Today, talk-show heavyweight Rush Limbaugh picked up on a curious oversight by an AP business reporter whose negative spin in supposedly objective stories on the economy has frequently been noted here.
In a Friday story about a survey of top financial company executives, the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger wrote the following (bold is mine):
Turmoil in credit and housing markets will be the most significant threat to growth this year, according to a survey of top financial company executives released Friday.
These executives believe there is a high probability — 88 percent — that the country will suffer a recession in the next 12 months.
..... After credit market tumult and troubles in the housing market, the executives listed the next biggest threats to the economy now as the possibility the government will impose higher taxes or raise protectionist barriers to foreign competition.
Network journalists have yet to meet a spending hike or regulation that they considered unwise, but any tax cut is always ill-advised and helps “the wealthy.” Living up to the pattern -- and illustrating how John McCain will earn media scorn for any conservative policy proposal -- NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams set up a Tuesday story on McCain's economic plan by emphasizing how “some critics say his economic plan, which centers on more tax cuts, doesn't add up.”
Reporting on McCain's plan outlined in a speech at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, reporter Kelly O'Donnell listed McCain's idea for a summer suspension of the gas tax, though that “tax is used to pay for highway repairs.” O'Donnell moved on to McCain's proposal to “double the income tax exemption for dependents to $7,000 a year,” hardly a boon to the rich, before getting to McCain's “core idea” to “lower taxes and make up lost revenue with cuts in government spending.” She then delivered the liberal line: “But critics and some economists argue McCain's math is wrong, that his plan would tilt toward the wealthy, swell the deficit, and not trim enough.”
John McCain not only surprised and pleased many with his hands-off stand against government intervention in the home mortgage "crisis," he broke through the liberal media's fascination with Obama-Clinton, but at a cost -- the New York Times's front-page story from March 26 was notably unsympathetic, relaying only criticism from his Democratic opponents. Hillary's plan, by contrast, had been warmly received by the Times the day before.
Late last week McCain pivoted toward calling for more federal help for struggling homeowners, and the Times took another bite, in "McCainShifts on Aid to Some Mortgage Holders," Friday's piece by reporter Michael Cooper:
Do we all get free wooden shoes? Barack Obama didn't say. But he does have an Impossible Dream to cut poverty that would make Don Quixote proud. Put people to work . . . building windmills. His idea came in response to a question at last night's Compassion Forum on CNN from Jim Wallis, a leading member of the religious left whose focus is "social justice." Wallis wanted Obama to commit to a new War on Poverty.
JIM WALLIS: As you reminded us a week or two ago, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed 40 years ago, he wasn't just speaking about civil rights. He was fighting for economic justice. Was about to launch a poor people's campaign. Yet, four decades after the anniversary of his death, the poverty rate in America is virtually unchanged and 1 in 6 of our children are poor in the richest nation in the world. So in the faith community, we are wanting a new commitment around a measurable goal, something like cutting poverty in half in ten years. Would you commit -- would you at this historic compassion forum, commit to such a goal tonight and if elected, tell us how you would mobilize the nation, mobilize us to achieve that goal?
Surely, you'd think, the candidate wouldn't fall into that big-government trap. Think again . . .
Barack Obama has been airing a shamelessly anti-business TV ad in Pennsylvania for a while now. In the ad Obama himself, in his own voice, makes the claim that he doesn't "take money from oil companies." But there is a two-fold deception in this claim that Obama doesn't tell his sycophantic fans. So where is the media to pounce on these cynical deceptions? They’re nowhere to be seen.
Recently I saw the ad where Obama claimed he didn't take contributions from oil companies and the claim struck a chord in my memory. I was under the impression that oil companies could not legally donate to a campaign at all. So, I did some checking and it seems that FactCheck.org did an entire page on Obama's deceptive Pennsylvania ad.
Just in time for Tax Day, the April 13 issue of Parade magazine gave readers left-wing talking points on corporate taxation dressed up as objective reporting.
Contributor Gary Weiss cited two left-wing interest groups and liberal Democratic congressman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) in "Are You Paying For Corporate Fat Cats?" By the end of the article, readers are all but left to seethe an angry "yes!" to that question.
Yet at no point were any economists consulted to point out that corporate tax levies are always ultimately paid by the consumer, who bears the final cost of goods and services produced by the taxed corporations. Taxes are yet one more input cost into final goods and services. So simply put, corporations don't pay taxes, individuals do.
Weiss failed to tackle the political slant of the groups he consulted, which were merely tagged as nonprofits. A quick Google search of the groups makes clear the liberal slant of the organizations.
CORRECTION: This item originally cited Ace of Spades as having uncovered that Obama's mentor was Frank Marshall Davis, a man with Communist roots. It was in fact Cliff Kincaid at Accuracy in Media. I regret the error.
Religion is the opiate of the masses. -- Karl Marx, 1843
It's not surprising that they get bitter, they cling to . . . religion . . . as a way to explain their frustrations. -- Barack Obama, 2008
Has anyone else pointed out the striking similarity between Barack Obama's recent statement about tough economic times driving people to religion and that of another person who preached change: Karl Marx?
Obama added guns and xenophobia to his list of proletarian elixirs for bitterness. But the fundamental point remains: Barack apparently doesn't take religion, his own or anyone else's, too seriously. It's not a search for truth or an attempt to live in accordance with God's word. It's just a way to get by, a stupefacient that helps proles endure the pain of living in an economy unfairly dominated by the "haves." Karl would concur.
This morning's Today did take up the controversy that Obama's remark has kicked up. View video here.
The average American will receive a $2,500 tax refund this year, a statistic that left CBS “The Early Show” host Harry Smith “stunned” on the April 11 broadcast.
“I am stunned to know what the average refund is,” Smith said. “$2,200 [in 2007], that’s too much, right?”
“It is too much,” said Money magazine senior writer Janice Revell.
She explained that the checks actually represent an interest-free loan between the government and taxpayers.
“When you get your refund it feels like this big windfall, you’ve won the lottery, but in essence what you’ve done is you’ve loaned your money, interest-free, to Uncle Sam for the year,” Revell said. “It just makes no sense.”
Congratulations to The Washington Post's Steven Pearlstein - being on the "economy is destined for calamity" bandwagon early. It has won you a Pulitzer Prize.
Pearlstein was named as one of the recipients of the 2008 Pulitzer Prizes, for his columns on the nation's economic problems. Granted, Pearlstein called the fundamental problems with some of the shenanigans going on in the home mortgage early. But, he hasn't stopped there.
If you keep banging the downbeat economy drum, you'll be rewarded. According to the Pulitzer Prize citation for his award, Pearlstein was awarded the most coveted award in print journalism for "his insightful columns that explore the nation's complex economic ills with masterful clarity."
Panicky protectionists are predicting some unsavory possibilities for the U.S. economy thanks to emerging foreign economies with newly created wealth to invest.
Although they're unlikely possibilities, CBS's April 6 "60 Minutes" delved into the potential threat one Chinese sovereign wealth fund might pose to the American economy.
"All together, the sovereign wealth funds of countries like Abu Dhabi and Kuwait have spent over $30 billion bailing out our financial system, which has raised some troubling questions," CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl said. "Are these mostly undemocratic regimes saving Wall Street or invading it? One fund is of special concern - it's new, highly secretive and the fifth largest in the world."
The news media contribute to the American public's pessimism about the economy, Business & Media Institute Vice President Dan Gainor wrote in Investor's Business Daily April 4.
"Major downturns aren't just caused by economic circumstances anymore. The news media will have done their best to help it along with years of negativity," Gainor wrote. "They've succeeded in part already. The March 18 USA Today reported a Gallup poll showing that 59 percent of Americans thinking a depression ‘lasting several years' is ‘likely, and 79 percent are worried about the possibility.'"
