Press coverage of Barack Obama's Social Security proposal in Columbus, Ohio last week made many of the usual mistakes any time there's a story about the government's "third rail" program. But in this case it missed what would be a historic de-linkage of payments made into the system from benefits paid out.
Sen. Barack Obama promised senior citizens Friday that as president, he would protect Social Security benefits and provide universal health care.
To extend the life of Social Security, Obama proposed applying a payroll tax to annual incomes above $250,000, affecting the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans. The Democrat also proposed eliminating income tax for any retiree making less than $50,000.
..... Obama said it is unfair for middle-class earners to pay the Social Security tax "on every dime they make," while millionaires and billionaires pay it on only "a very small percentage of their income."
The Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger got out the gloom-and-doom paint in his report on the Consumer Price Index on Friday morning.
Here are his opening paragraphs:
Inflation rate jumps by biggest amount in 6 months
Inflation shot up in May at the fastest pace in six months, pushed higher by soaring costs for gasoline and other types of energy.
The Labor Department reported Friday that consumer prices rose by 0.6 percent last month, the biggest one-month increase since last November, as gasoline costs surged by 5.7 percent. Food prices, which have also been rising sharply, were up 0.3 percent as the cost of beef and bakery products showed big gains.
Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, edged up a more moderate 0.2 percent in May. But even there, core prices are up 2.3 percent over the past 12 months, above the Federal Reserve's comfort zone.
Trouble is, the markets weren't buying into the negativity Crutsinger was selling, as SmartMoney.com reported after the closing bell:
U.S. corn futures topped out at record highs on June 11 on the news that the impact of flooding in the Midwest would hurt this year's corn crop, but the June 11 "CBS Evening News" left out one significant detail in its reporting about the crisis.
"[A]gricultural disaster aid has been requested for Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan," CBS correspondent Cynthia Bowers said on the June 11 "Evening News." "The federal government estimates that this year's corn crop will be 10 percent lower than last year's. That's down 1.4 billion bushels, and it's too late to do much about it."
According to a Reuters story, corn prices on the Chicago Board of Trade have shot up 80 percent in the last 12 months, with almost 17 percent of that just this month. But Bowers didn't explain how the prices got so high before the floods, which put consumers of corn products in this vulnerable position. Corn futures were already priced high because of a heightened demand - artificially stimulated by federal government subsidies for ethanol produced from corn.
In his report on Uncle Sam's Monthly Treasury Statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger incorrectly informed readers that the stimulus checks sent out by the government represented the major reason why May's monthly deficit ballooned from a year ago. The AP reporter also continued with the wire service's seemingly never-ending recession obsession.
Here's the headline, and how Crutsinger began his report:
Stimulus payments result in record May deficit
A flood of economic aid payments pushed the federal budget deficit to $165.9 billion, the highest imbalance ever for May.
The Treasury Department reported Wednesday that the May deficit was more than double what it was in May 2007. Some $48 billion in payments went out as part of the $168 billion economic relief effort to revive the economy and keep the country from a deep recession.
CNN continued to harp about "big oil’s" record profits and the Democrats’ proposed windfall taxes on companies like ExxonMobil on Wednesday. In an interview of Kansas Senator Sam Brownback on "American Morning," co-host John Roberts was amazed over the Republican’s opposition to the tax proposal. "There were a couple of other provisions in this bill. One of them were to roll back the $17 billion in annual tax breaks so that these five biggest oil companies get. Together, they made... $36 billion in profits in the first quarter this year. Why do they need $17 billion in tax breaks?" Later, during "The Situation Room," host Wolf Blitzer returned to his laser-beam focus on ExxonMobil as a particularly "guilty" part of "big oil." He asked former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, "Explain why it's appropriate at this time of rising gas prices, for ExxonMobil, for example, to get additional tax cuts."
Last week I noted how Time.com posted an unscientific poll on its Web site asking readers to vote whether "gas and heating oil [should] be rationed until prices come down." At the time I lamented that it "serves to further the MSM's fear-mongering about the economy while banging its left-wing drum beat about oil and gas prices."
Today the magazine's Web site is asking another gas price question, with two options that play to extremes. "Is $4-plus gas" either a "disaster for the economy" or a "boon for environmentalism" asks the poll.
What, no third option for "both"? After all, a disaster for the economy resulting in a steep recession would surely do wonders for reducing America's carbon footprint!
So far nearly 6-out-of-10 respondents have said it's a "disaster" for the economy, which must be bad news for global warming alarmists that our friends at the Business & Media Institute have documented.
What's more, as BMI archives show, media bias in favor of high gas prices isn't anything new.
Washington Post: GOP tool? Might sound a tad far-fetched to you. But you're not Howard Dean.
Appearing on today's Morning Joe, DNC Chairman Dean claimed a Washington Post article about Jim Johnson, whom Barack Obama has chosen to head up the vetting of potential VP picks, was "planted" by the McCain campaign. Johnson's appointment has become an embarrassment to Obama because the former CEO of Fannie Mae has been linked to the mortgage crisis. As WaPo reported:
The questions about Johnson began after the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that he received more than $2 million in home loans that might have been below average market rates from Countrywide Financial, a partner of Fannie Mae and a leading purveyor of the kind of subprime mortgages that spawned a national housing crisis.
Update | 10 AM: McCain Campaign Comments to NB on Mitchell Remarks
McCain campaign deputy chairman Frank Donatelli has commented to NB on Mitchell's remarks. See report at foot.
IMing with a friend in England this morning, Morning Joe on in the background, I was vaguely aware that an Obama staffer was on, touting her candidate's economic plan. Signing off my chat, I focused on the tube, only to realize that the Obama staffer was in fact . . . Andrea Mitchell.
Mitchell cast the battle of the candidates' tax plans as McCain's "old-fashioned" supply-side economics versus Obama's "mainstream, centrist" plans that "do help people" while responsibly "paying for everything."
Here is the full text of, and response to, a question directed to Jeannine Aversa, AP Economics Writer, Washington, in an "Ask AP" item four days ago (second question-answer segment at link; bolds are mine):
Why is it important whether we are or are not in a "recession"? I have read a technical definition of the word, and I have seen and heard many news reports in which economists and government officials opine on whether we are or are not in a recession. What is resting on that determination?
Blame do-nothing Republicans for high gas prices. That was the impression visitors to ABCNews.com got this afternoon.
Among the "top headlines" lineup Web site editors included a story on "Fueling Anger" with the teaser headline: "Rejected! Big Oil Tax Gets Shelved." [see related post about CBSNews.com's bias here]
The accompanying caption to the ABC photo illustration read, "With prices soaring, GOP halts Democrats' wide-ranging energy plan."
The article itself, by writer Z. Byron Wolf, was front-loaded with bias, slamming Republicans for their filibuster of a new windfall profits tax measure while dismissing the GOP's energy plan as ineffective in the short term (emphases mine):
"Good Morning America" highlighted how financial matters have Americans so stressed out, their health is literally deteriorating.
The segment, titled "Recession Depression," blamed personal issues on the "troubled" economy. ABC made yet another comparison between today's economy and the economy during the Great Depression. Only this time, the reference was used to predict a rise in suicides.
"The link between financial troubles and psychological problems is well documented," said ABC reporter Chris Cuomo.
The supposedly surprising rejection of the Lieberman-Warner climate bill last week had an element that Old Media in the US hasn't covered, but is very relevant.
While the press is ever eager to jump on politicians who fly in the face of supposed "world opinion" when it goes against US positions and traditions, it has been virtually silent over how "the rest of the world" has been rejecting the true linchpin of government climate policies: supposedly climate change-related higher taxes and fees. Surely some of the green-leaning Senators who were supposedly on board but voted against cloture were not blind to this.
"Republicans Block Taxes on Big Oil Profits" blares the teaser headline on the front page of CBSNews.com. Under a graphic of the Capitol dome and a fuel gauge nearing empty, the caption reads "Senate GOP Stops Dems' Effort To Rein In Profits Of Largest Oil Companies As Gas Prices Soar."
That's a lot of bias packed into 24 words, and that's before the reader gets to the actual article. Notice the lack of cynicism as to the motive of the Democrats, who are painted on the side of consumers against industry, although the primary beneficiary of a windfall tax would be, well, the Democratic Congress.
There are limits to what you can properly communicate in a headline, but a more neutral treatment might have been: "Republicans Block Advance of Oil Profit Tax: Democrats say tax will encourage alternative fuel research, Republicans argue it will worsen energy problems."
In the AP/CBS article itself, oil industry claims that a windfall tax is counterproductive were summarily dismissed with a populist soundbite by a Democratic politician:
It certainly wasn't surprising how press outlets desperately trying to depict the economy as depression-like in order to get Barack Obama in the White House were practically giddy following the dour jobs report released by the Labor Department last Friday.
What was shocking given the portion of May's unemployment rate rise attributed to high school and college students looking for summer jobs was that virtually no press outlets considered the impact last year's minimum wage hike might have had on young Americans finding temporary positions between school years.
Consider this op-ed published in Monday's Washington Examiner authored by Kristen Lopez Eastlick, the senior economic analyst at the Employment Policies Institute (emphasis added throughout):
This is the sort of report that immediately gets my BS detector up. A recent Palm Beach [Fla.] Post story is trying to claim that Americans are running to Europe to claim dual citizenship because the U.S. is so horrible for everyone here. Yet, even as the story is making the claim that more Americans are fleeing this country for Europe, it offers no statistics to prove it. And the Post even admits that there are none to be got. So, in essence, all we end up with is a claim and nothing but circumstantial and anecdotal evidence with no real facts to prove anything. But this piece does, however, succeed in bashing the USA at every turn.
The first sentence sets the tone of lament that the rest of the piece carries by giving the reader a sense of something lost, a foreboding that foreshadows the end of the prominence of the United States of America.
The Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa started off her Friday evening report on the day's economic news showing, as she and her AP colleagues have for several months, that they either don't understand very basic concepts relating to the information they're attempting to digest and convey or are deliberately reporting it inaccurately:
Pink slips piled up and jobs disappeared into thin air in May as the nation's unemployment rate zoomed to 5.5 percent in the biggest one-month jump in decades. Wall Street swooned, and the White House said President Bush was considering new proposals to revive the economy.
..... Help-wanted signs are vanishing along with jobs, so the unemployment rate is likely to keep climbing, a government report indicated .....
Make no mistake, the news was bad. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the economy lost 49,000 jobs in May, and the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose by more than it has in any single month since the mid-1980s.
But that doesn't change the fact that Aversa either was deliberately inaccurate when she wrote that "pink slips piled up," or that she doesn't comprehend the subject matter she is supposed to be covering.
Specifically, what if it is better at picking up small-business job creation than the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)?
The media isn't asking this question, even though the two reports have diverged by over 400,000 jobs in the past four months (see latest reports here, here, and here on ADP's May estimate that 40,000 jobs were added, vs. expectations that it would come in at 30,000 jobs lost -- a 70,000 job difference).
So I will.
The differences between business outsourcing behemoth ADP's National Employment Report and BLS's Employment Situation Report have been significant since ADP began issuing theirs in roughly April 2006. The report's preparers, Macroeconomic Advisers, revised the report's methodology in February 2007.
Since its initial issuance, ADP and BLS have typically differed sharply. It has been easy to chalk this up to the fact that BLS has been at it for decades, while ADP's effort is new and untested. Perhaps too easy.
Today's Web poll on Time.com asks "Should gas and heating oil be rationed until prices come down?"
It's a non-scientific Web poll of course, so in some sense it's just mindless, fluffy filler. But on the other hand, including this only serves to further the MSM's fear-mongering about the economy while banging its left-wing drum beat about oil and gas prices.
Since taking that second screencap earlier today, more votes have been cast by readers, with the numbers shifting slightly in favor of gas rationing to 39 percent of respondents.
"It's not just here and it's not just GM. Since 2005, the big three - GM, Ford and Chrysler - have had 70 plants and supplier shutdowns with a total loss of 149,000 American jobs," CBS correspondent Cynthia Bowers said. "At the same time, foreign automakers selling more fuel-efficient vehicles are building five new U.S. plants that will employ 24,000 workers over the next three years."
It has been nearly three years since the Kelo v. New London ruling by the US Supreme Court, and just short of two years since the city of New London, CT settled with the final two Fort Trumbull holdouts, Susette Kelo and the Cristofaro family.
The Supreme Court's majority, in their June 2005 Kelo ruling, declared that "public use" as stated in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution really means "public purpose" -- that is, instead of the government being able to take land through eminent domain only for the purpose of building a public structure or creating a public service (road, bridge, school, park, etc.), the government can take land for any reason it believes a worthy one. In the case of New London, the city believed that demolishing occupied, functioning houses that had stood for over 100 years and developing "something else" that would garner the city more tax revenues was a worthy public purpose.
What has been done with the property since then?
As a development-related deadline loomed in mid-May, a Hartford TV station filed this report, and gave us the answer:
Plans Stall In Fort Trumbull Land Remains Barren After Homes Torn Down
"A Meltdown for Argentina's Hillary" blares the teaser headline in the Top Stories slideshow on Time.com's front page.
"The fortunes of Argentina's new leader are falling even faster than those of the former First Lady she's been compared to," continues the caption on the front page.
The June 2 article in question by Uki Goni delves into how President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has seen her approval ratings plunge "into George W. Bush territory barely six months into her administration," due in large part to concerns over inflation.
Yet while Goni noted frustration over her policies, Fernandez's ideology was curiously left out of the article.
Media coverage of the economy in recent months should make journalists wonder what kind of job they're doing, according to Business & Media Institute Vice President Dan Gainor.
"‘If it bleeds it leads' has always been one theory. That only works up to a point," Gainor told Fox Business Network host Neil Cavuto June 2. "When you are actually spinning the results so much so that they're more negative than the worst economic time period in American history, well then you really have to sit back and think, ‘Maybe we're just doing this wrong.'"
How does a former reporter for The Washington Post score a 2,200-word column on the mortgage mess in her former publication? Never mention personal responsibility.
Kathleen Day took blame to a new level June 1 when she failed to mention personal responsibility even one time in her lengthy column. Day, now a spokeswoman for the left-wing Center for Responsible Lending, was a financial reporter for the Post until mid-2007.
Day blamed just about everyone else - from Wall Street to banks to brokers, to the White House, to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to Congress to credit-rating agencies - for the problems in the housing market. But she never hinted that borrowers might share some blame.
In a hard economic times story by NBC's Kevin Tibbles on Monday's "Today" show there was a not-so-subliminal pro-Obama message on display as several times pro-Obama signs found their way into the background. Reporting on the increased traffic to pawn shops by the desperate to make ends meet in the "rocky economy," Tibbles, didn't mention Obama by name but the Illinois senator's name or image popped up in the background several times.
Tibbles, or at least his cameraman and/or producer, seemed to be sending the not-so-subtle message that the presumed Democratic presidential nominee could be the savior from these tough economic times.
The following is the full story as it occurred on the June 2, "Today" show:
Yesterday's edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight included a report from Kitty Pilgrim on product recalls from China and the administration's efforts to reduce importation of unsafe products. "Bush administration officials are going through the charade of tougher enforcement with few results," according to correspondent Pilgrim. Using the term "charade" prepared viewers for where this segment was going:
KITTY PILGRIM, reporter: HHS Secretary Leavitt says he is optimistic the Chinese government will approve the opening of three FDA offices in China some time soon. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says if recalls continue at the current rate, it will be a 70 percent increase over last year. Lou?
May 27: Paul R. La Monica for CNN Money reporting on Warren Buffett's belief that "we are already in a recession." Notice the lede:
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- It's getting harder and harder to deny that the economy is in recession.
May 29: The federal government releases an upward revision of the first quarter GDP growth. The ever-pessimistic AP reporter Martin Crutsinger grudgingly admitted that the new numbers could bolster the view that "the country can dodge a full-blown downturn":
The economy plodded ahead at a 0.9 percent pace in the first quarter - slightly better than first estimated - but still underscoring caution on the part of consumers and businesses walloped by housing, credit and financial problems.