" for the White House, as some network news reports have called it. But somehow those same reports have still failed to criticize Obama's green jobs programs for fiscal waste, even the government loan program that gave Solyndra millions.
To their credit, all three broadcast networks aired stories in September about the California solar company that declared bankruptcy in August after getting a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government in September 2009. But out of 11 network stories on Solyndra this year (most in September), not a single one used the company's failure to criticize the loan program it used to get more than half a billion taxpayer dollars.
So I figure that I need to catch up on the LightSquared saga. This is the company which, as Fox News reported on Thursday (the URL date is September 15, though the time stamp is the next day) is building "a nationwide, next-generation, 4G phone network."
The problem is, as Fox further noted, that there are concerns that "many, including (General William) Shelton, think (the network) would seriously hinder the effectiveness of high-precision GPS receiver systems, a product used most commonly by the United States military." Shelton told a congresspersons "in a classified briefing earlier this month" that he was asked by the Obama administration to change (but apparently didn't) his testimony about said dangers.
So I went to the Associated Press's main page at 9:50 this evening, did a search on the company's name, and got back the following:
President Barack Obama's nicknaming his new tax increases on the wealthy the "Warren Buffett rule" is fitting since the billionaire has spent a decade campaigning for a tax hike, a campaign his friends in the liberal media have been more than willing to join. For over 10 years the media promoted Buffett's complaint that the wealthy in America don't pay enough in taxes, spurred on by a Buffett's anecdote that he pays less in taxes than his receptionist.
But even the AP has pointed out, the idea that secretaries pay more in taxes than their bosses is inaccurate. A review of IRS 2009 tax tables (Link to Excel spreadsheet) shows that those making under $100,000/year pay an average of no more than 12.3% of their income in taxes, while those making above $500,000 pay an average of no less than 26.3% of their income in taxes. However, this fact hasn't stopped the liberal media from happily advancing Buffett's call to soak his fellow rich.
Part 1 on the Associated Press's September 16 evening story ("Obama admin reworked Solyndra loan to favor donor"; saved here at my web host for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) by Matthew Daly and Jack Gillum criticized the reporters and the wire service for making it appear as if all the findings in the story were the result of original work.
Two other paragraphs in the report in my opinion represent a blatant but clumsy attempt to give the impression that the bankruptcy of a major beneficiary of Department of Energy stimulus-driven loans was a bipartisan fiasco:
The public learned on September 3 from William McQuillen at Bloomberg (possibly earlier elsewhere) that now-bankrupt Soyndra's private investors restructured the company's finances in January by lending the company "$75 million." As a condition of doing so, they convinced the government to give the new loan senior status over all other creditors. Now taxpayers face a likely loss of hundreds of millions in Department of Energy loans, perhaps over $500 million.
But if you haven't stayed with or are unfamiliar with the story and read the Associated Press report this evening by Matthew Daly and Jack Gillum, you would think that the wire service did all of the dirty work to learn these things (credit-hogging language in bold):
MSNBC ranter extraordinaire Dylan Ratigan is no fan of "crony capitalism" -- when businessmen get government to help them socialize the risk of their ventures through government subsidies or bailouts, leaving taxpayers on the hook for failure while reaping the benefits of government largesse.
The Obama administration's handling of solar energy firm Solyndra is a perfect example of same.
Yet this week, Ratigan's been strangely silent on the Solyndra congressional investigation this week, even as it's been covered in major newspaper outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post.
It's hard to figure out why Tom Krisher at the Associated Press bothered filing a report on the status of contract talks between Detroit's Big 3 automakers and the United Auto Workers. The only reason I can discern is that he wanted to brag about how he and his wire service pals have access to anonymously-sourced info about how the talks are going. Surprise: As has been the case almost always for about the past 30-plus years, It's coming down to the wire with the two sides supposedly far apart at two of the three companies. Knock me over with a feather.
Krisher failed to inform readers of three quite important sets of facts. First (seriously), he never told readers that General Motors and Chrysler workers have no-strike contract clauses prohibiting them from job actions until 2015, i.e., only Ford is financially vulnerable. Second, he failed to note that the government still holds a significant (and probably board-controlling) share of GM, or that a UAW healthcare trust owns 46.5% of Chrysler (down from an original 55%). Finally, because he didn't disclose the ownership stakes, he failed to note the obvious conflict of interest the UAW has in negotiating with Ford, or the possible government-influenced pressure on the union to drive a hard bargain with Ford on GM's behalf.
Today, the White House's Office of Management and Budget published its Mid-Session Review (large PDF), an economic forecast projecting, among other things, that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for calendar 2011 will be 1.7%. That doesn't sound like much (and it isn't), but to get there growth will have to almost triple its most recently reported level during the second half of the year. Second-half growth will also have to exceed the estimates of most economists.
Good luck finding any skepticism in the press over OMB's numbers. What follows is the numerical runthrough, followed by two media coverage examples.
Two weeks ago (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), yours truly pointed out how establishment press coverage of the bankruptcy of Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar had emphasized its Bay State assistance, and only rarely brought up how it benefitted by being able to sell solar panels it otherwise would probably not have bothered to produce to projects benefitting from American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ("stimulus") dollars.
On August 17, Larry Dignan of ZDNet, in an item published at CBSnews.com, tried to convince readers that Evergreen's failure was not indicative of an industry meltdown (bolds are mine):
Poor President Obama. There's only so much he can do to lift the economy. He's tried so much already, yet somehow it just hasn't worked. Now his options are limited by those darned Republican demands for "fiscal austerity" and a "tight debt ceiling" (of "only" $2.4 trillion) which was only raised by enough to get him through his reelection effort (in 14-1/2 months).
This is the utter garbage in a Tuesday morning report ("Obama faces tight restraints in crafting jobs plan") the Associated Press's Jim Kuhnhenn expects his wire service's readers, listeners, and viewers to swallow, and its subscribing media outlets to non-skeptically publish and broadcast.
In an early version of Julie Pace's coverage of President Obama's selection of Alan Krueger to be the next head of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the following paragraph appeared (bolds are mine):
There’s some strange respect shown today for one particular multi-billionaire investor in the liberal pages of the New York Times. Friday’s lead story by Nelson Schwartz, “Buffett to Invest $5 Billion In Shaky Bank of America.” introduced Buffett as “Warren E. Buffett, the legendary investor, is sinking $5 billion into Bank of America in a bold show of faith in the country’s biggest, and most beleaguered, financial institution.” Schwartz also called him “the legendary investor” in a March 23, 2008 story.
In all, Times reporters have referred to Buffett as a “legendary investor” at least nine times in its pages over the last five years, not counting several references to him as a “legendary investor” on the paper’s DealBook blog. No other investor has been hailed as “legendary” in print more than once by the Times.
In his coverage of the Department of Labor's weekly report on unemployment claims this morning, the Associated Press's Christopher Rugaber, after noting how initial claims filed by Communications Workers of America members who are on strike against Verizon (more on that later) inflated this week's and last week's results, wrote that "excluding the work stoppage, layoffs appear to be stabilizing. That should help ease fears that the economy is on the verge of a recession."
The following chart, which excludes those workers' claims during the past two weeks, doesn't exactly give wholehearted support to Rugaber's key contentions: