The news media have recently been struck with World Cup fever, with two broadcast networks sending reporters to South Africa to cover the games. At the same time, a bailout request that could cost taxpayers another $50 billion was ignored by most broadcast news programs.
ABC, CBS and NBC spent a combined 25 minutes 54 seconds talking about World Cup soccer between June 13 and 15. That was more than 38 times what they spend talking about Obama's latest call for further government spending - which was guaranteed to upset taxpayers.
While the World Cup is a worthwhile story, U.S. taxpayers might have ranked a request for $50 billion more of their dollars higher than the networks did.
Obama sent a letter to Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle June 12, urging them to pass a "derailed" $50 billion state bailout bill. But the three broadcast networks' newcasts have all but ignored it. "Good Morning America" was the only network newscast to mention the president's push for more stimulus. Its story was 40 seconds long.
The network morning and evening news shows have all but ignored President Obama's Saturday letter to congressional leaders asking for $50 billion in additional spending to prevent the "massive layoffs of teachers, police, and firefighters." Only Sunday's Good Morning America on ABC has covered the President's request so far.
The chief executive's June 12 letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Minority Leader John Boehner urged "swift action" on the multi-billion dollar proposal to prevent the public sector layoffs and "give our nation's businesses added impetus to hire and grow."
ABC anchor Bill Weir brought up the President's letter with White House correspondent Jake Tapper 13 minutes into the 8 am Eastern hour of Sunday's Good Morning America:
In a PBS interview June 2, Vice President Joseph Biden predicted 700,000 to 1.4 million jobs would be created by the end of 2010. But at most, that would still be more than 5.2 million jobs shy of matching President Obama's claims about economic stimulus.
Biden forecast job creation "between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs on average all the way through this year" in an interview with Charlie Rose. He also predicted "trouble in paradise" for the GOP.
Left-wing website The Huffington Post reported the prediction calling it "fairly safe" by "recent trends." Sam Stein wrote that, "Biden would not, however, mark a date when he thought the unemployment rate would dip to, say, six percent."
Stein didn't remind readers that Obama said the stimulus package would create more than 4 million jobs by the end of 2010. Once you take out temporary jobs and the 100,000 minimum needed every month to keep up with population growth, the economy would need to create 932,000 new permanent jobs each and every month through the end of 2010.
Update - 5/27, 3:08 PM | Lachlan Markay: A new Harvard study finds that increased government spending actually reduces economic activity, contradicting the basic premise behind CBO's assumptions. Details below.
Good economic news is so rare for the current administration, that when some does emerge, many in the media parrot it as fact without really examining the claims that undergird it. New CBO numbers on the stimulus, for instance, have been trumpeted as proof the legislation at least helped, despite the fact that the numbers have little to no basis in reality.
Congressional Budget Office models are based on the assumption that stimulus spending will create jobs. They assume the conclusion they purport to demonstrate, and then claim they've demonstrated it. But if the model is inaccurate or simply based on false premises, it simply goes on tallying jobs "created or saved" without regard to the actual employment rate.
In March, a reporter asked CBO director Doug Elmendorf: "If the stimulus bill did not do what it was originally forecast to do, then that would not have been detected by the subsequent analysis, right?" His response: "That's right. That's right." Yet despite those numbers' disconnect from reality, the media continue to report them as fact, and proof that the stimulus is working.
A $787-billion stimulus. Liabilities of $356 billion for the TARP bailout on the federal government's balance sheet. And that's in addition to other unfunded liabilities from federal entitlements like ObamaCare, Medicare, and Social Security.
But that doesn't mean the U.S. is heading down the path toward socialism because they were one-time expenditures, according to CNBC senior economics reporter Steve Liesman.
On CNBC's "Squawk Box" April 29, as jobless claims for the week was being released on the floor of the CME Group in Chicago, co-host Joe Kernen asked for Liesman's opinion.
The Pentagon rescinded the invitation of evangelist Franklin Graham to speak at its May 6 National Day of Prayer event because of complaints about his previous comments about Islam.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation expressed its concern over Graham's involvement with the event in an April 19 letter sent to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. MRFF's complaint about Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham, focused on remarks he made after 9/11 in which he called Islam "wicked" and "evil" and his lack of apology for those words.
Col. Tom Collins, an Army spokesman, told ABC News on April 22, "This Army honors all faiths and tries to inculcate our soldiers and work force with an appreciation of all faiths and his past comments just were not appropriate for this venue."
So you do your part and pay your taxes to the federal government. However, you feel you pay too much and you don't like how that same government uses that money. Do you have the right to petition and protest that government?
If it's on federal land that your tax dollars paid for, then your protest is hypocritical nonsense, according to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. To her, the tea partiers, who protested on the government land of the National Mall, are hypocrites. Worse, they're getting unwarranted media coverage.
"In the case of the tea partiers, though, mainstream media coverage has been willing to almost assume that they're making sense, even in the face of evidence to the contrary," Maddow said on her April 21 program. "Because the idea of being in favor of smaller government, the idea that government is inherently wasteful and incompetent and should be shrunk, because that idea has shifted from a conservative movement talking point 30 years ago to centrist Beltway common wisdom today, sometimes we don't recognize the hypocrisy when it's right in our face. The conservative movement won the framing fight. It doesn't sound crazy anymore to rail against the federal government while standing in a national park until you really think about it."
Remember that $787-billion stimulus passed last year, the one that was supposed to keep unemployment from hitting double digits by invigorating a new green economy? Well it hasn't exactly worked.
Conventional wisdom would suggest not trying it again. Based on the nearly 10 percent unemployment, it's obvious Keynesian economic policies, where the government is a major force in an economy, don't work. However, MSNBC's "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough made the case for an even bigger trip down that route.
"We talked about Sputnik at the event we did last year," Scarborough said on his April 21 program. "I wrote in my book last year that Sputnik was the moment that Eisenhower, a Republican, leaned forward and created a new generation of engineers, a new generation of scientists. That led to the Mercury program, the Apollo program, a man walking on the moon and the Internet. Can we make that type of, again, long-term investment?"
MSNBC's Monica Novotny on Friday highlighted a dubious Vanity Fair piece lamenting the "cost" of the Republican Party opposing Barack Obama's agenda. The News Live host talked to writers Duff McDonald and Peter Keating about their contention that the "party of no" has cost taxpayers $1.34 billion.
Apparently, the GOP and various conservative organizations total this much by not supporting health care or the stimulus. Never mentioned in the article or during the segment is the fact that Obama's spending on those two items alone will end up costing taxpayers $3.3 trillion, 2500 times the amount of the expensive Republicans.
During the segment, Keating snidely remarked, "And, you know, Republican offices need heat and light and water and sewage. People are showing up just to say no and we're paying for it!" Earlier in the piece, Novotny played along and complained, "So, for that [the price of the GOP], we've got nothing?"
The media is still having trouble understanding the Tea Party movement and what it is protesting, even though its roots are clear.
On Feb. 19, 2009 during CNBC's "Squawk Box," Rick Santelli made his famous rant heard around the world, calling for a so-called tea party-style revolt. And that helped fuel the growth of a Tea Party movement that has resulted in more than 600 protests this April 15, 2010.
Santelli's call for protest wasn't about high taxes. Instead, it was a cry against the Obama administration's plan for a taxpayer-funded mortgage bailout. The very beginning of the tea parties was about bailouts and the growth of government.
But the Associated Press still seemed to miss the point about worries over an overspending government in an April 15 article by Calvin Woodward about the Tea Party rallies. In that report, Woodward defended Obama's tax policies.
"Lost in the rhetoric was that taxes have gone down under Obama," Woodward wrote. "Congress has cut individuals' federal taxes for this year by about $173 billion, leaving Americans with a lighter load despite nearly $29 billion in increases by states. Obama plans to increase taxes on the wealthy to help pay for his health care overhaul and other programs."
Pop quiz: how do you cut taxes on low and middle-income wage earners and end up with a greater percentage of people paying taxes?
Such is a question the folks at the Associated Press should be asking themselves concerning a piece the wire service published Wednesday entitled "Nearly Half of US Households Escape Fed Income Tax: Recession, new tax credits have nearly half of US households paying no federal income tax."
In the same paragraph, author Stephen Ohlemacher predictably bashed former President George W. Bush's tax cuts that were "generous to wealthy taxpayers" while he applauded "tax cuts for low- and middle-income families, which were expanded when Obama signed the massive economic recovery package last year."
There's only one problem with this premise - the net result was that a higher percentage of people paid federal income taxes in Obama's first year in office than in Bush's last:
A recent blog post from Earl Devaney seeks to dispel several so-called myths involving the Recovery Board, but does little to dispel the notion that those operating the Recovery.gov Web site are woefully inept.
In fact, Devaney's defense for the ‘phantom' congressional districts (clerical errors), the claims that he reports to the Obama administration (they simply listen and adjust their thinking), and the complaint that Recovery.gov itself cost $18 million to overhaul (it might cost up to $18 million), make the operation look amateurish at best.
Couple all of this with stories of overly complicated systems involved in the stimulus application process, and inaccuracies in the reporting of supposed ‘two-time losers' - an error that prompted a statement of apology from the board -, and one can only envision those CareerBuilder monkey commercials from years past.
More troubling is Recovery.gov's insistence on using the phrase ‘jobs created' when tracking stimulus funds - as can be seen here on a report designed to show the viewer the ‘Most Jobs Created by State'. This comes nearly three months after Ed Pound, Spokesman for the Recovery Board, told ABC News that, "...since OMB is not going to use ‘jobs created or jobs saved' anymore, we're not going to use it either."
The reason the Office of Management and Budget was distancing itself from the phrase?
Democratic congressional efforts to steer the economy not working as advertised. The $787-billion stimulus passed back in early 2009 failed to curb unemployment as promised, and there are other risks of putting a blind trust in government to solve the nation's economic woes.
And to give credit where credit is due, CNN's Christine Romans is pointing these risks out. On the April 5 broadcast of "CNN Newsroom" hosted by Ali Velshi, Romans was asked about the politics of extending unemployment benefits, which were held up through the Easter recess by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. According to Romans, there is a tug-of-war going on in the Senate.
"The Senate Democrats say they are going to plug ahead and plow forward," Romans said. "The issue here is the same issue as last month basically. You have some Republicans - one in particular, Sen. Tom Coburn from Oklahoma - saying, ‘Look, we've got to be able to pay for this. Let's pay for it. Let's do it. It's the right thing to do to help people. Let's find a way to pay for it.' And you have Democrats who are saying, ‘No, this is emergency spending. This is an emergency. The jobless situation is an emergency. Let's just do it right now quickly without finding another way to pay for it.'"
Former Clinton operative turned journalist George Stephanopoulos interviewed former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich on Friday's Good Morning America and wondered what more the government can do to bring down unemployment.
After business reporter Suzy Welch highlighted the plight of states with high unemployment having to layoff teachers, Stephanopoulos advocated, "Suzy, that would mean more stimulus, more aid to state and local governments. Can you buy that?"
Talking to his former colleague, Reich, the anchor wondered, "So, the big question is, what more, if anything, does the government need to do about [unemployment]?"
Back on Christmas Eve of 2009, Obama's Treasury Dept. said it would lift the limits on what the federal government could provide in "emergency aid" to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - without seeking Congressional permission.
Very few reporters noticed, except for The Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb who reported the story on Christmas Day and CNBC CME Group reporter and tea party inspiration Rick Santelli, who later pleaded for the public to take notice. With that occurrence in mind, Santelli scoffed at Sen. Chris Dodd's, D-Conn., legislative proposal of financial system reform that did not include reforms on both Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE).
"You know, I can't believe, first of all - you said, may not be included. They are not going to be included," Santelli said on "Fast Money" March 12. "And I think to put a moniker of reform on something that doesn't include Freddie and Fannie is very disingenuous. And I think that to pass something - what I heard Mr. Dodd say, Sen. Dodd, was, you know, it's the 101st senator. In other words, you know, we'll pass anything we have to show that we're doing something, no matter if it's the right thing or not, you know, I'm not buying that again."
At the top of Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith promoted the idea of division within the GOP as he declared: "A controversial vote for brand new Republican Senator Scott Brown, as he sides with Democrats to help push through a jobs bill."
While it's certainly true that some conservatives took real issue with Brown's support of the $15 billion spending bill, Smith clearly saw an opportunity to stir up conflict on the Right: "the senator who broke the Democrats' super majority, Scott Brown, is taking some heat today from conservatives."
Rather than talk to any conservatives about the issue, Smith instead turned to liberal-leaning political analyst John Dickerson and observed that Brown siding with Democrats was a sign of his independence: "It's very interesting, though, because Scott Brown actually showed up at the CPAC meeting, the conservative meeting over the weekend in Washington, and yesterday he was quoted as 'I said I came to Washington to be an independent voice.'" Dickerson replied: "That's right. He said he was going to be independent and he, in fact, voted independently in this case."
On the Monday, February 22, World News on ABC, host Diane Sawyer seemed to rejoice in the "bipartisanship" of newly elected Republican Senator Scott Brown’s willingness to vote with Democrats on a "job creation bill," as she passed on the "fresh sign" of bipartisanship, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s expression of hope that it is the "beginning of a new day" in the Senate. After correspondent Jake Tapper concluded a report on the ongoing debate over health care reform by noting the unlikelihood that President Obama and Republicans will reach an agreement, Sawyer read the short item on Senator Brown's vote. Sawyer:
Where would the world be without an independent, citizen-run type of media? It would be in a dark place, according to Media Research Center President and Founder Brent Bozell.
Bozell addressed CPAC on Feb. 20 about the state of the media. He cited how bloggers played a role in unearthing the former White House "green jobs czar" Van Jones past for signing a statement about the September 11 truthers and for stating he was a communist.
"Van Jones was a story that was broken by a blogger," Bozell said. "Say that after me - God bless bloggers, God bless bloggers, God bless bloggers. Now this blogger writes a story about one of the Obama czars. Now these czars, these guys are dangerous for all sorts of reasons. They're not elected. They're not confirmed. And they're not even announced. You just hear about them. They're like maggots. You pick up a rock and you find a czar."
Hosting Sunday’s This Week on ABC, Terry Moran noted during the past week the Obama administration “fanned out across the country” to trumpet how “the stimulus worked,” yet President Obama “sounded a little frustrated that people don't get it” as, Moran fretted: “What did they do wrong? They're playing defense on what was one of their major accomplishments.”
Earlier in his interview with California's Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pennsylvania's Ed Rendell, whom Moran touted as “two prominent Governors who call it like it is,” Moran despaired at the shrinking size of the “jobs bill,” worried $15 billion is not enough and whether “there needs to be another stimulus” bill:
The Senate is taking up a jobs bill this week. $15 billion. When it started at the White House, it was $200 billion. The House passed $185 billion version. There was a deal for $85 billion. We're down to $15 billion now. But do you think there needs to be another stimulus, federal stimulus, like this? Is $15 billion enough?
Later, Moran described former Republican Senator Alan Simpson’s rejection of tax cuts as an effort “to get real.”
John Fritze of USA Today noted in an On Politics blog post filed last night that "Sen. Brown's 'not one job' claim [has been] questioned."
But in relaying the attack on the Massachusetts Republican senator's claim that "not one job" has been created by the Obama stimulus package, Fritze only underscored the point that Brown was making in the context of his comments.
There is no real, net job creation from the stimulus bill (emphasis mine):
David Leonhardt, who serves as the New York Times's conscience on economics issues as a columnist and reporter, celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Obama "stimulus" on the front page of Wednesday's Business section, while attacking naysayers as "hard-core skeptics" and pushing for yet another "stimulus": "Success of Stimulus Bill Is Noteworthy as Another Is Weighed."
Leonhardt's column instantly became a gloatworthy morale-booster to sympathetic left-wing web sites like Talking Points Memo and Huffington Post. Even White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs put it on his Twitter feed. But is Leonhardt bashing straw men?
On Wednesday Leonhardt led his readers, Philosophy 101-style, through a thought experiment:
Imagine if, one year ago, Congress had passed a stimulus bill that really worked.
On the one-year anniversary of the Obama administration's “stimulus” spending bill, ABC, CBS and NBC all eagerly corroborated the White House's claims about how it “saved or created” many jobs and staved off economic disaster, though they all offered a range of numbers and definitions (ABC: “800,000 to 2.4 million new jobs,” CBS: “about 1.8 million” jobs “saved or created” and NBC: “1.6 to 1.8 million jobs have been created so far.”)
ABC and CBS touted anecdotes about companies and government agencies which asserted the spending had prevented layoffs or allowed them to hire new staff. ABC's Jake Tapper cited buses for Santa Monica, construction jobs in Baltimore, “63,000 green jobs” (with a solar panel-maker's CEO declaring “it is working and we're proof of that”) and a school system superintendent who told Tapper the funding “ helped save 61 jobs and create 73 new ones.”
On CBS, Chip Reid began with how “this highway paving equipment company in California canceled plans to lay off 40 workers because of demand created by stimulus projects,” before trumpeting how “in Washington, D.C. about 20 people are working on this road project” where “manager Matthew Johns calls the stimulus a lifesaver.” [audio available here]
Though “many independent economists put the number of jobs saved or created at about 1.8 million,” Reid relayed that “to the great frustration of the White House, most Americans simply refuse to believe it. In a recent CBS News/New York Times poll, a mere 6 percent said the stimulus has created jobs.” Reid's culprit: “That skepticism due in part to a relentless campaign by Republicans who say the stimulus is a bloated, big-government failure.” (The online “Political Hotsheet” echoed Reid's theme: “On Stimulus, Perception Doesn't Match Reality.”)
Over at the most trusted name in news, they sure know how to party when it's called for. That was evident this afternoon on CNN Newsroom when anchor Ali Velshi gushed:
Happy birthday, dear stimulus. Our producer Ben Tinker (ph) baked this cake. It is a stimulus happy birthday -- first birthday cake, which is also a pie chart. It is the birthday of the stimulus. It is actually very --
In the same segment Velshi assured guest Jared Bernstein, chief economic adviser to Vice President Biden, that "I don't think we give much sway to people who say nothing (in terms of jobs) was created, it's just hard to actually respond and say something was created, cause jobs were lost."
Presumably not celebrating the stimulus's anniversary with a cake were the 94 percent of respondents to a recent CBS/New York Times poll who don't believe the stimulus has created a substantial number of new jobs. Of course, Ali doesn't give them much sway anyhow.
Those Americans don't matter. At CNN, it's time to celebrate Obama's great achievement and those hundreds - or is it millions? - of jobs he's created or saved. It's enough to send a thrill up your leg.
It's no surprise that Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine would agree with the Obama administration about the effectiveness of last year's stimulus packages. That's why CNN's "American Morning" should have at least included a single critical guest Feb. 17.
Kiran Chetry began the interview by citing a CNN poll that showed public skepticism regarding the stimulus.
"What do you say to Americans who feel that this $862 billion was basically wasted?" Chetry asked.
Kaine defended the stimulus by citing a New York Times piece saying that the stimulus "has pretty much done exactly what it was intended to do." The former governor gave the stimulus credit with getting the economy growing again. Kane also said it saved or created 2.4 million jobs.
Media Research Center President Brent Bozell appeared on FNC's Fox & Friends Feb. 17, to discuss how the networks have covered President Obama's $787 billion stimulus package in the year since its passage.
Using research from MRC's Business & Media Institute, Bozell told cohost Gretchen Carlson that, of 172 stories ABC, CBS and NBC have run on the stimulus, just 90 of them (52 percent) included any criticism of the massive spending program.
Asserting that the media have failed in their responsibility to cover the stimulus, Bozell said, "Remember, the president said very simply - he said we needed $787 billion because we needed to create jobs, jobs, jobs. That's what he said this was all about. He said if we didn't do this, we were going to have - we were going to go from 8 percent unemployment, to 10 percent unemployment."
Holding up for the camera a paper reading "7.7%," Bozell said, "This is where we stood at unemployment when this bill was signed. We spent $787 billion. This is where we stand today." He produced a second paper that read "9.7%."
"So two things are true here," Bozell said. "No. 1: This bill bombed. No. 2: What happened to the $787 billion, and where are the national news media?"
On Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith teased an interview with the Vice President: "We got a great chance yesterday to spend some quality time with Vice President Joe Biden. He's got a lot to say on a lot of different topics." During the interview, Smith shilled for the failed stimulus package: "The Vice President says the stimulus created or saved 2 million jobs. Many of them green."
At the top of the show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez announced: "Today is the first anniversary of the economic stimulus package." Smith treated it like a celebration, joking: "Where's the stimulus package cake?" Rodriguez replied: "There should be." Smith began the segment with Biden by citing a Pew Research poll showing only 24% Americans actually think the stimulus plan has improved the economy, but rather that challenge the VP on its failure, he simply asked if taxpayers "got their bang from the buck from the stimulus." That allowed Biden to argue: "Absolutely. But I don't think they realize it....The job creating portions are really loaded at the second half here....they have gotten their money's worth."
Traveling with Biden in Saginaw, Michigan on Tuesday, Smith touted one employer who was helped by the stimulus: "At Fuzzy's Diner, a local businessman, Paul Furlo, told us government-backed loans helped him expand and add hundreds of new employees." No critics of the stimulus were featured in the segment.
The Business & Media Institute's Dan Gainor appeared on Stuart Varney's Fox Business program on Feb. 12 to discuss a new BMI report about network news coverage of last year's $787 Billion stimulus package. The report found that ABC, CBS and NBC did their best to put a positive spin on the stimulus.
"All three networks were close to 3 to 1 in picking supporters to comment on stories, as opposed to anybody who might be critical," Gainor told Varney.
Asked about the new $15 billion "jobs bill" under consideration in the senate, Gainor told Varney, "Now the problem we've got is that the government solutions the New York Times and, frankly, the network news shows have always been backing, trying to make look good, are all these big government solutions that hire people for government programs. America has one of the highest business taxes on the globe. You fix that problem, and businesses will be able to hire again."
As the old cliché goes, you don't use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but according to Rick Santelli, that's exactly what it appears the Obama administration is doing terms of financial regulation and fiscal discipline.
On CNBC's Feb. 2 broadcast of "Fast Money," host Melissa Lee proposed that taxing the wealthy is not the path to "economic prosperity and fiscal stability." Santelli, the network's CME Group floor reporter, agreed.
"Well, you're right," Santelli said. "But I also think you're going to see when the Bush tax cuts expire, a lot of middle class write-offs and exemptions and various tax benefits will also fall by the wayside. Not the least of which to mention, I have so many friends that work for the financial industry. And they've learned from the government, even if you only make $25,000 to $125,000 a year, one firm says if you leave to go into another job or whatever, anything outside retirement, they're going to keep 10-to-20 percent of the stock they took from you following the government's directives."
Historically, there are two kinds of White House reporters: those that confront officials with the strongest critique and demand a response (think ABC’s Sam Donaldson, who dogged Bill Clinton in the late 1990s just as he had Ronald Reagan in the 1980s); and those who see their job as simply repeating the White House spin of the day.
Reporting this morning on the Obama administration’s push for another $100 billion in spending, supposedly for “job growth,” NBC’s Savannah Guthrie fell into the second category. Rather than amplify the growing chorus of critics who argue that we can’t afford more massive spending when the previous “stimulus” was so expensive and ineffective, Guthrie on NBC’s Today saluted the President for making a “judgment call” that “all economists” could support:
This is a budget where the President makes a judgment call. He's asking for $100 billion to spur job growth, things like tax cuts for small business, tax breaks to increase wages. And he's doing this knowing that it will drive up the deficit, certainly even more in the short term, but all economists agree the real way to get a chunk out of the deficit is to increase hiring.