It has become clear what the Obama campaign's strategy for trying to win states like Michigan and Ohio is and will continue to be. In three steps, it's as follows: 1) Pretend that the states' Republican governors, John Kasich in Ohio and Rick Snyder in Michigan, who both succeeded free-spending Democrats who presided over stagnant economies, have had nothing to do with their increased employment, lower unemployment rates, and improved business climates (as well as balanced budgets in fiscal 2012 involving no tax increases, though Snyder may ruin that in Michigan this year); 2) Instead give the credit for all of these favorable developments to Obama and the governments' bailouts of Chrysler and General Motors; 3) Don't say anything about how other states run by Dems, particularly Illinois, North Carolina, and Connecticut, are lagging because they have instead tried to apply Washington's tax-and-spend model to their states' fiscal situations.
Of course the AP, aka the Adminisitration's Press, is all too willing to make the administration's laughable claims appear credible. It did so in two separate items this week, one giving basic details about the job-market situations in Ohio, Michigan, and North Carolina, and the other covering Obama allegedly improving chances of winning Ohio, Michigan, and a dozen other "swing" states. There was no mention of the Buckeye State's or Wolverine State's chief executives in either article.
UPDATE: The headline at AP's 9:37 a.m. report now reads "US unemployment claims signal slower hiring." That's nice, but it won't what was broadcast immediately after the report's release until news outlets become aware of the revision.
The games the Associated Press's Chris Rugaber and the wire service's headline writers are playing with the weekly unemployment claims from the Department of Labor are getting tiresome, and grow seemingly more disgraceful with each passing week. Today, DOL told us that initial unemployment claims were 386,000. Last week's 380,000 was revised upward to 388,000. Both figures are significantly higher than the number in the low 360s seen in the four prior weeks. The sadly predictable headline at Rugaber's AP story (saved here at host for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) follows the jump.
After reading Derek Kravitz's final report of the day at 4:45 p.m. on the housing market at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, I just had to check the other wires to see if they were sipping from the same housing-market-in-recovery koolaid.
The answer is no. At Reuters, Jason Lange's 3:22 p.m. dispatch reported that "Output at U.S. factories slipped in March and builders started construction on fewer homes, offering cautionary signals for an economy that appeared to be gaining traction." At Bloomberg, Timothy R. Homan wrote: "While warmer weather may have spurred home construction at the beginning of 2012, a competing supply of cheap existing properties may be steering potential buyers away from purchasing a new home. That means home construction may not help boost the economy in 2012." Both of these assessments make Kravitz's take on housing, which included omitting very negative data on housing starts, seem that much more bizarre (my comments in italics follow each paragraph):
The stunts the folks at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, continue pulling to downplay, minimize, or whitewash bad or embarrassing economic and other news shouldn't surprise us any more. But they continue to disappoint nonetheless.
Last month, a consumer sentiment index reported by the Conference Board fell by a relatively modest amount. Headlines and descriptions at related AP reports went from “falls” to “dips slightly” to “roughly flat” to a “rosy outlook” in the course of a single day. Today's AP rewrite only involved one step. At 9:04 a.m., Derek Kravitz's dispatch on the Census Bureau's New Home Construction report gave equal play to the seasonally adjusted (and totally unexpected) fall in new housing starts and the also unexpected but more modest rise in building permits:
Derek Kravitz and Alex Veiga at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, must have doubled down on the energy drinks over the weekend. A Sunday morning report (HT to a NewsBusters tipster) telling readers that signs are "pointing to a long-awaited recovery" in the housing market went on, and on, and on, and on for over 1,350 words.
The factors the AP pair cited were primarily these: "Hiring has strengthened," "Loans remain cheap," "Homes are more affordable," and "Americans are more confident." They should have known that their first point has become questionable with March's mediocre jobs report and the recent spike in weekly initial unemployment claims to 380,000 (which so happens to be above his colleague Christopher Rugaber's already too-high benchmark for job-market improvement of 375,000), and that their last point should read: "Americans are less un-confident."
Today's Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report from the Department of Labor revealed that, after seasonal adjustment, 380,000 Americans filed initial applications for unemployment benefits the week ending April 7. That figure was 13,000 higher than the week ending March 31. The AP headline at Christopher Rugaber's report as of 9:18 a.m.: "US applications for unemployment aid tick up."
Additionally, the March 31 initial claims figure of 357,000 was revised upward to 367,000. So the April 7 figure of 380,000 -- even before it almost certainly gets revised up next week (upward revisions have occurred in 53 of the past 54 weeks I have tracked) -- is 23,000 higher than what DOL initially reported for March 31. Yet Rugaber didn't tell his readers about the degree of the revision to March 31. Several paragraphs from the AP report, which contains an excuse which seasonal adjustment if done correctly by DOL should have covered, follow the jump (bolds are mine):
In his report on the February 2012 monthly federal deficit on March 12, Christopher Rugaber at the Associated Press (aka the Administration's Press) told readers that the month's deficit was $232 billion, but "somehow" forgot to tell readers that it was an all-time record for a single month in U.S. government history.
Well, there's good news, much worse news, and an utterly predictable agenda-driven item in the AP's coverage of March's deficit, this time courtesy of the wire service's Martin Crutsinger. The good news is that Crutsinger recognized that March's deficit was the highest on record for any March. The much worse news is that, as I forecast AP and others would do at my home blog last last week when the Congressional Budget Office estimated March's results, he failed to tell readers that March's spending of $369.37 billion was the highest single-month amount ever recorded by $30.32 billion -- a whopping 8.9% above the previous record of 339.05 billion set in March 2011. The increase is largely due to the fact that checks for many April 1 items were written on March 30 because April 1 was a Sunday, but a record is a record, and failing to recognize one (and only then trying to explain it away if there is cause for it) is shoddy journalism. The utterly predictable agenda-driven item is after the jump.
The issue has long been an awkward topic at the New York Times Co.Publisher Arthur Sulzberger earned bonus pay in the form of stock and stock options of $4.9 million dollars in 2005, and chief executive Janet Robinson departed last year in a golden parachute worth a staggering $15 million. Of course, the Times never mentions those particular instances of greedy executives, sticking with big bad corporations not named New York Times.
Even Singer's case for greedy chief executives boiled down to the outsized reward (in stock) of a single CEO, Timothy Cook of Apple, approved by shareholders by a wide margin. But before providing the pesky context, Singer tried to numb us with Cook's big number:
On Friday (covered at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), the Associated Press's headline at Paul Wiseman's dispatch after the release of the government's March jobs report was: "US job market takes a break after hiring binge." It was as if they just knew that March was an aberration, and that the "binging" would resume in April.
The markets weren't as convinced today: "Investors had a three-day weekend to brood over disappointing job growth in March. When they got back to work Monday and delivered their verdict, it wasn't good." Wiseman and AP regrouped today, identifying "5 reasons the US job market might be weakening":
Well, the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, apparently has Missouri Democratic Congressman and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver's back. As of 2:40 p.m., there is no national story relevant to Cleaver's unpaid $1 million-plus loan at the wire service's national site, even though information published by the Kansas City Star late Friday evening (interesting timing; HT to KC Star's David Helling, who later informed me that the story made Page A-1 of the Star's Saturday print edition, while the original received the same placement on Friday) indicates that taxpayers could be out up to $1.1 million because the Small Business Administration-backed a loan to Cleaver's car wash business back in 2002 which is has been seriously delinquent for years. The Bank has sued for repayment.
There is an unbylined local AP story which appears to have been published shortly after midnight on Monday (shown in full because of its brevity and for fair use and discussion purposes):
Did you know that the economy was on a "hiring binge" until February? Gosh, neither did I until the headline to Paul Wiseman's report at the Associated Press yesterday afternoon informed of that.
