Class warfare seeped into the January 18 edition of "Today." Upon interviewing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on the Bush administration’s proposed economic stimulus package and rebates, Matt Lauer pitched the liberal "tax cuts for the rich" line inquiring "you're not going to give rebates to the rich here, correct?"Secretary Paulson declined to answer the question saying he does not "want to get ahead of the president."
Just as he did yesterday, Matt Lauer asked again if the media’s gloomy economic news is a "self fulfilling prophecy."
"Do you ever worry that the media, we get the ‘r’ word on our lips, recession and we chant it and that eventually it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, the consumers of TV and the media hear it and they are also consumers of the economy and they spend themselves into a recession or don't spend themselves?"
The economy is so bad that you'll probably lose your job. Just ask "Good Morning America" host Robin Roberts. She reported on ABC January 17 that "countless Americans" are worried their jobs might be at risk.
As proof, Roberts offered a montage of four man-on-the-street-style interviews, in which four expert economists random people expressed concerns about the job market, gas prices and the economy in general.
"The middle class that is suffering the most because you, you're stretched, you know," one woman said. "Every dime of income is to either pay a bill or just to keep a roof and food and gas prices are outrageous as usual."
Another woman complained that "we don't eat out as much, probably, because we're trying to put, you know, more back towards gas money and things like that."
"I think it's a really, really scary time," a third woman poetically declared. "I think that we're only at the precipice
"Today" anchor Matt Lauer told Cramer, "People come up to me and say on the street ... they say, ‘Why don't you stop talking about recession? Because simply by talking about it, you're going to freak out consumers and definitely push us into one.' Is there any logic to that thinking?"
"The answer," Cramer said, "is that we have to point out the positives with the negatives." What a novel concept!
In the first two weeks of 2008, the media have focused heavily on fears of a recession in spite of the fact that two surveys of economists put the chances of recession at less than 50 percent. The media have focused on the likelihood of a recession by a ratio of
ABC, CBS and NBC reported "more signs of a looming recession," "deepening troubles," "new fuel for recession fears," "rattled consumers," "an economy on edge" and "bracing for recession," or some scary variation a total of 32 times just in the first two weeks of 2008.
The segments predicted a recession or reported fears of a looming recession four times as often as they reported optimism about the New Year, even though recent surveys of economists put the chance of recession at 40 percent to 42 percent.
"And the major concern heading into 2008 is that big ‘R' word, recession," David Muir ominously reported on January 1. "When does the mortgage mess, the housing market, lead to that?" he asked, assuming that a mortgage "mess" inevitably leads to recession.
ABC reported "growing concerns the economy may be heading toward recession." CBS mentioned that "when companies stop hiring, it's often a sign we're slipping into a recession." NBC noticed that in a speech about the economy, President Bush
The VRWC rides again, but this time it's apparently going after a Republican . . .
Mike Huckabee went on Morning Joe today and toyed with suggesting a "conspiracy" composed of the "Washington power circles" was out to get him. At 7:41 AM ET, the former Arkansas governor was discussing his efforts in South Carolina with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski.
The headline "The Economy Sucks" might be something you'd expect to see in Rolling Stone or on Slate.com, but certainly not in a reputable news magazine, right?
Yet, the January 21 issue of Newsweek defied expectations by using that for part of a headline for a one-sided, pro-Bill Clinton view of the economy. The article recalled the 1992 "It's the economy, stupid!" campaign as it tore down the current economy.
So, why does the economy "suck" according to Newsweek? It isn't that there's a depression looming or that we're in recessionary times, we're just "perilously close to sliding into a recession."
"Today, the nation is perilously close to sliding into a recession; in '92, the economy had already started growing, though a jobless recovery doomed George H.W. Bush's re-election bid anyway," Gross wrote. "The lesson? Voters' perceptions matter more than whether the economy is technically expanding or contracting."
You might disagree with how he slashed the Fed funds rate during times of economic turmoil as Federal Reserve chairman.
You might have even disavowed him after showing his coziness with the Clinton administration throughout the 1990s. But after 18 years of public service, you can't deny that Alan Greenspan should have a shot in the private sector.
CNN senior political analyst (and U.S. News & World Report editor-at-large) David Gergen scolded GOP candidate Mitt Romney on Monday’s Anderson Cooper 360 for daring to suggest that the health of the American economy is as important as fighting climate change. Gergen likened that to the "divisive" debate on race among Democratic candidates and called it a “very dangerous” argument for Republicans to make: “If Romney wins, and that becomes the message of the Republican Party, we are going to have two huge clashes in this country between needs on the economy vs. needs to deal with climate change. And it’s a very dangerous place for the Republican Party to go.”
Romney’s chief rival in today’s Michigan primary, Arizona Senator John McCain, has consistently pushed the liberal side of the climate change debate. In a speech in Kalamazoo yesterday, McCain sounded a lot like Al Gore: “I believe there's scientific evidence that drastic things are happening to our planet. If I'm wrong and we move ahead with green technology, the only downside is leaving a cleaner world for our children.”
Instead of scolding McCain for embracing a liberal position in a Republican primary, Gergen faulted Romney for not following suit. Because of his past service in the Reagan and Ford administrations, Gergen is often cast as the conservative counter-balance in roundtables; last night, for example, he appeared with reporter Candy Crowley and liberal CNN contributor Roland Martin. But with Gergen (who also worked for Bill Clinton) making liberal points, too, there’s no conservative to offer an alternative opinion.
"No, I don't think we're going to hit recession, but it's going to feel like it," Welch said. "Things are slowing down dramatically, as everyone knows. But I think we'll weather this thing and the global economy will keep us alive. So, we will not have a technical recession, but it will sure as hell feel like one."
His January 11, 2008 New York Times column ("The Comeback Continent"; HT Tom Maguire via Instapundit) is yet another in a seemingly endless series of attempts by economic statists to convince people in the US that we need to be more like Europe -- specifically Western Europe -- and less like the growth-driven, market-based capitalists that we still largely are.
Here is part of what Krugman wrote in a remarkably fact-free column:
.... tales of a moribund Europe are greatly exaggerated.
..... I don’t want to exaggerate the good news. Europe continues to have many economic problems. But who doesn’t? The fact is that Europe’s economy looks a lot better now — both in absolute terms and compared with our economy — than it did a decade ago.
Though Uncle Sam did run a surplus last month, the year-to-date figures are alarming:
It should be pretty clear that the big news in the above figures is that federal spending during the first quarter of the fiscal year was almost 9% higher than during the first quarter a year ago. If the spending increase had been held to only 5%, this fiscal year's quarterly deficit would have come in virtually the same as last year's.
Yet it took these publications the following number of paragraphs to get to the year-to-date spending news:
CNBC “Mad Money” host, resident ranter and stock-picker extraordinaire Jim Cramer can now add “media critic” to his list of duties.
Over the past six months, Cramer has become a YouTube sensation for taking shots at Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, including his infamous “They know nothing” rant on CNBC’s August 3 “Street Signs.”
Today Cramer used his “Stop Trading” segment on CNBC’s “Street Signs” to blast Bernanke some more and accused some in the media of kissing up to Bernanke for the “big interview.”
“I guess I should just kiss up and get the big interview with Ben like everybody else wants,” Cramer said to “Street Signs” fill-in host Melissa Lee. “Sorry, I could care less.”
Cramer obviously wasn't impressed with Bernanke's comments yesterday where he said the Federal Reserve stood ready "to take substantive additional action as needed to support growth and to provide adequate insurance against downside risks."
In an article about the status of Massachusetts's health care system on January 6, Associated Press Writer Steve LeBlanc seemed to be auditioning for a spot at the BBC.
Until just a few years ago, when the cost, sanitation, treatment and other problems at the British National Health service (NHS) became so obvious that they could not be ignored, the BBC could be counted on to give glowing reports on the NHS, regardless of the reality.
LeBlanc's opening paragraphs, carried in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, could have been taken straight from 1990s-and-prior BBC missives:
Massachusetts is facing a daunting goal as it enters the second year of its grand experiment of extending health care coverage to nearly all citizens - reining in spiraling costs that could threaten the landmark law.
"The sustainability of reform depends on our ability to restrain or constrain or moderate the increase in costs," said Jon Kingsdale, executive director of the Health Insurance Connector Authority, which oversees the health care law.
"That's going to take a huge concerted effort by all players in the health care area," he added.
For Massachusetts residents deemed able to afford health care, but refuse, that means facing new monthly fines that could total as much as $912 for individuals and $1,824 for couples by the end of the year.
USA Today's Emily Bazar wrote a long article Wednesday ("Strict immigration law rattles Okla. businesses") on the early impact of Oklahoma's recently-passed immigration reform legislation, apparently now well-known as "1804," or "House Bill 1804, the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007, arguably the nation's toughest state law targeting illegal immigrants," which became effective November 1.
Bazar's report is dominated by plenty of downbeat anecdotes and dire warnings to relay to her readers from employers and others. Here are a few:
..... workers at the sprawling Greenleaf Nursery were prepping for deadly frosts. They needed to ship plants, erect greenhouses and bunch trees together to protect them against the cold.
But in late October, about 40 employees disappeared from the 600-acre nursery about an hour's drive from Tulsa. "Some went to Texas, some went to Arkansas," nursery President Randy Davis says. "They just left."
Why did the workers, all immigrants, flee? "Those states don't have 1804," Davis says.
Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright has been in the public eye as of late out promoting her latest book and attacking the Bush administration on everything from global warming to globalization. So much so, that the Republican National Committee has fired back in kind.
"This is a purely practical point here, and I think there's a lot of work to be done" Albright said. "And I think the judgment is that this is one of the worst presidencies we've had and people will wonder what it is that the role of the vice president is."
"[W]ell, as you said the economy certainly is front and center," Bolton said. "And in fact in the latest survey of Bloomberg economists, economists putting the odds of developing a recession at about 40 percent. Jay Bryson - he's a global economist at Wachovia - he says we are skating on the edge of recession, but it's all going to come down to the consumer. Another economist that we spoke with said that consumers right now are really hanging on by their fingernails. And of course it's not really a surprise."
It took a couple of tries, but CNN "American Morning" co-anchor John Roberts got Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama to admit what people probably already knew - Obama wants to raise taxes.
Obama appeared in an interview with Roberts on the January 9 "American Morning" fresh off his second place finish in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. He told Roberts high taxes were in the best interest of the American economy.
"Well, I think that there's no doubt that letting the Bush tax cuts on the top 1 percent lapse would not have, I think, a significant impact on the economy, but would bolster our fiscal situation," Obama said. "We continue to run big deficits - our national debt has increased drastically. That is not good for our long-term economic security."
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) is proposing a new insurance surcharge to plug a budget gap that conservative critics are calling a tax. And objectively speaking, it really is a tax. But the L.A. Times was careful to avoid attributing the T-word to the idea.
Here's the teaser from the Times Web site's front page:
Gov. urges levy on insuranceBy Marc Lifsher and Evan HalperPlan calls for 1.25% assessment on all residential and commercial property policies to fund firefighting. Foes call it a tax.
Of course, as fellow NewsBuster and Business & Media Institute staff writer Jeff Poor notes, it's highly unprofessional and misleading for media outlets to gin up fears of recession this early (emphasis mine).:
Never underestimate the power of the media with a "doom and gloom" agenda - especially when it comes to such a renowned contest like the 18th annual American Dialect Society "Word of the Year" contest.
"‘Subprime' has been around with bankers for awhile, but now everyone is talking about ‘subprime,'" said Wayne Glowka, a spokesman for the group and a dean at Reinhardt College in Waleska, Ga. "It's affecting all kinds of people in all kinds of places."
"Business spending, concerns about business spending overall. I think Anne Mulcahy [CEO] at Xerox (NYSE:XRX) may have said something about business spending," Faber said. "I'm hearing business spending slowing. That's the concern - what happens to the stock market in a recession because we're heading into one it looks like."
A few months after cheering Martin O'Malley's successful push for tax hikes, the Washington Post's John Wagner is lamenting the Democratic governor may have to settle for a "modest" agenda in 2008 due to budget constraints.
Don't hold your breath for similar concern about everyday Marylanders and how they may have to settle for more modest spending thanks to tax hikes, particularly a boost in the sales tax to six percent from five percent.
I've said this before, but it merits saying again: We'll know that the news we're fed every day by the wire services, "newspapers of record," and TV networks is fair, accurate, and complete when those in search of the full picture no longer have to go to the editorials of the Wall Street Journal and Investors Business Daily to fill in Old Media's yawning information and coverage gaps.
Among the latest pieces evidence that we're not there yet -- Thursday's IBDeditorials.com opinion piece, which had this news from Britain's National Health Service (NHS):
The British have found a way to shorten those long, annoying waits for care and lower the rising costs of their universal access system. They'll let patients take care of themselves.
Fred Thompson today blasted the media for propagating a false rumor about his impending withdrawal, while reinforcing the role he has created for himself as the candidate in this race who does not suffer unwelcome questions gladly.
Back in Iowa, Thompson famously refused to respond to the debate moderator/school marm's demand for a hand-show on global warming. On this morning's Today, he declined to engage in horse-race speculation about his own prospects, then took the media to task for its propagation of that false rumor about his impending withdrawal. Weekend anchor Lester Holt interviewed the former Tennessee senator.
Toyota is listed second for a reason that would have been almost unthinkable three years ago (bolds are mine):
Ford Motor Co., in the midst of a restructuring, fell to No. 3 in U.S. auto sales last year, as Toyota Motor Corp. posted its 12th straight year of record U.S. sales and moved up to second place behind General Motors Corp.
Even though Ford held on to pickup leadership with its F-Series -- the nation's best-selling vehicle nameplate for 26 years and the best-selling truck for 31 years -- the company's Ford brand is no longer the nation's best-selling make(Note: Chevrolet now is -- Ed.).
A January 4 Associated Press story by Jeannine Aversa pointed to the job data as one of the "problems in the economy" that has "elevated fears about a recession." But even with all these "problems" - housing woes, the credit crunch, high oil prices, weak job numbers - the criteria of the economy being in a recession still haven't been close to being met.
CNBC's ticking time bomb Jim "Mad Money" Cramer lashed out at the Federal Reserve again on January 2 for not cutting interest rates. This time he suggesting the Fed was intentionally doling out punishment to reckless investors.
"I have to tell you that I look at this situation and I say to myself, ‘They [the Federal Reserve] want it. They want a recession.'" Cramer said on CNBC's January 2 "Squawk on the Street." "They're Puritans. They want to punish the people who were reckless in their eyes and the punishment has still not finished being metedout."
Cramer was called into a discussion about the Fed with CNBC's David Faber and "Squawk Box" co-host Joe Kernan.
"As 2008 begins, house prices are still skidding, bank losses are still mounting, oil is again flirting with $100 a barrel and consumers are buying less as prices rise," the editorial said. "To many, the wheels appear to be coming off the economy. To others, including President Bush and his aides, the economy is fundamentally sound and resilient."
Well, the New York Times certainly can't be accused of excessive free market idolization. Peter Goodman breaks off from his gloomy economic assessments to cheer for regulation in Sunday's Week in Review story "The Free Market: A False Idol After All?"
In Goodman's telling, there is no question mark, stating the argument against the free market in simplistic liberal terms, right down to echoing the Reagan-era pejorative of "trickle down economics."
Two years ago, Old Media, particularly the New York Times, and quite a few chronic sufferers of Bush Derangement Syndrome (but I repeat myself), attempted to hijack the Sago Mine tragedy in West Virginia before the wakes for the 12 dead miners were even held. They wanted to pin the catastrophe, totally without foundation, on the idea that the administration had created the conditions for the tragedy by starving the budget of the Mine Safety and Health Administration and by putting industry cronies who were deliberately lax in safety enforcement in charge.
The Times even tried to tie the tragedy to Hurricane Katrina, which had occurred a few months earlier.
The claims of negligence and pervasive deteriorating safety conditions were definitively debunked at these posts:
In short, yours truly and Bevan found that coal-mine deaths and injuries had been declining significantly during the previous four years; inspection hours had shown no indications of a safety letup; and the budget for MHSA had not been slashed.
So where is coal-mine safety, and mine safety in general, two years later?