The three broadcast network news shows compared current economic conditions to the Great Depression more than two dozen times since the beginning of 2008. "Gallup simply heard people parrot what they were told," Gainor said.
He compared media coverage of the economy to advertising's effect on the public's buying habits and called out a Washington Post columnist who went so far as to say that "the best thing that could happen to our economy is for a dozen high-profile hedge funds to collapse; for investment banking to enter a long, deep freeze; for a major bank to fail."
The Associated Press's out-of-whack news priorities and seemingly boundless determination to distort never cease to amaze. Hope Yen's Sunday report on VA credit-card charges is yet more evidence that the wire service has lost its way.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Veterans Affairs employees last year racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in government credit-card bills at casino and luxury hotels, movie theaters and high-end retailers such as Sharper Image and Franklin Covey — and government auditors are investigating, citing past spending abuses.
All told, VA staff charged $2.6 billion to their government credit cards.
Yen must "hope" that disgusted readers will stop there, because, thanks to "clever" writing, many readers will believe that $2.6 billion in spending is under investigation, and that the "hundreds of thousands" represents the small tip of a very big iceberg.
Business & Media Institute Vice President Dan Gainor told the Fox Business Network on April 4 that the government might be intervening too much in the financial markets to address credit problems, and he criticized the media for failing to cover both sides fairly.
"The networks are not portraying at all the other point which is: maybe we're using too much government intervention. Maybe we're using too much regulation," Gainor said. "Instead they're using the worst-case scenario reporting" to support government intervention.
Is it just me, or is the Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa doing an end-zone dance because she thinks that the recession Old Media has been pining for has finally arrived?
Someone needs to remind her that one negative quarter, if it even occurs, does not a recession make.
In an early-Saturday story on the economy, Aversa treated the recession as a lock in her first paragraph, even though the fifth paragraph betrayed uncertainty (bolds are mine):
It's no longer a question of recession or not. Now it's how deep and how long. Workers' pink slips stacked ever higher in March as jittery employers slashed 80,000 jobs, the most in five years, and the national unemployment rate climbed to 5.1 percent. Job losses are nearing the staggering level of a quarter-million this year in just three months.
Like characters in a Currier & Ives scene, a gentle snow has covered the Clintons. Make that a gentle Snow . . .
On yesterday's Hardball, Chris Matthews, smelling a rat, was livid when he learned that the Clintons had failed to file or release their 2007 tax return. But on today's Good Morning America, Kate Snow managed to make a silk purse out of the sow's ear of the Clinton's delay. Far from depicting it as a means to evade the promulgation of inconvenient facts, Snow painted the procrastination as proof of the Clintons' humanity. Compare and contrast . . .
HARDBALL APRIL 4TH
DAVID SHUSTER: As far as the details we do not have the details from last year. We don't have those specific consulting fees for last year.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I was predicting [that] . . . now Joan [Walsh of Salon.com], it seems to me everybody wanted to know where the Clintons got their income. Is there any sticky income? We're not getting that information. The one thing we were promised to get.
Did you know that 574,000 and 1.1 million more Americans had jobs in March than in February and January, respectively?
Seriously, as you can see on the right (data can be retrieved from this BLS page; select the very first "not seasonally adjusted" table).
Now the fact remains, as you can also see, that job growth during the past two months is nowhere near as great as it was during the same two months in 2006 (1.91 million) or 2007 (1.58 million). This goes a long way towards explaining why total employment, when adjusted for seasonality, fell 80,000 during March, and by 232,000 during the first quarter.
There's no denying that the employment situation has been deteriorating for several months, and I'm not trying to minimize that. What I am saying is that the "employees were thrown out on the streets during March" narrative cooked up by Old Media today, including the Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa, is clearly false, either because Old Media reporters and their editors don't understand a concept as basic as seasonality, or they don't want to.
Touting a new CBS News/New York Times poll on Friday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased an upcoming segment on the poll’s findings: "Is America broken? In a new CBS News poll, 81% of Americans believe this country's on the wrong track. Never has that number been so high."
Co-host Harry Smith later introduced the segment by declaring: "A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows 81% of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction. The 14% who think we're on the right track is all -- an all-time low in the 25 years that CBS News has been asking the question." Conveniently, as Smith pointed out, CBS News began asking that question in 1983, during the Reagan Administration, and never asked the poll question during the Carter Administration. If they had, one might suspect that quite a few Americans thought the country was "headed in the wrong direction" at the time.
Smith then highlighted a restaurant owner in New Jersey, Marianne Cuneo-Powell, who "is cutting costs any way she can." Smith went to show how Powell’s situation reflected the poll numbers: "She is among the 78% of Americans who believe the economy is in bad condition... Like Marianne, two-thirds of Americans believe the U.S. economy is already in a recession. And they are not encouraged by their leaders in Washington...Only 21% of Americans approve of President Bush's handling of the economy." Of course a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, not based on what the latest poll numbers say.
As economic issues move to the front of the on-going presidential campaign, the mainstream media have given an increased amount of coverage to what is happening on Wall Street. However, they have portrayed Wall Street as something completely alien to what happens on "Main Street."
"Now to Wall Street, which, as you know, doesn't always like what Main Street likes, and by the end of the trading day, it was up," NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams said on Oct. 31, 2007.
But something positive on Wall Street and something positive for Main Street are not mutually exclusive.
In a news brief on Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Russ Mitchell reported: "Homeowners struggling to pay the mortgage may soon be getting help from Congress -- Congress, rather, but efforts may fall short." Correspondent Wyatt Andrews went to explain why the measures may not help enough people: "Senate leadership believes it finally has a tentative deal in place to help some, but certainly not all, distressed homeowners stay in their homes...Senate Democrats wanted a much larger package, reaching tens of thousands more homeowners, but compromised with Republicans to get this deal done."
Andrews went on to describe the overwhelming desire for a government bailout plan while also pitting Wall Street against main street: "As Congress took off for the last two weeks, both parties took heat at home for doing nothing, letting average Americans absorb the loss of their homes while losses at Bear Stearns, $29 billion worth, were being absorbed by the Fed." Andrews followed with a clip of Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney: "Wall Street has been helped. Now it's time to help main street."
Many media outlets have hyped projected 2008 food stamp usage as a “record high,” but as FNC's Brit Hume pointed out Wednesday night in showcasing a particularly misleading take in The Independent in London, a higher percent of Americans were on food stamps “back in the Clinton years.” Hume showcased the London paper's Tuesday front page headline, “United States of America 2008: The Great Depression,” which asserted that 28 million on food stamps in the U.S. represents “the highest level since the program was introduced in the 1960's.” Hume noted:
But critics suggest, however, that that number is misleading since 28 million people would be just 9.2 percent of all Americans. Back in the Clinton years, food stamp distribution reached at an all-time high of almost 10 and a half percent in 1993 and 1994 and 10 percent in 1995.
The Independent matched Monday's front page New York Times article, “As Jobs Vanish and Prices Rise, Food Stamp Use Nears Record,” in which Erik Eckholm asserted “the number of Americans receiving food stamps is projected to reach 28 million in the coming year, the highest level since the aid program began in the 1960s...” Lifting that story, on Monday's CBS Evening News reporter Bill Whitaker ominously intoned: “With jobs declining and prices for basics -- food, fuel, medicine -- on the rise, more Americans are expected to turn to food stamps in the next year than at any time since the program began in the 1960s.”
The April 1 Independent story about a looming "Great Depression" in the United States was positively risible. But as Jim Geraghty at National Review Online noted yesterday, the stark-looking photo for the paper's story (at right via Getty Images) was three years old.:
Their caption: "Disadvantaged Americans queue for aid in New York."