I also didn't know that economies took breaks, but that's what the AP's headline said the economy did in March. And don't worry -- "few economists expect hiring to fizzle in spring and summer, as it did the past two years." Correct me if I'm wrong, but they weren't expecting to see fizzling in 2011 or 2010, and guess what happened (or maybe they were just extended "breaks")? What follows are the first five paragraphs from Wiseman's dispatch, plus selected others:
It would seem that Paul Wiseman at the Associated Press had his copy prepared in advance for today's jobs report.
The consensus was that today's report from Uncle Sam's Bureau of Labor Statistics would show that 200,000 seasonally adjusted jobs were added in March. So it was a virtual lock that today's result would mean that the past four months were the best for net hiring in the past two years. Accordingly, after the report's release, Wiseman, despite the disappointing news that March's number was only 120,000, apparently just plugged in the four-month total and ran with it:
You're going to have a hard time convincing me that Associated Press CEO Dean Singleton's lavish praise of President Barack Obama noted earlier this week by Matt Sheffield at NewsBusters hasn't trickled down to the beat reporters and affected their day-to-day coverage.
Take this opening sentence from the AP's Christopher Rugaber written shortly after the Department of Labor released its weekly unemployment claims report: "The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell to a four-year low last week, suggesting employers kept hiring in March at a healthy pace." Really, Chris? Exactly how does less firing translate to more hiring? It doesn't (historical correlation, to the extent that it's there, doesn't signify causation). There are any number of firms which are not letting people go but which are also not hiring. Several other paragraphs from Rugaber's report follow:
Sugar is a “toxin” that is killing the unwitting masses, according to an April 1, “60 Minutes” hosted by CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Gupta and all of the medical experts that he interviewed argued that sugar leads to heart disease, cancer (by leading to the creation of insulin, which cancer cells use to trigger their growth), and that sugar can actually be compared to certain drugs, like “cocaine,” in that it triggers the pleasure centers in the brain.
An Associated Press report a week ago by Pallovi Gogoi on how economists would like to see taxes increased to close the government's annual budget deficit (I guess because tax increases have done so well at closing deficits before - /sarc) has a truly curious sentence about the Keystone Pipeline: "The project drew opposition from environmentalists, while supporters say it will create over 1,000 jobs." That's right -- 1,000.
Actually, as almost everyone at NewsBusters knows already, the number is much larger than 1,000. A recent item at About.com by Tom Murse identifies all of the major estimates offered thus far:
On Tuesday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted how the Associated Press's headlined assessments at Anne D'Innocenzio's reports throughout the day on the Conference Board's monthly consumer confidence survey went from "falls" to "dips slightly" to "roughly flat" before ending up at "rosy" -- an evaluation the AP reporter also included in the verbiage of her final dispatch. For the record, the confidence measurement fell to 70.2 in March from 71.6 in February. Bloomberg's final report for the day also obfuscated, with a headline of "Consumer Confidence in U.S. Holds Close to One-Year High" and an opening sentence which read: "Confidence among U.S. consumers in March held close to the highest level in a year, underpinned by an improving labor market" -- anything to keep any indication of drop out of what most people would see. Along the same lines, Rush Limbaugh also picked on Reuters Tuesday for saying that confidence only "eased."
The University of Michigan's Consumer Sentiment Survey came out today. The press release's opening sentence: "Consumer confidence edged upward as more favorable income and job trends offset rising gas prices." Its value (with a different scale) went from 75.3 to 76.2. That's also "roughly" flat, isn't it? Don't be silly. All three wires said that an increase smaller than Tuesday's Conference Board decrease was an unqualified "rise."
From what I can tell, no one in the establishment press yesterday attempted to quantify the total employment impact of yesterday's announcement by Best Buy that it will reduce its headquarters headcount by 400 and close 50 stores. One thing is certain: It's not just 400, as the headlines and verbiage in certain media reports might lead readers to believe -- and it's not excusable to say that the company itself didn't name a specific number of employees affected by the store closures.
An estimate of how many jobs will really be lost is after the jump, followed by a few misleading media examples. Note that the media review is based on reports from Thursday; today, we began learning which stores will be closing. They include five in the Twin Cities area where the company is headquartered.
Earlier this year, a reporter informed me of what is apparently a common belief in the business press, namely that "the Labor Department considers the (seasonally adjusted, or SA) numbers to be much more reflective of what’s actually going on in the economy" than the raw (i.e., not seasonally adjusted, or NSA) economic data. That's interesting, given that you can't even do seasonal adjustments without the raw data, but I digress. That expressed and almost blind belief in SA numbers explains why virtually no one in the press bothers to look at, let alone report, the NSA numbers.
But given this "seasoned" faith, why didn't the business press tell readers that today's revisions to SA figures for initial unemployment claims going back to 2007 released today by the Department of Labor increased the originally reported amounts for the past four weeks by an average of almost 4%? That's indeed what happened, and it hardly seems minor. Instead, Bloomberg, Reuters, and the Associated Press all celebrated today's number (359,000) as the lowest in four years -- which it will no longer be if it gets revised upward next week by 2,000 or more next week (the average seen during the past year has been a bit below 4,000). The specific changes are after the jump, followed by a rundown of the three wire services' coverage.
The science against BPA isn’t very convincing, yet the left-wing onslaught from environmental groups, activist scientists and the media has convinced many consumers that soup cans, soda bottles and plastic storage containers are going to make them sick.
In the case of BPA, perception and reality are far different, but false perceptions can still cost businesses millions -- or put them out of business altogether. The infamous Alar scare cost apple farmers $100 million according to a 1989 Associated Press report. Even growers who weren’t using Alar were devastated. By March 31, 2012, the FDA will announce a decision on the use of BPA in food and beverage packaging.
ABC’s attacks on USDA-approved beef have already put American jobs in jeopardy, and Dan Gainor, the Media Research Center’s VP of Business and Culture, appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Happening Now” on March 28 to discuss the sliming of Beef Products Inc. by the news media.
I had to make sure that the Conference Board, which issues one of the most closely watched consumer confidence reports each month, didn't issue some kind of update during the day after telling us in the morning that its reading for March came in at 70.2, down from 71.6 in February.
Nothing changed. But oh how the Associated Press's headlines about the Board's reported results changed in successive dispatches authored by the wire service's Anne D'Innocenzio, as seen after the jump from Google News listings:
An item filed at the Hill on Friday afternoon by Peter Schroeder tells us that Bloomberg News was the first organization to report the latest development relating to former New Jersey Democratic Governor and Senator Jon Corzine. Bloomberg's report, via Phil Mattingly and Silla Brush, reveals that Corzine, who was CEO at the now-bankrupt MF Global Holdings until November, "gave 'direct instructions' to transfer $200 million from a customer fund account to meet an overdraft in a brokerage account with JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), according to a memo written by congressional investigators." That would be an MF brokerage account, meaning that customer money was used to cover company losses. If the memo reflects what really happened, Corzine committed a crime -- either by committing perjury in his congressional testimony several months, in ordering the transfer itself, or both.
Bloomberg's report identifies Corzine as a Democrat in its fourteenth paragraph. But at least Bloomberg did so. That did not occur in reports at the Associated Press, United Press International, MarketWatch.com, CNBC. The Hill's Schroeder did tag Corzine as a Dem. Here are several paragraphs from Bloomberg's report (bolds are mine):
You've got to admire the determination of Derek Kravitz at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, to find lemonade among the lemons known as the monthly new-home construction statistics from the Census Bureau. Why, he was even able to find a guy who said that "housing permits-not the starts" are more relevant in gauging the health of the market. Did it ever occur to these guys that builders might be piling up permits in the hope that economic conditions will change for the better for real once it's clear that the country will have new leadership (which could conceivably happen even before the November general elections)?
Here are the first seven paragraphs from Kravitz's report, followed by a fuller rundown of the relevant stats (bolds are mine):
Once again, CNN's Piers Morgan is pouting that corporations like Apple should bring jobs back to the U.S. simply because they should. Morgan was rebutted by Chris Christie the last time he made that reasoning at the expense of shareholders' profits, but he was at it again on Monday night.
