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):
In an outrageous rant during his 3 p.m. ET hour show on MSNBC on Friday, host Martin Bashir actually attempted to blame budget cutting by Republican lawmakers for a deadly outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe: "John Boehner and his Republican majority decided to gut the food safety and inspection service....Cut, cut, cut. Now the results are in. 16 people have lost their lives."
Bashir went on to blame free market principles in general for the outbreak: "Republicans in Congress talk proudly of their commitment of laissez-faire economics, where government gets out of the way and everything works perfectly. You try telling that to those who ate melon with a side of listeria."
On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency's Inspector General issued a report on the agency's "compliance with established policy and procedures" in connection with its "Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding." This was the finding that "greenhouse gas," or "GHG" emissions, including carbon dioxide, are in essence forms of air pollution, endanger public health, and must therefore be regulated.
As would sadly be expected, what the IG actually found and what the Associated Press's Dina Cappiello reported about the IG's findings sharply differ. Here's what IG Arthur A. Elkins, Jr. wrote in his press statement:
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:
Sometimes, I think that we wouldn't have a useful press at all if it weren't for the British press.
The big news out of the International Monetary Fund this weekend was, as reported by the UK Telegraph, that it "may need billions in extra funding." Specifically, it "may have to tap its members – including Britain – for billions of pounds of extra funding to stem the European debt crisis."
In other words, the IMF doesn't have enough money to address the potential problems it sees on its own:
Earlier this evening (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I cited a few of very many examples where the press has not hesitated during the Obama years, and really since Barack Obama became the frontrunner for the Democratic Party's nomination in 2008, to engage in uncalled-for creativity to avoid calling a statement made a lie or an unlawful action illegal. One of the lastest: A Raleigh New & Observer reporter concluded that in implying that North Carolina has bridges in imminent danger of falling -- specifically, by asking his audience: "Why would we wait to act until another bridge falls?" -- Obama "may have" merely "over-suggested the risk to public safety."
Jim Kuhnhenn's report at the Associated Press tonight on the President's visit to the Brent Spence Bridge over the Ohio River connecting Cincinnati to Covington, Kentucky appears to have taken the cover-up of the president's misleading statements to a new level, as seen in the following excerpted paragraphs (bolds are mine):
Bruce Siceloff at the Raleigh News & Observer had the task on Tuesday of writing up the results of his newspaper's follow-up investigation into the safety of bridges in the Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina area after Barack Obama's visit there last week. In a speech there, the President asserted that "In North Carolina alone, there are 153 structurally deficient bridges that need to be repaired. Four of them are near here, on or around the Beltline. Why would we wait to act until another bridge falls?"
I know this will come as a total shock to readers -- not -- but the president wasn't being truthful. Behold what Siceloff and his paper found, and how he felt compelled to come up with a new word to describe Obama's untruthful characterizations (HT to Rush Limbaugh, who brought this up on the air today):
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.
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:
It appears that it's not news anywhere but at the Hartford Courant, where "Little Pink House" author Jeff Benedict reported the development on Saturday, and at Reason.com (HT to commenter dscott), which linked to the Courant story earlier today. I suspect it won't get much coverage at other establishment press outlets.
The development is that one of the four Connecticut Supreme Court justices in the 4-3 majority which ruled against Susette Kelo and the New London, Connecticut eminent-domain holdouts, ultimately sending the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 against the plaintiffs in Kelo vs. New London, has apologized -- quite emptily, as it turns out -- to Ms. Kelo, face to face:
David Lewis is running for Congress as a Republican in Ohio's Eighth Congressional District for the seat House Speaker John Boehner currently holds. To be kind, Lewis doesn't stand a chance. To be not as kind, the establishment press is using Lewis's candidacy as an excuse to attempt to cast doubt on the ability of Tea Party activists and the GOP establishment to get along. To be clear, there's plenty of reason for the existence of such doubts, but David Lewis's candidacy is certainly not one of them.
To the chagrin of the GOP establishment, I'm a fan of serious primary efforts, especially against incumbents who may have lost their way. But Lewis's effort is not serious. It is fundamentally flawed in its premise and completely miscasts Boehner's current prolife record. It also has given the press an opportunity to distort the priorities of the Tea Party movement.
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 August Monthly Treasury Statement released by the government today reveals that Uncle Sam ran a $134.2 billion deficit in August. That figure was $44.7 billion, or 48%, higher than the $90.5 billion deficit seen in August 2010. The year-over-year deficit increase occurred because outlays increased by 19% to over $303 billion, while receipts went up by 3% to $169 billion.
Gee, that wasn't difficult to express, was it? But it was apparently too difficult for the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger to communicate to his readers. Of the eight figures and percentages noted in the opening paragraph, only one -- the August 2011 deficit -- appears in his report.
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.
On Thursday's Morning Edition, NPR's touted the Obama administration's "more aggressive legal approach" towards pro-life demonstrators with the stepped-up prosecution of alleged violations of the controversial FACE Act. Correspondent Carrie Johnson highlighted the prosecution of an elderly pro-lifer, and let an abortion lobbyist denigrate pro-lifers as possible terrorists.
Host Steve Inskeep introduced Johnson's report with slanted language about how "the fight over abortion rights continues in courtrooms and state houses all over this country. But a smaller-scale version of that conflict is on display almost every day between protesters and escorts at abortion clinics. And some of those tensions are on the rise, as the Obama administration takes a more aggressive legal approach against people who block access to clinics."
A year ago (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), yours truly wrote up how Labor Secretary Hilda Solis had produced a Labor Day video which was both a propaganda vehicle glorifying the Obama administration's alleged economic accomplishments and a straw-man attack piece targeting "some who will suggest that, when times are tough, it’s time to get tough on working people."
This year, she's done it again. Working with the thinnest of gruel given the true state of the economy, the video is so pathetic that it's difficult at times to keep from laughing. The political statement I have transcribed after the jump goes from 0:23 to 3:57 of the 4:45 video (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
The California solar company, Solyndra, heralded by the Obama administration as a prime example of how the Recovery Act created new jobs while promoting his vision of renewable energy, is closing their doors. Just over a year ago, Obama himself spoke at the facility, praising it as “a testament to American ingenuity and dynamism.” Once a beacon of solar light in the progressive green jobs agenda, Solyndra had received a $535 million federal loan with the help of newly minted energy secretary, Steven Chu, only to find themselves staring down bankruptcy and the release of more than 1,100 workers.
Lying within that massive federal loan was a number of sub-awards to other vendors, 40 payments of which were greater than $25,000 each. The largest sub-award went to another administration favorite, CH2M Hill, to the tune of $9.6 million for their construction engineering services. The company is a $6.3 billion consulting, engineering, and construction firm, and shares some similarities to the failed Solyndra. In fact, CH2M used the nearly $10 million sub-award to design Solyndra’s solar manufacturing plant in Fremont, California. Besides that amount, CH2M is also a major beneficiary of the stimulus, having been awarded four of the top ten contracts from stimulus funding last summer - to the tune of $1.2 billion. As of this April, the company boasts of $1.6 billion in contracts from the Recovery Act.
In June 2005, in its Kelo vs. New London decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the City of New London, Connecticut could condemn and take over private property, including that on which Susette Kelo's pink house sat, for a "public purpose" (a redevelopment plan worked up by the city's New London Development Corporation), instead of limiting the Constitution's Fifth Amendment application to "public use," as the Founders intended.
The Supreme Court justices who supported the ruling largely justified it on the basis that "The City has carefully formulated an economic development plan that it (the city) believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including–but by no means limited to–new jobs and increased tax revenue." Carefully formulated or not, nothing even remotely positive happened after the ruling until very recently, and nothing even remotely resembling decent national media coverage of post-ruling events has ever occurred.
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):
In the Associated Press's writeup ("Social Security disability on verge of insolvency") of the situation occasioned by a congressional report repeating the obvious, Stephen Ohlemacher surprisingly and correctly retold a bit of the history which readers should find quite interesting, as it largely explains how the program got out of control (bold is mine):
The opening sentence of Charles Babington's "objective report" about the possible extension of what was billed late last year as a "temporary payroll tax cut" reads like a Democratic National Committee press release: "News flash: Congressional Republicans want to raise your taxes."
It doesn't get any better until the final paragraph. Babington's babble is otherwise a long-winded, chidish taunt about the supposed hypocrisy of anyone who would like to see a program which, for all its very considerable faults, at least ran a cash surplus for several decades get into the neighborhood of where taxes collected almost equal disbursements.
On August 15, the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe, and the Associated Press all reported that Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Oddly enough (no, not really), The New York Times, which published a 1,600-word report in January (HT to an NB emailer) on the company's competitive difficulties, did not take note of Evergreen's filing.
Each of the three reports cited gave readers the impression that Bay State agencies were the only ones which had provided the company any form of financial assistance during the past several years during which, according to its latest 10-K annual report (large HTML file), it was losing hundreds of millions of dollars annually (about $950 million in the past three calendar years):
The Christian Science Monitor appears to have a problem monitoring its bloggers. Even though it asserts that its "diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there ... (have) responsibility for the content of their blogs," the largely respected CSM should understand that Jared Bernstein has just embarrassed it bigtime.
To its credit, CSM describes Bernstein, currently a senior fellow at the very liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (Director emeritus: Marian Wright Edelman), as a Biden/Democrat hack: "Jared was chief economist to Vice President Joseph Biden and executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class." But unless CSM wants to be seen as a place like the Huffington Post, where it seems that anyone can throw up anything regardless of its truthfulness (I'm talking to you, Sam Stein), it needs to at least fact-check info with an obvious surface stench -- and I could smell the acrid aroma from Bernstein's item here in Ohio. His woeful Wednesday post goes beyond predictable cherry-picking into the realm of flat-out errors.
At first blush, it might seem hard to imagine how one can contend that a press report describing an industry sector as operating "at depressed levels" and at volumes that are one-half of what "economists consider to be healthy" isn't telling the whole truth. But that's exactly how I would describe Tuesday's writeup by the Associated Press's Derek Kravitz after July's Census Bureau release on housing starts, building permits, homes under construction, and completions.
The problem is, as I separately noted earlier today, that of the sixteen key metrics the Bureau reported, eleven of them were record lows, either for any July on record, or any individual month on record. The other five were either the second-worst or third worst Julys on record. This isn't a depressed market; it's a despondent one. Kravitz only disclosed one of those eleven records, and in a misleading manner.