Proving the old saw that a “gaffe” is when a politician stumbles into the truth, ABC's World News, which has showcased Americans whining about the inability to afford “joy rides” or breakfast, on Thursday night led with former Senator Phil Gramm's observation that “this is a mental recession”and “we've sort of become a nation of whiners.” In relaying the comments from the economic adviser to the McCain campaign, anchor Charles Gibson conceded “the fundamentals of the economy may be sound, as Gramm argues,” but: “There are a lot of people suffering right now. So, Barack Obama was quick to pounce, and John McCain was quick to renounce.”
Reporter David Wright featured a soundbite of Obama asserting “we need somebody to actually solve the economy. It's not just a figment of your imagination. It's not all in your head,” and then backed him up: “That certainly's what voters seem to think.” A man on the street insisted: “I think it's way more than just our imagination. It's in our face. And we need help.” Wright concluded with how Gramm's “point seems to be that while consumer confidence has been at record lows, other economic indicators are pretty good -- that the fundamentals are sound.” Wright, naturally, countered: “That's no consolation to folks who worry about their mortgages and who are paying these high prices at the pump.”
Meanwhile, on the CBS Evening News after a look at Gramm/McCain, Jeff Greenfield suggested that Jesse Jackson's violent intentions toward Barack Obama -- “I want to cut his nuts off” -- will benefit Obama:
The Associated Press's disgraceful coverage of last week's Employment Situation Report from Uncle Sam's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) got left behind in the holiday weekend hubbub, but calls out for comment nonetheless.
The AP's Jeannine Aversa reached into her Thesaurus as she began her report with what has become the wire service's standard monthly error of treating reported seasonally adjusted job reductions as reflecting real people thrown out on the streets by mean old employers (as you will see after the jump, reality, as usual, differed):
On Wednesday's CBS "Early Show," co-host Russ Mitchell declared: "The high cost of gas is hurting everyone these days. Families, businesses, and even charities. Many organizations that deliver food to the sick and elderly are being hit extra hard." In the report that followed, correspondent Kelly Wallace went even further: "In one rural California case, according to the president of Meals on Wheels nationwide, cutting back from daily deliveries to one every 14 days proved fatal. Two seniors were found dead."
The Meals on Wheels president, Enid Borden, explained that: "We have people who are literally dying in their homes waiting for a meal. That's a crisis." Wallace also played a clip of Maryland Meals on Wheels executive director, Tom Grazio, who worried: "Some day in the not too distant future, unless things get better, we'll be telling people they can't eat today and that's disheartening."
Wallace then described " a dire situation in New York City," where Meals on Wheels director Marcia Stein continued the melodramatic theme: "For the first time in our 25-year history, we are having to ration food. We're having to make tough choices about who gets a meal, who does not get a meal, what days somebody might be without food." From this report, one is under the impression that people are literally starving to death across the country due to high gas prices. In May, the "Early Show" described how one woman "...pumps out her own blood, making $40 a pop so she has enough money to pump gas."
As Congress takes new aim at speculators for the high price of gasoline, some media reports seem to be following suit. But as The Biz Flog explains this week, there is considerable debate over whether speculators should be blamed for the high cost of oil.
June 23, the same day Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee condemned oil speculators, the "CBS Evening News" and ABC's "World News" blamed oil speculation for a large chunk of the spike in prices.
"There's no doubt speculation plays a role in the skyrocketing price, but how much?" ABC correspondent Ryan Owens said June 23. "Experts say if it were just simple supply and demand a barrel would cost $75. Today it closed north of $135."
Scott Horsley explained oil speculation on June 29 for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," where he pointed out that there have always been financial players in the oil market and there is still a debate over what influence they really have.
Although the collapse of Bear Stearns happened back in March, the debate still rages as to what led to the failure of the 85-year old investment bank that had survived years of previous turmoil, including the Great Depression.
"Well, you know, he [Dimon] said one thing that I'm just - listen, I didn't watch it," CNBC's Charlie Gasparino said, "I'm just going by what appears to be a transcript here: ‘Where there's smoke, there's fire.' Oh really? Sometimes where there's smoke, there's no fire, Jamie. I've got news for you."
Although the term isn't used, it's clear that the Obama campaign sees itself and their candidate as victims of a vast conspiracy of right-wingers.
Going all the way back to the 1988 presidential election, Obama's "Fight the Smears" chart (featuring the campaign's new sort-of "presidential seal," replacing the one that was "dropped," at the top left) purports to tell us "Who's Behind These Lies."
If the page's historical starting points are any indication, to paraphrase Jerry Lee Lewis, there may not be "a whole lotta smearin' goin' on" among the current "smearing" parties it identifies:
A report on the economic policies of John McCain and Barack Obama by correspondent Chip Reid on Monday’s CBS "Evening News" suggested that Obama’s supposed middle class tax cut would be more beneficial for American families: "Obama's plan is to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and use the savings for a middle-class tax cut...A recent study by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says Obama's plan would give a cut of more than a thousand dollars to families making between $37,000 and $66,000 a year. Under McCain's plan, they'd get just $319."
The "non-partisan" Tax Policy Center is actually a product of the left-leaning Brookings Institution and Urban Institute. Reid went on to explain that: "On spending, Obama wants to jump start the economy with another round of stimulus checks for taxpayers to the tune of $50 billion." After outlining McCain’s policies on taxes and spending, Reid observed: "McCain also now supports extending the Bush income tax cuts, even though he once opposed them as too generous to the wealthy. Barack Obama says McCain's switch is more evidence that a McCain presidency would be more of the same. "
At the end of the segment, Reid mentioned the candidates’ proposals on gas prices: "As for the price of gas, both candidates have elaborate plans for bringing it down in the long run but neither one offers much in the way of short-term relief." Apparently Reid forgot about McCain’s support for a temporary gas tax holiday. While the effectiveness of that policy can be debated, it certainly would qualify as "short-term relief."
During the roundtable discussion on Sunday's This Week on ABC, when host George Stephanopoulos asked why Barack Obama had not talked about the economy more in his campaign ads, ABC political analyst Mark Halperin argued that taxing the wealthy should be a strong issue for Democrats this year, although he conceded it failed when tried by Al Gore and John Kerry. Without making any mention of the case that lower taxes on all Americans is beneficial to the overall economy, Halperin merely talked about President Bush's tax cuts that "disproportionately benefitted the wealthy," and seemed to suggest that eliminating those tax cuts may help the economy. Halperin: "That's one issue, again, Gore and Kerry went up against George Bush whose tax cuts disproportionately benefitted the wealthy, one of the best issues the Democrats could have. Neither of them made it stick. I think Obama, again, compared to the last two Democrats to run, has a real chance to make that case on taxes and fairness and how to grow the economy in a way that, I think, could be one of the decisive issues in this race."
Below is a transcript of the relevant exchange between Stephanopoulos and Halperin from the Sunday, July 6, This Week on ABC:
During the weekend's coverage of President Bush's trip to the G-8 Summit in Japan, ABC correspondents Martha Raddatz and John Cochran both reminded viewers of faux pas by the President from past G-8 Summits. On World News Saturday, while downplaying expectations of any significant accomplishments at the summit, Raddatz relayed: "In fairness, the G-8 rarely has created any breakthrough announcements. The most memorable moments had little to do with real news. There was the famous shoulder rub with Germany's Angela Merkel, and the live microphone that caught the President talking in less-than-diplomatic terms while he lunched with Tony Blair." (Transcript follows)
ABC showed the clip of Bush startling German Chancellor Angela Merkel by grabbing her shoulders from behind, and a censored clip from 2006 of him using profanity while talking about the terror group Hezbollah with then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Bush: "What they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this [BLEEP]-"
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked to John McCain supporter Carly Fiorina and Barack Obama supporter Senator Claire McCaskill about the respective economic plans of the presidential candidates: "Bear market blues. Wall Street returns from the holiday as gas prices set another new record. Can either candidate calm America's fears?" At one point, Smith asked Fiorina: "How do we do all of this stuff? And we're not making more money, the tax rolls are not growing, the coffers are not full. We're just talking about deficit -- if nobody's going to get taxed, isn't this just going to be deficit city?" (audio available here)
While Smith did not feel the "coffers" were "full," at least not full enough for him, in reality, government tax revenue has tripled since 1965 and since the Bush tax cuts took effect in 2003, corporate income tax revenue has reached its highest level in over 20 years.
Smith began the segment by touting a new CBS poll: "The economy remains a major issue for voters as we head into the fall elections. In fact, a recent CBS News poll shows 78% of Americans think the economy is in bad shape." Considering the "Early Show’s" declaration of a recession last week it’s easy to understand such poll results.
Ho no, here we go again. Gas price hysteria from the MSM.
"Here's a troubling look at what some people are doing for gas. A 34-year-old Kentucky woman was arrested for prostitution after she was allegedly trading sex for $100 gas cards."
So began a video story at ABCNews.com, which made today's top headlines roundup with the teaser headline: "Sign of the Times: Sex for Gas." While the short video report included a prosecutor calling it a "sign of the times" that someone would trade sex for gasoline, failing to put the phrase in quotes in the headline implies that ABCNews.com agrees with the prosecutor's personal opinion on gas prices and the criminal desperation supposedly caused by them.
Of course, there's also more to the story that we don't learn from ABCNews.com. Alleged hooker Angela Eversole may be a cheating hussy, but she's no whore, says her jilted boyfriend, according to WCPO-TV.:
Earlier this week, to avoid "undue" emphasis on how much the situation has been improving in Iraq, the press, in search of bad news, switched its focus to Afghanistan (examples here, here, and here). Kyle Drennen and Warner Todd Huston at NewsBusters noted this on Tuesday.
Similarly, Associated Press writer Ellen Simon, confronted with a key report showing economic improvement, decided that it was more important to discuss inflation.
On Tuesday, the Institute for Supply Management's Manufacturing Index, after four months of contraction, returned to slight expansion mode with a reading of 50.2 (any reading above 50 indicates expansion). The result confounded the "experts," who predicted that the index would fall by about a point instead of rising by 0.6 points.
I don't think I've ever seen AP fail to give the overall ISM result first- or second-sentence treatment, but Simon managed that trick by covering the report's inflation component, moving the overall ISM index reading down to the fourth paragraph:
Food inflation is hitting everyone - even if don't have to pay for food.
According to the July 2 "CBS Evening News," part of its "The Other America" series - a title strangely similar to former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards' liberal anti-poverty mantra of "Two Americas" - food stamp recipients are being hit by the rising the cost of food.
"With food prices climbing, more and more Americans these days are struggling to feed their families," anchor Katie Couric said. "Nearly 28 million rely on food stamps for an average benefit that comes to only about $24 a week for each person. Many are living hand-to-mouth, month-to-month."
Thursday’s "Good Morning America" used the Fourth of July holiday to exaggerate the effects that food prices are having on consumers. In its "Hitting Home" segment, reporter Sharyn Alfonsi reported on the price increases of certain Fourth of July barbecue staples, claiming that "Americans are gonna eat 110 million pounds hot dogs and that could take a big bite out of their wallets."
Rush Limbaugh's new deal with Clear Channel, as flashed by Drudge (also covered or addressed here and here at NewsBusters; here at the New York Times; and here in a very long New York Times magazine article), is north of $400 million for the next eight years.
Good tax planning too: Maharushie will get his reported nine-figure signing bonus this year before a possible President Obama does his hundreds of billions in damage. Limbaugh's tax savings, if the bonus is $100 million and Obama gets everything he wants, would be a hair under $17 mil (12.4% Social Security on all but $148,000, plus the 4.6% planned increase in the top rate).
One conclusion you can reach, based on what newspaper industry watcher Newsosaur told us earlier this week, is that Old Media covering the Limbaugh story is like zombies covering the living (link in excerpt was in original):
With Starbucks’ announcement that it will closing 600 of its locations nationwide, the network morning shows on Wednesday heralded this news as another sign of a bad economy. ABC’s Bianna Golodryga on "Good Morning America" lamented that "Americans are struggling just to pay for a cup of Starbucks coffee." NBC’s Matt Lauer’s clever headline: "Trouble brewing -- Starbucks announces its closing 600 stores in the next year. Is the demand for $4 lattes dying in a tough economy?"
But CBS’s "The Early Show" took the puns and the "doom and gloom" to a new level. Host Maggie Rodriguez teased the headline news: "Starbucks shutting its doors on hundreds of stores. Tough economic times or just a grande letdown?" Correspondent Ben Tracy, in his report on the closings, quipped, "The economic slowdown has been a real grind for Starbucks' profits. After filling up their gas tanks, some coffee lovers don't have enough left to fill up their cups."
During June 30th's "Larry King Live," Robert F. Kennedy Jr., senior attorney at the National Resource Defense Counsel, made a head-turning statement regarding subsidies to the oil and coal industry, and not a single panelist challenged him on it. Not that one would expect King himself to do it; however, the other panelists included Chevron's David O'Reilly and ABC's John Stossel. Relevant portion of the transcript follows:
JOHN STOSSEL, ABC'S "20-20": I think a lot of it is silly. I think we have an energy policy in America and the world and it's called the free market. When oil is above 100 dollars a barrel, coal, as he's saying, becomes viable. We don't need Washington to do it. It's a fatal conceit to say the politicians can lead this. Higher prices will lead to alternatives.
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked to economic analyst Mark Zandi about the state of the economy and asked: "Oil's up, gasoline's up, food prices up, stocks, way, way, way, way down. Home owner -- home values are down. Is there an end in sight to all of this bad news?" Zandi replied: "You just made me depressed. No. It's just bad news. It really is...It's just a really tough time for many Americans."
Later, Smith commented on how all the bad economic news seems to contribute to bad economic events: "It just seems like we're in this cumulative cycle that, you know, once one threshold of bad news gets reached, we reach to yet another one." That comment sparked this exchange with Zandi:
ZANDI: Yeah, it's a self re-enforcing negative cycle. You know, that's what happens during recessions, and that's what we're in the middle of right now.
SMITH: Whoa, is this a recession?
ZANDI: You know that -- that's a debate among economists and policy makers. But in the minds of the average American household I think there's no debate, this is a recession. I mean they're worth less today than they were a year ago, they're purchasing power is lower. I mean, for most people that's the definition of recession. So, economists can debate it but I think most people think this is a recession.
The question that is this post's title occurred to me as I read through this report earlier today by Seth Sutel of the Associated Press. I believe the question is important, and that its potential implications are underappreciated.
Sutel first summarized the week's financial events in the media business. It wasn't pretty:
Even for an industry awash in bad news, the newspaper business went through one of its most severe retrenchments in recent memory last week.
Half a dozen newspapers said they would slash payrolls, one said it would outsource all its printing, and Tribune Co., one of the biggest publishers in the country, said it might sell its iconic headquarters tower in Chicago and the building that houses the Los Angeles Times.
The increasingly rapid and broad decline in the newspaper business in recent months has surprised even the most pessimistic financial analysts .....
Gerri Willis co-hosts CNN's daily "Issue Number One," a program devoted to the economy. For her, it appears almost every day is a struggle.
Last Thursday, she spoke of "high gas prices, one of the many cost(s) Americans struggles with in this economy." She took a break from the struggle on Wednesday, when a CNN anchor filled in for her and co-host Ali Velshi.
The previous day, however, her question to CNNMoney.com's Poppy Harlow was: "So what do you have to say to folks out there who are struggling to pay those (energy) bills?" Willis also employed another of her favorite words, tough. "There are," she noted, "all kinds of programs across the country to make sure that doesn't happen, but times are so tough." Later on the show, she observed: "These tough economic times can be especially hard on retirees."
Two June 23 Motor City newspaper reports -- one in the Detroit Free Press ("Group blasts subprime loans," by Amber Hunt), the other in the Detroit News ("ACORN focuses on vote," by Mike Martindale) -- portrayed the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) as a noble enterprise dedicated to helping troubled borrowers and increasing voter involvement in the political process.
Hunt and Martindale were either unaware, or perhaps didn't care, that ACORN has had myriad problems over several years, including but not limited to voter-registration fraud, employee mistreatment and intimidation, and home-loan irregularities. Days before the group's national convention in Detroit, the Consumer Rights League, a group whose stated mission is "protecting consumer choice," issued a scathing whistleblower report charging ACORN with "misusing taxpayer dollars for political ends and by attacking lending corporations for the same 'predatory' lending practices it regularly engages in."
Here are selected paragraphs from each reporter's virtual press releases (HTs to Michelle Malkin here and here):
Expensive gas isn't so bad to the "CBS Evening News," as long as it promotes an agenda that caters to left-of-center sensibilities and makes Americans behave more like Europeans.
Economists from Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) (NYSE:CM) forecasted $7-a-gallon gas prices by 2010, which according to some analysts would force 10 million vehicles off U.S. roads over four years. CIBC based its prediction on $200-per-barrel oil by 2010.
"In fact, by 2012, higher prices could send an additional 10 million vehicles off the road," CBS correspondent Priya David said June 26. Although $7 gas would do the most harm to low-income Americans, David praised the effects it would have in easing congestion.
Brian Williams raised the possibility of General Motors (NYSE:GM) going out of business on the June 26 "NBC Nightly News" to Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's "Mad Money."
"[J]im, I know you talk about this, think about this everyday for a living and have a formula regarding this," Williams said. "But first, what's going on out there? I heard one analyst today said, ‘GM will go out of business,' though I know a lot of people disagree with that and it's a scary thought."
Going to extraordinary lengths to pull at the heartstrings of viewers, Wednesday's NBC Nightly News focused on, in the words of anchor Brian Williams, “the innocent victims of the foreclosure crisis” -- that would be dogs, pigs, goats and horses. Meanwhile, ABC discovered people are more likely to get murdered at work in these “hard economic times,” though they really haven't been. At the end of a story on a workplace shooting in which five were murdered, reporter Eric Horng acknowledged “workplace violence is down in recent years,” but he nonetheless ominously warned: “For smaller companies it remains tough to prevent, because security is costly. And in today's economic environment, disgruntled workers can be reluctant to discuss problems.”
NBC put “TOUGH TIMES” on screen with a picture of a puppy as Williams introduced the story reported by Chris Jansing who, back in May, centered a piece on an elderly couple forced to live in their van. This time, Jansing again delivered anecdotes, starting with a Seattle woman who “has never experienced anything like this -- not just dogs and cats, but horses, pigs, goats -- so many, she has to turn away three out of four animals.” Going south, she asserted that “in May, the number of animals turned into Los Angeles City shelters jumped 30 percent,” which hardly seems like a crisis, and a local official fretted: “Pets seem to be the silent victims of this whole economic downturn.” Jansing next conveyed the deadly consequences:
The harsh reality is, as more animals come in, more animals have to be put down....[A]t shelters across the country, euthanasia rates are going up.
Remember when the 49ers gold rush happened in Maine? How about when Dan'l Boone explored California? Do you remember when Lee surrendered his Confederate army in Fargo, North Dakota? Well, to those famous places with famous incidents we can add that great Revolutionary War battle of Lexington and Concord... Virginia. At least we can do so in the reckoning of one Jamie Fansworth of the CBS News blog "From the Road" because it seems our friend Farnsworth is a little fuzzy on where some of the most famous battles of the American Revolution were held.
Riddle me this: when is a cartoonist as shallow and one dimensional as his own creations? When his name is Ted Rall. The San Antonio Express-News ran a short story covering a convention being held in Texas that is serving as a gathering place for some of the nation's increasingly fewer political cartoonists. Rall has been chosen as the president of this seemingly ever more irrelevant organization and apparently the Express-News found his glee at this nation's ills to be interesting copy.
Naturally, the Express-News gave us the Rallian set up for today's "ills":
An unpopular war, a shaky economy, the prospect of a border fence, a delicate climate seemingly seeking revenge this summer, soaring food and fuel prices, and a potentially polarizing presidential election -- it all adds up to a gloomy forecast for most Americans.
All these claims are, of course, liberal shibboleths and lack any context. Merely the mouthing of these topics is enough for the media to say "see, it's all going to hell."
Who cares if Barack Obama won't protect a child who is born alive after an abortion? Gas is over $4/gallon!
So argued Donna Brazile when Bill Bennett pressed her on the matter today. The issue arose during a post-Obama press conference kibitzing session on CNN's Situation Room. Bennett was making the point that the complaisant media in attendance had failed to press the candidate on tough issues.
In the past when Warren Buffett has spoken out the "super rich" needing to pay a higher tax rate, the media have hung on his every word. But, now that he has spoken out against a windfall profits tax on oil, will they notice?
"I think it is very hard to have windfall taxes," Buffett said. "Steel has doubled in price. Is that a windfall for the steel producers? Sure. Corn is $7 a bushel; soybeans are at $15 a bushel. I don't think any candidate in his right mind with the number of electoral votes in farm states would say you ought to tax farms specially because they are getting a windfall."
The U.S. is not in a recession, but viewers wouldn't know it from watching "Good Morning America." In the span of three days, the ABC program has eight times proposed cures in its "Recession Rescue" segment. On June 24 alone, GMA fretted about the "recession" five times. This is despite the fact that America hasn't had one quarter of negative growth, let alone the two necessary for there to be a recession.
On Tuesday, teasing a story on how bad credit can keep people from getting a job, co-host Robin Roberts previewed "important tips in our Recession Rescue." At the top of 7:30 half hour, she again told audiences to stay tuned for "important tips in this morning's Recession Rescue." Ten minutes later, news anchor Chris Cuomo promised "our Recession Rescue" would give credit advice designed to keep viewers from not missing out on a job. Later in the show, he touted another story on how to save for retirement and labeled it as, that's right, "a good Recession Rescue." Now, certainly, the economy has been struggling and many people are having difficulty, but do words not mean things to the reporters and producers at GMA? Or would they simply shrug their shoulders and say, "Close enough?"
On Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show, " co-host Julie Chen lead the show with a depressing segment on the economy: "...with the economic woes hitting the nation, we have your complete guide to surviving the big squeeze." Chen proceeded to highlight high gas prices, then explain how "...the crisis in the housing market is also a drag on the economy," and finally, "Completing this perfect storm of economic woes, the devastating floods in the Midwest and how they will directly impact food prices."
When discussing the housing crisis with correspondent Thalia Assuras, Chen asked in desperation: "Thalia can you tell us anything good? Is there any relief in sight?" Assuras then offered a small glimmer of hope: "Well, the Senate toady is actually going to consider a foreclosure prevention plan or rescue plan of looking at the numbers here. It's going to provide $300 billion in new cheaper mortgages for high risk homeowners." However she then made it clear that Bush Administration would soon crush such hope: "But you know Julie, there's going to be a lot of squabbling and the White House has threatened a veto."
Following Chen’s report, co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to financial advisor Dave Ramsey and took the same pessimistic tone: "So with all this economic volatility, what are we supposed to do?...if there was ever a time to panic, is this it? It sounds pretty gloomy." In contrast, Ramsey was having none of it: "Absolutely not. I'm sorry I'm not with Chicken Little and we're not handing out helmets. There -- it is not a time to panic, there's lots of good things going on in our economy and for most people this may represent opportunity."