He has a "constant nagging problem" with Apple making money overseas. "So they are making squillions of dollars. And yet they still employ massively larger sums of people in China than they do in America," he fretted to guest Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). [Video below the break. Audio here.]
The exercise of watching the press report on the current week's unemployment claims figure as if it's etched in stone and assessing it as if it's the last word -- only to see the figure get upwardly revised the next week virtually without media comment -- is getting extraordinarily tedious and predictable (but of course watching what they do remains necessary).
At the Associated Press, Bloomberg, and Reuters, this week's version of the shell game has a relatively unique twist. The three wire services respectively and all without qualification say that today's seasonally adjusted figure of 351,000 from the Department of Labor "matches a four-year low," "the lowest level in four years," and "back to a four-year low." As seen in the graphic which follows, based on the history of the past year, there's a 98% chance they will be wrong after subsequent revisions, almost all of which have occurred during the very next reported week:
The New York Times told us about three weeks ago that "there's little President Obama" can do about the current pump price of gas. Since then, it has become a well-established media meme. Poor guy.
Well, not really. Four years ago, another U.S. president did something which caused the barrel price of oil to drop by over $6, and the press spent the rest of the day trying to pretend that the drop had nothing to do with his actions -- and almost succeeded. What follows is from my related NewsBusters post on July 15, 2008 ("Oil Drops Over $6 a Barrel; I Wonder Why?"):
At the Associated Press as of 7:30 p.m., its Top Business stories (saved here for future reference) top headline read: "Strong 3 months of hiring as US adds 277,000 jobs." The headline at the underlying article (saved here) reads the same. Related pics are after the jump.
Yesterday was sort of "Pick on Christopher Rugaber at the Associated Press Day." So when I came across a particularly reprehensible report he filed last night whining about the difficulty the economy may face in meeting heightened expectations -- with yet another reference to the wire service's obsession with its relevance to President Obama's approval ratings and reelection -- I let it go.
That changed when I learned about and then read Kyle Drennen's NewsBusters post today about CNBC's Carl Quintanilla, Friday's fill-in Today show host. Carl Q spoke of how "...we're in a situation where we're sort of managing expectations, especially for the White House." "We" are "managing expectations ... especially for the White House"? What Carl Q said seems to have been influenced by what Rugaber wrote yesterday. Especially note the last excerpted paragraph (bolds are mine):
Earlier today (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted the press's ridiculously forgiving coverage of today's reported increase in unemployment claims while concentrating primarily on RTT News's assertion that the unemployment rate should continue to come down as long as weekly claims stay below 400,000. Three years ago, Christopher Rugaber's threshold at the Associated Press, also known to yours truly as the Administration's Press, was 325,000. He has since raised it (including in today's report) to 375,000.
This afternoon, Rush Limbaugh expanded on wire service's knee-jerk defense of mediocre-to-bad economic news, taking particular umbrage at the thoroughly misleading headline at Rugaber's report, as well as his first paragraph, which I will relay first before posting part of Rush's reaction:
The Department of Labor reported today that initial claims for unemployment benefits increased to 362,000 from an upwardly revised (as usual) 354,000 the previous week. Expectations were for a reading of 351,000 (Business Insider's email) or 352,000 (Bloomberg).
Over at the Associated Press, also known as the Administration's Press, the headlined reaction in its 9:17 a.m. report was: "Applications Hover Near Low Levels." As usual, it took a New Media source, in this case Zero Hedge, to point out something potentially troubling in the news, namely that "this is the first time we have seen three consecutive weeks of rises since August 2010." True, the rises have been modest, but next week will almost certainly see an upward revision to this week (the case for 51 of the past 52 weeks, averaging almost 4,000 and with no decreases). Modest or not, they run counter to presumptive press claims that the job market is "healing" (Reuters) and "improving" (Bloomberg). The howler of the day came from RTT News, which "offers custom news and information solutions" for which subscribers apparently pay at least $250 a month: