Thursday morning, initial weekly unemployment claims as reported by Uncle Sam's Department of Labor came in at a seasonally adjusted 414,000. It was 16,000 lower than the previous week's upwardly revised (as usual) number, but certainly no indicator in and of itself of meaningful improvement.
The housing industry data really wasn't any better. True, the seasonally adjusted figures from the Census Bureau for building permits issued and housing units started were somewhat improved, but the raw data still had several examples of record weakness.
Wait until you see the headline the Associated Press applied to a story covering the DOL and Census reports by Derek Kravitz and Christopher Rugaber:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) conducted hearings on Wednesday to investigate a highly controversial ATF operation that led to the death of a U.S. border agent, but neither NBC nor ABC covered the story on their nightly newscasts.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman lambasted a Justice Department official who claimed to be cooperating with the investigation but offered not much more than severely redacted documents. "You should be ashamed of yourself," scolded Issa. "How dare you offer an opening statement of cooperation."
To say that the statistics concerning new business formation during the past few years haven't been very good would be a major understatement.
USA Today's Scott Patterson deserves some credit for even looking at the topic. It is tailor-made for neglect by the rest of the establishment press. When government policies lean towards lower taxation and regulation, policies left-leaning journalists tend to oppose, net business formations generally grow, and they'd rather not report it. In the high-tax, high-regulation environments they favor, net business formation slows considerably -- and again, they'd rather not report it.
President Barack Obama plans to create a special advisory council to recommend ways to boost the economic outlook and quality of life for the estimated 60 million people who live in rural areas of the U.S., a White House official said.
Dennis Cauchon at USA Today has been one of a very few establishment press reporters willing to expose federal workers' disproportionate pay and benefits (previous examples here and here) as well as Uncle Sam's precariously dangerous financial situation.
Cauchon has two USAT items today on the latter topic (HT to NB commenter Gary Hall): "U.S. funding for future promises lags by trillions," which reports that federal obligations totaled $61.6 trillion as of September 2010, a $5.3 trillion increase from a year earlier, and "Government's Mountain of Debt," which itemizes those obligations by major source.
Unsurprisingly, 75% of federal obligations, or a combined $46.2 trillion (actually more, which will be seen at the end of this post), relate to Social Security and Medicare, which no one but a few deluded leftists believe (or pretend to believe) are sustainable in their current form. Unfortunately, at the end of his first story, Cauchon quoted one of them, Michael Lind, whom the USAT reporter described as "policy director at the liberal New America Foundation's economic growth program," who said the following:
The educated guess here is that Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler is currently not the most popular person in the White House.
On Saturday, in a relatively rare rebuke originating from what G. Gordon Liddy has mockingly derided as "Washington's quaint little alternative newspaper" (daily circulation 741,000 in March 2005, 551,000 in March 2011), Kessler ripped into the President's claims about the auto bailout, giving him "Three Pinocchios," which in his ratings system means "Significant factual error(s) and/or obvious contradictions." Kessler found "weasel words," a "misleading figure" (actually, more), and (imagine that) a straw man.
Here are selected paragraphs from Kessler's KO (bolds are mine; internal link was in original):
... What we found is one of the most misleading collections of assertions we have seen in a short presidential speech. Virtually every claim by the president regarding the auto industry needs an asterisk, just like the fine print in that too-good-to-be-true car loan.
On Friday, Cass Sunstein, the White House's 56 year-old Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (pictured at right), attempted to disavow a 42-page paper he wrote called "Lives, Life-Years, and Willingness to Pay," which recommended that the government reduce resources directed at benefitting the elderly in favor of increasing what goes to young people, because young people have more years of life ahead of them. His statement, as carried at CNS News:
“I’m a lot older now than the author with my name was, and I’m not sure what I think about what that young man wrote,” he said. “Things written as an academic are not a legitimate part of what we do as a government official. So I am not focusing on sentences that a young Cass Sunstein wrote years ago.
So, dear readers, before you go to the rest of this post, guess how "young" Sunstein was when he engaged in his de facto "death panels" advocacy.
In late January (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I noted how the Associated Press and the New York Times had been studiously avoiding covering the Obamacare waivers granted by Kathleen Sebelius's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Though I can't verify that the AP has ignored the issue since, it doesn't seem to have been a prominently covered item until today, when wire service reporter Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar ("Health care law waivers stir suspicion of favors") unsurprisingly weighed in for the defense.
In doing so, the AP reporter failed to note that the waiver process's arbitrary nature, which leaves plans at the tender mercies of HHS, is troubling even if the evidence of favoritism is not yet convincing (arbitrariness can also involve poor judgment even if politics aren't involved). He also failed to address those who contend that if Obamacare is such a good thing, why are companies and other entities having to scramble to avoid it? Finally, he failed to tell readers if any waiver requests have been turned down, and if so why.
Here are excerpts from Alonso-Zaldivar's report. Get a load of his third paragraph, where he dreams up excuses, and the final excerpted paragraph, where he all but admits that waivers in general are being granted for a very important political reason -- to prevent embarrassing Obama and the Democratic Party (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
For those too young to remember, invoking a "long, hot summer" was a favorite pastime of the establishment press and so-called "civil rights leaders" after the race riots of the 1960s (example here). The message: Get that federal money flowing to us, or there will be violence in the streets.
At CBS News, reporter Bill Whitaker wrapped his coverage of the teen unemployment situation as follows: "For many teens with no jobs and no money, it could be one long, hot summer." Perhaps Whitaker was unaware of how loaded those words once were (and still may be). But he shouldn't get a pass for failing to mention three minimum-wage increases enacted late last decade as potential contributors to the 2007-2010 rise in teen unemployment. Whitaker also mentioned "cuts in federal funding" as affecting summer jobs programs, but "somehow" forgot to tell readers and viewers that the funding consisted of so-called "stimulus" dollars that everyone knew was going to go away (see the reference to "the end of Recovery Act funding that might have helped create some public jobs" at this link). Whitaker's omission leaves an implication that meanies in the current Congress must have done something to reduce funding, which isn't so.
In one of five items they alleged were false statements made by Mitt Romney in his presidential candidacy announcement speech, Associated Press "fact-checkers" Calvin Woodward and Jim Kuhnhenn claimed that the economy has not gotten worse since Barack Obama became president. Part 1 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) clearly showed that the facts are on Romney's side. The current score is Romney 1, AP 0.
The AP pair's four other allegedly false Romney statements have to do with foreclosures, whether President Obama has "apologized to the world," Obama's economic policies, and whether the candidate raised taxes while he was Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007.
Here is Romney's foreclosures statement: "Three years later, foreclosures are still at record levels. Three years later the prices of homes continue to fall."
Here's the pathetic response from Woodward and Kuhnhenn:
First let's get the obvious out of the way. It's not a secret to many readers here that yours truly's opinion (and not that of NewsBusters or MRC) is that GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney would be a completely unacceptable candidate. For those who didn't know that, now you do.
Nonetheless, when Romney says things which are either definitely or arguably true and Associated Press "fact checkers" Calvin Woodward and Jim Kuhnhenn make a point of asserting otherwise as if they get the final word, a defense is necessary.
In their "fact check" piece, the AP pair, with the help of two other contributors, disputed five statements Romney made in his campaign kickoff speech. By my count, Romney is definitely right on three, one items is a split decision, and the wire service should be considered fully correct in just one instance.
The most important of AP's "fact check" errors is its headlined determination ("Romney miscasts economy in GOP debut") that Romney was wrong when he said the following: "When he (Barack Obama) took office, the economy was in recession. He made it worse. And he made it last longer." The AP pair's counterargument is truly pathetic:
Is AP reporter Christopher Rugaber taking yours truly's admonishments to heart? Either he is, or there were a number of odd coincidences in his reports today (early; later) on the small drop in initial unemployment claims (to 422,000, from an upwardly revised 428,000 the previous week) reported by the Department of Labor this morning.
Last week (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I criticized Rugaber's unemployment claims coverage for repeating for the umpteenth time that weekly claims peaked over two years ago at 659,000 during the recession, and suggested that discussing what has happened in the past three months (drops to under 400,000 in March followed by significant rises to consistently well above 400,000 in April and May) might be a little more relevant.
Lo and behold, check out the first few paragraphs from Rugaber's longer 12:56 p.m. rendition. They appear strangely responsive to last week's critique, but there is one significant factual error (in bold):
It would appear, according to the Associated Press's Christopher Rugaber, that something unusual had to explain why initial unemployment claims as reported by Uncle Sam's Department of Labor rose to a seasonally adjusted 424,000 during the week ended May 21 when they were expected to decline. In previous weeks, poor performances have been explained by DOL spokespersons as due to the unusually late Easter, the weather, Japanese supply interruptions, and Jupiter not being aligned with Mars (okay, I'm kidding about the last one).
Apparently, one thing is for certain in AP-Land: The troubling 400,000-plus plateau in weekly initial claims can't possibly have anything to do with Obama administration's economic policies (or lack thereof).
Today, as Bloomberg noted, the Department of Labor offered up no excuses: "There were no special factors behind last week’s increase, a Labor Department official said as the figures were released."
Rugaber wasn't satisfied with that answer, and decided he would roll out one of his own without any evidence. The AP reporter has also developed a strange obsession with reminding everyone on a weekly basis when initial claims peaked (bolds are mine):
Earlier today, NB's Tim Graham noted that the establishment press has given the silent treatment to a study by Timothy Conley of the University of Western Ontario and Bill Dupor of Ohio State University showing that the stimulus plan passed in February 2009 was a major net economic loser. In the first paragraph of the study, the authors revealed their core estimate that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "created/saved 450 thousand government-sector jobs and destroyed/forestalled one million private sector jobs." That's a net loss of 550,000 jobs "destroyed/forestalled."
To test Tim's contention that "Our media only cites studies which estimate the number of jobs Team Obama 'saved or created,'" I did searches on Dupor's last name at the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times, and got back the following results:
Shortly after 8:30 this morning, I began thinking that my CNNMoney.com e-mail alerts had stopped arriving. So I went to the Census Bureau's web site and learned that its monthly report on housing starts, building permits, and other construction-related news had indeed been released. The news for the already moribund industry was awful: Building permits in April fell by a seasonally adjusted 4% from March and by 12.0% from April 2010, while the comparable tumbles in housing starts were 10.6% and 23.9%, respectively.
Well, my opening and closing bell e-mails arrived as expected. So unless there was a technical glitch, this means that CNNMoney decided not to issue a post-8:30 alert for the bad housing news.
Let's take a look at the two e-mails which did arrive. First, just after the opening bell:
Martin Crutsinger's Wednesday, May 11 coverage of that day's release of Uncle Sam's April 2011 Monthly Treasury Statement was such a train wreck that I had to turn away before I could get through it, hoping against hope that if I came back a few days later it wouldn't seem so bad. Of course I was wrong.
How was Marty Crutisinger's report erroneous, incomplete, misleading, and from all appearances politically-driven? Let me count just some of the ways, as I go through selected segments from his report:
The opening paragraph of Saturday morning's Associated Press report by Stephen Ohlemacher and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar on the state of Social Security and Medicare and an additional sentence from the third paragraph give away the fact that theirs will not be a missive that should be taken seriously (bold is mine):
The bad economy is worsening the already-shaky finances of Medicare and Social Security, draining the trust funds supporting them faster than expected and intensifying the need for Congress to shore up the massive benefit programs, the government said Friday.
... The Social Security trust funds are projected to be drained in 2036, one year earlier than the last estimate.
This post will concentrate on Social Security. By referring to the idea that its trust fund is being "drained," the pair are perpetuating the myth that the Social Security system has a stash of cash and investments just sitting there ready to be redeemed and distributed as benefits when needed. This of course is false. What follows are four fundamental truths about Social Security.
Just barely a year after it derided the establishment media's obsession over oil-affected birds in the Gulf of Mexico while virtually ignoring the loss human life in awful floods in Tennessee (noted at the time at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), Investors Business Daily's editorialists are calling out the press for oversaturating us with Obama-OBL victory lap coverage at the expense of informing the nation about the severity of this year's horrible Mississippi River flooding.
IBD makes great points in the following excerpts (bolds are mine):
Sunday evening (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I predicted that the press will ignore the likelihood, based on the Congressional Budget Office's most recent Monthly Budget Review, that officially reported federal spending will top $1 trillion for the first time during a three-month period (i.e., for February through April 2010) when the Tim Geithner's gang issues its Monthly Treasury Statement on Wednesday afternoon.
You can also pretty much count on the fact that the press will greet an uptick in April and year-to-date 2011 collections as something impressive. In historical context, as the graphic after the jump will show, it absolutely is not.
Early each month, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issues its "Monthly Budget Review." Its purpose is to estimate and comment on the federal government's budget results for the previous month a few days before the Treasury reports its official results.
CBO's most recent review, issued on Friday (2-page PDF), estimates that Uncle Sam's outlays during April amounted to $330 billion. If that number holds up, or overstates actual results by less than $2.2 billion, it will mean for the first time ever that our government officially spent over $1 trillion in a three-month period (an estimated $330 billion in April plus a reported $672.2 billion in February and March combined). Regardless, February through April is certain to eclipse May-July 2009's previous official all-time high (after TARP-obfuscating accounting adjustments; go here for the detail) of $948.7 billion.
This certainty, the detail behind it, and the federal government's real long-term track record make mince meat of the following off-the-cuff assessment of why federal receipts and spending go up and down made Saturday by Alan Fram at the Associated Press:
A strong economy brings the government more revenue and lower spending. A weak economy in which the jobless and poor need more support does the opposite.
The New York Times's supposedly momentous decision to omit "Mr." from references to Osama bin Laden in its Monday obituary is apparently working to distract critics from the item's other problems.
Along with Michael T. Kaufman, Kate Zernike, whose primary vocation seems to be finding racism in the Tea Party movement where none exists and otherwise smearing its participants, comes off as almost critical of how bin Laden was "elevated to the realm of evil in the American imagination once reserved for dictators like Hitler and Stalin."
Imagination ("the faculty ... of forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present to the senses")? Babe, I don't know about you, but we didn't imagine September 11. We saw it. Others directly experienced it. Many died. Do you remember?
The obit's topper for me is the (in my opinion) deliberate historical revisionism in the following passage (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Update (17:38 EDT on May 4): Rush Limbaugh mentioned this post on his May 3 program. You can listen to that by clicking here.
Well, this should be interesting.
The AP is reporting (preserved here in case the report devolves, as such things very often do) that "secret prisons" and "harsh interrogation techniques" were involved in getting the "first strands of information" that ultimately led to Sunday operation which killed 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden.
It's only a three-paragrapher, so it follows in full (for fair use and discussion purposes). Get a load of the final paragraph:
The New York Times offered a distorted glimpse into the prison at Guantanamo Bay and the Bush administration's treatment of suspected terrorists in a series of reports published on Sunday and Monday.
Scouring hundreds of leaked military documents, Times reporters used emotionally-charged phrases and cherry-picked anecdotes to paint an unflattering picture of the facility that has jailed hundreds of enemy combatants captured in the War on Terror.
Perhaps you hadn't noticed, but in late August 2010 Ben Bernanke took on complete responsibility for everything -- especially everything mediocre or bad -- that occurs in the economy.
I know this because on August 27 and 28 (covered here and here), the Associated Press issued three reports essentially telling readers that it was up to Ben to save us. There wasn't anything Barack Obama, Tim Geithner, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, or then-present Larry Summers could possibly say or do to improve the economic situation, described at the time as "appears to be stalling" in one of those AP items.
Out of this came what has come to be known as "QE2" (the second round of "quantitative easing"), otherwise known as "electronically printing money to buy U.S. debt because possibly no one else will."
On Monday, the New York Times assembled a panel of alleged experts in its Room For Debate section. Each weighed in on Monday's ratings agency outlook downgrade by Standard and Poor's in an item entitled "Is Anyone Listening to the S.&P.?" (Don't ask me why "the" is there. It shouldn't be; the item is about the firm Standard and Poor's, not "the" Standard and Poor's stock index.)
One of the contributors was Yves Smith. Ms. Smith "writes the blog Naked Capitalism. She is the head of Aurora Advisors, a management consulting firm, and the author of 'Econned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism.'"
As night follows day, the press is beginning to go after a business entity which had the nerve to do its job and call attention to Uncle Sam's dire fiscal situation.
Standard and Poor's is presumably not 100% populated with angels, but it didn't deserve the gratuitous and ignorant shots fired at it this evening by the Associated Press's Bernard Condon and an "expert" he quoted. In attempting to tar the firm, Condon acted as if the mortgage-lending mess was the creation of "banks" which marketed mortgage-backed securities and asleep at the switch ratings agencies. He didn't once mention Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the fiasco's Democratic crony-run uber-culprits, which for 15 years consistently deceived the markets about the quality of the already marginal loans underlying the securities they issued .
Here are selected paragraphs from Condon's cracked creation, including a headline which gives away a resentment that the ratings agencies are still actually able to do what they were designed to do (bold is mine):
CNNMoney.com ran a provocative piece Friday listing what it determined to be the top "meanest budget cuts." The website laid out seven government programs that are victims of the recent budget compromise – programs that provide assistance to the poor and support humanitarian causes overseas.
Most of the individual cuts make up a small fraction of each program's annual budget, and a Democratic source is quoted multiple times downplaying the significance of the cuts. Don't tell CNN, however, as these cuts are apparently "mean."
The undisguised bias of a dispatch tonight by Associated Press reporter Laurie Kellman, with help from Scott Bauer, about Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's appearance before a Congressional committee may have as its source two items found at the Newspaper Guild's web site (seen after the jump).
One is an announcement relating to a possible deterioration in the Guild's negotiations with AP, where union members have been working without a contract since November. Immediately below the announcement is an extraordinarily mean and spiteful cartoon produced by "alternative" comic Tom Tomorrow directed at Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan which has no place at the site of a group wishing to at least maintain a fig-leaf pretense of objectivity.
First let's look at several of the sentences seen in the 10:26 p.m. version of the pair's report (saved here at my host for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) -- after the headline ("Wisconsin governor defends hobbling unions'), with which the AP pair may have had help:
In a business that is supposed to treat record achievements, dubious or otherwise, as news, it's more than a little curious to note that the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger, along with Reuters and AFP, all "somehow" forgot to tell readers that March's reported federal outlays, as seen in the Monthly Treasury Statement released today, came in at an all-time record of $339.047 billion, and that this year's spending through six months of $1.849 trillion -- also an all-time record -- is 3.5% higher than last year's comparable figure of $1.786 trillion ($1.671 trillion plus a non-cash credit of $115 billion explained here last year).
This year's six-month spending total annualizes out to $3.7 trillion, an amount that is almost $1 trillion, or 36%, higher than fiscal 2007. Though spending is the self-evident real problem, frontline reporters and their bosses would apparently prefer that news consumers not see how ugly those numbers really are.