CNN correspondent Dana Bash, during an interview of Senator John McCain which aired on Tuesday’s "The Situation Room," raised the issue of whether the Republican presidential candidate felt voters’ pain on the economy. "[I]n this time of uncertainty, when there are so many people hurting, are you concerned that there are voters out there who hear that who say, John McCain is heartless when it comes to this issue?" The thought that McCain might be "heartless" was reenforced by inclusion of the chyron, "McCain & Voters’ Pain: Against Big Economic Bailouts." [Audio available here.]
Following her "heartless" question on the economy, Bash followed up by asking a particularly blunt question about whether the current economy would hurt him if it continued into the time immediately before the election. "If the headlines that are on the front page of the newspapers today are the same headlines on the front pages in late October, early November, does John McCain lose?"
Wall Street saw a 391-point rally on the Dow today, the first day of the second quarter. ABCNews.com saw the development worthy of a "Breaking News" tag towards the top of its Web page and put the story in the top headlines rotation.
But it appears that ABCNews.com was alone among its competitors in trumpeting the news. I checked numerous Web sites shortly after 5:30 and found ABC's to be the only one to give the rally top billing. [see the screencaps below the page break]
Economic activity in the manufacturing sector failed to grow in March, while the overall economy grew for the 77th consecutive month, say the nation's supply executives in the latest Manufacturing ISM Report On Business®.
The report was issued today by Norbert J. Ore, C.P.M., chair of the Institute for Supply Management™ Manufacturing Business Survey Committee. "The manufacturing sector failed to grow in March as the PMI fell below 50 percent for the second consecutive month.
Just because the ISM says the economy has grown won't necessarily make it so when Uncle Sam's Bureau of Economic Analysis releases the first quarter 2008 GDP report late this month, but it beats the alternative.
The real fun comes in looking over the reporting on the ISM results. Were they better or worse than "expected"? Well, it depends on who you ask.
The latest round of war-movie failures, explained and discussed in more detail by Mark at Weapons of Mass Discussion this past Saturday, is just another episode in a five-year horror story at the box office for the US movie business. Despite the growth of DVD sales during most of that time and the potential for gold in downloads, the ongoing dismal results at the box office have to be causing headaches in Hollywood's executive suites.
Box office receipts have never really recovered from a disastrous 2005, barely beating inflation since then, while per-capita ticket purchases have stagnated:
When This Week assembled a round-table of four liberals versus one conservative yesterday, I kvetched. Maybe I should have cheered. ABC's idea of balance looks good compared to that of CBS. This morning's Early Show preview of the Bush admin's plan, to be announced later today, to regulate the financial industry was essentially conservative-free. OK, to be absolutely accurate, there was a brief clip of Treasury Secretary Paulson saying the plan would protect the Fed's balance sheet and US taxpayers.
But in her set-up piece, CBS's Kimberly Dozier emphasized the negative: "critics say it's win-win for banks, not the consumer. Less regulation, but no new legal limits to stop questionable lending practices or to stop the shell-game financial structures that led to the current mortgage debacle." The only expert she aired was University of Maryland economist Peter Morici who griped that under the plan: "[banks] can still engage in sharp practices that got them in trouble. There's no reason to believe that this regulatory format will keep the kind of crisis we just had from happening again. Nor will it get us out of this recession."
Co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez took the baton from there. She first interviewed Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), who claimed Congress had already given the Fed "massive" regulatory authority. Dodd predictably blamed the current situation on "a failure of leadership." Then it was on to Rodriguez's in-studio chat with CBS News biz correspondent Anthony Mason who--surprise!-- was also a critic of the plan.
In a Wednesday story on food stamp program participation in West Virginia that is still being linked at Drudge this evening, Charleston Daily Mail writer Justin D. Anderson fell into the same trap reporters have been falling into for nearly a year, but later largely made up for it by acknowledging that the program is a supplement, and is not designed, or intended, to pay for all of its beneficiaries' food costs.
Here are paragraphs 1, 5, and 6 of Anderson's report:
Challenged by George Will during This Week of March 30th, liberal economics professsor Paul Krugman looks nervously to liberal economics professor Robert Reich. Krugman was one of four liberals at the round-table versus the sole conservative, Will.