With rare exception, TV stories just don't happen - they're planned. So we can be quite sure that sometime in the last 24 hours or so, a producer at 'Today' sent out the word: "find me a Republican voter in a key state who has decided to vote Democrat this year."
NBC folks on the ground in Ohio obliged, dutifully disinterring Mr. John Gaylord to be trotted out on this morning's show. NBC's David Gregory offered this silk-purse-into-sow's-ear intro:
"For embattled Republicans, despite falling gas prices around the country, the economy might prove a tough sell. An important bellwether for this election is right here in Ohio, where a combination of an unpopular war in Iraq, a slow state economy, and scandal have set off alarm bells for Republicans. John Gaylord, a lifelong Republican, runs a bookstore in suburban Columbus. He may switch his vote this year."
Last Wednesday, CNN aired Lou Dobbs's special "War on the Middle Class." Three days later, CNN's "In the Money" continued the network's pitched battle for more government regulation of the economy with the program's uncritical treatment of guest Barbara Ehrenreich.
Here's a bit of what my colleague Julia Seymour noticed from her review of the October 21 program. Her full article can be found here.
The financial program devoted just under five minutes to what amounted to a free advertisement for United Professionals (UP), a new organization co-founded by “Nickel and Dimed” author Barbara Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich is also author of “Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream.” She said the organization’s current function is “providing a way for people to come together, share their experiences and talk about what they’ve been going through” at a cost of $36.50 in annual dues.
The New Republic’s senior editor Jonathan Chait wrote an interesting op-ed on Sunday determined to prove that President Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 haven’t resulted in increased tax revenues (hat tip to Dave Pierre), while also attempting to make the case that tax hikes are better fiscal policy. The article’s title was “Bush’s Silly Budget Logic,” which is quite apropos given the fuzzy math and distorted recollection of history employed by the author: “There's no dispute among economists. Conservative, moderate or liberal, every credentialed economist agrees that the Bush tax cuts caused revenues to drop.”
Really? Well, let’s look at some of the facts first, shall we? For instance, according to the historical tables supplied by the Office of Management and Budget, tax receipts in FY 2003 were $1.783 trillion. The most recent estimate for FY 2006 is $2.402 trillion, a 35 percent increase. Simple, right?
Unfortunately, not for Chait who chose to represent an incomplete and misleading picture to his readers:
Those of us that study the economy and how it is reported by the drive-by media are constantly amazed by how those covering financial issues continually misrepresent statistics to advance their agenda. No finer recent example has occurred than on “The Chris Matthews Show” Sunday when the host bemoaned new highs set by the Dow Jones Industrial Average last week as not accurately reflecting what is going on in the economy.
In his final segment, Matthews actually had the nerve to state, “Eighty percent of the workforce finds their paycheck barely keeping up with inflation.” In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics just this past Wednesday released data indicating that the average American's real wage after adjusting for inflation has risen by 2.2 percent since September 2005 as reported by NewsBusters.
Matthews also referenced a recent Wall Street Journal poll suggesting:
In his “New Rules” segment on Friday night’s “Real Time”, host Bill Maher strongly attacked some of America’s leading conservatives, as well as right-wing think tanks for having been so wrong in their predictions about the Iraq war. Yet, in his rant against such entities and their inability to accurately forecast the future, Maher didn’t mention one liberal or left-leaning group that has been just as wrong about events crucial to Americans, including those that have been disseminating consistently bearish views about the economy in the midst of 20 straight quarters of growth (video to follow).
Air America is grasping for straws in some mighty odd places. A mass email from Air America host Thom Hartmann today touts the parallels between the plight of the bankrupt left-wing radio network and, of all things, Fox News Channel [FNC] and the Washington Times.
"There are times when doing the profitable thing is also doing the right thing. That's certainly what Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch thought when they lost an average of $90 million a year for about five years before the Fox News Channel became profitable."
Two weeks ago, The Washington Post's Steven Mufson reported a story the front page of the Business section about conspiracy theories floating around the Internet about "Big Oil" lowering gas prices to help the GOP in midterm elections. If that's news to you, you don't know Jack. Cafferty, that is.
Well now a real and open international conspiracy, OPEC, the international oil cartel comprised of mostly shady authoritarian countries, is working hard to raise oil prices by working in concert to limit oil supply.
Mufson wrote up the story for the Post, but it was shoved down to page D3 in today's paper.
CBS's Katie Couric led her October 19 "Evening News" with salacious, but non-political developments in Foleygate pertaining to the ex-Congressman and his relationship as a teenager with a Roman Catholic priest.
But while her rivals at ABC and NBC also covered the Foley news, they also gave full reports on the Dow's record close above 12,000. Couric only briefly mentioned the news, and followed it with a brief item about how former NYSE chairman Richard Grasso was ordered to return millions from a retirement package.
Of course Grasso's overcompensation, while newsworthy, has no bearing on the actual health of the economy or the stock exchange. But including it without explanation as a complement to the Dow story is a way to negatively spin an otherwise positive development to a general news audience.
I will shortly post an article to the MRC's BusinessandMedia.org Web site and post an update when that article is available online.
Over at the MRC's BusinessandMedia.org Web site, I wrote today about how CNN's Bill Schneider and Miles O'Brien admit that the economy is doing just fine, although polls show people think it isn't all that hot.
But rather than analyze economic trends in historical context, CNN used the opportunity to plug Lou Dobbs's special "War on the Middle Class."
At no point, however, did O’Brien or Schneider tell viewers that Dobbs’s special, and his book by the same title, represent Dobbs’s opinion, not objective reporting.
Indeed, one of the sponsors of Dobbs’s special, the American Association of Retired Persons is a liberal public policy advocate that lobbies the government to spend more taxpayer dollars on Medicare and other social programs. The AARP also played a key role in opposing President Bush’s plans to partially privatize Social Security in 2005.
NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell, President of the Media Research Center, appeared Monday on CNBC's "Kudlow and Company" where he discussed how the media are misreporting the economy.
The segment, in which Bozell appeared with Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, was prompted by a new Special Report study from the MRC's Business & Media Institute, "Bad News Bears: How Networks Distort a Good Economy and Batter President Bush."
Video clip (4:58): Windows Media (9.8 MB at higher-quality 256 kbps) or Real (3.8 MB at lower-quality 100 kbps) , plus MP3 audio (1.7 MB)
I was dutifully working my way through Robert Kuttner's Boston Globe column of this morning, Cleaning Up the Mess, on the lookout for some outrageous MSM morsel with which to arouse NewsBusters readers.
But all I was getting were Kuttner's "on the one hand, but on the other hand" arguments as to whether it is in Democratic interests to retake one or both houses of Congress come November. His thesis is that America is such a mess thanks to years of Republican misrule that fixing it could be a thankless task for Dems, who might be better off waiting for the deluge of the 2008 presidential elections. For the record, Kuttner does come down on the side of taking power now.
According to the Times, American houses of worship aren't rendering what is due Caesar.
The New York Times has put an ironic twist on the 8th Commandment: “Thou shalt not steal.” It’s accused churches nationwide of fleecing taxpayers and local governments using the First Amendment.
The Times devoted more than 17,000 words and a four-day series indicting religious groups for what it argued was essentially cheating taxpayers across the country. The pro-government, pro-regulation treatise by business reporter Diana B. Henriques was titled “In God's Name.”
On the heels of the Google purchase of YouTube, NBC warned of another dot-com bubble on the horizon. [See here for more on NBC's fixation on the "housing bubble."]
Of course, some experts will warn that's the worst-case scenario while others tend to think that the billions spent on YouTube will not lead to an escalating arms race for its less popular competitors like MetaCafe.
Meta what, you just said? Yeah, thought so. Here's a taste of my article. You can find the complete story here:
Over an onscreen graphic that read “Internet Insanity: Is the Dot.Com Boom Back,” Quintanilla suggested the Google purchase of YouTube may presage another “dot-com bubble” like the one that bedeviled the stock market, and the economy, in 2000.
It's 27 days to the election and persistent Bush critic Lou Dobbs has a new book out detailing what he sees as the "War on the Middle Class." While Dobbs faults both the GOP and Democrats for policies he disagrees with, the lion's share of his criticism has fallen to President Bush and the Republicans, particularly for tax cuts and free trade policies.
So perhaps it's no surprise that CNN is ramping up Dobb's TV time. Not only will the business reporter/commentator have a role in election night coverage, but:
Associated Press television writer David Bauder noted in an October 10 article that anchor “Dobbs’ weeknight news show will expand to seven days a week, with the two weekend editions presenting highlights of the week’s reporting beginning Oct. 28.”
ABC anchor Charles Gibson doesn't have much of a nose for business it appears. In an interview with Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Gail Shister, he asserts that if the broadcast networks stopped running advertisements for products that target older viewers (denture cleaners, medication, etc.) and started running ads for products younger viewers like (cars, vacations, etc.) the younger folks would somehow tune in.
Sorry, Charlie, it doesn't work that way. Advertisers cater to those who watch your shows, not vice versa. A better solution would be to stop running healthcare hype stories and stop trying to scare viewers about various bugaboos.
With its lead anchor having such a poor grasp of how his own industry works, is it any wonder that ABC and the other liberal-dominated networks can't seem to understand the slightly more difficult concepts of basic economics?
Note to Shister: Cool people don't use the phrase "hip-a-doodle-do."
It takes a lot of effort to miss 810,000 new jobs. The Labor Department managed it, but at least they corrected the problem. The networks have over-reported job losses and now this huge piece of good news got lost in the shuffle.
The October 8 Washington Post highlighted the incredible revision. “Unemployment is down to 4.6 percent, the lowest in five years, the Labor Department reported, adding with some embarrassment that it had suddenly discovered an estimated 810,000 net new jobs that it had somehow overlooked in the year ended in March,” wrote Steven Pearlstein.
A huge point has been virtually if not totally ignored since the announcement on Friday that the reported federal deficit for the fiscal year that ended a week ago was $250 billion -- The Bush Administration has done what it said it would do about the deficit three years ago, and has done it a full three years early, i.e., in half the time predicted.
This continues what has been a very difficult past few years have been for those who deride supply-side economics. If Washington, with a little help from the states, lets the supply-side engine continue to chug along for next several years, the results could be so positively stunning that it would become impossible for supply-side detractors in touch with any part of the real world to hang on to the comfort of their static-analysis fantasyland.
But first, let's recap what has happened in the past three fiscal years:
The Congressional Budget Office just announced extraordinary news about the budget deficit. As reported by Market Watch moments ago:
The federal government probably ran a deficit of about $250 billion in fiscal year 2006, which ended Sept. 30, the Congressional Budget Office estimated Friday. That's about $10 billion less than the CBO forecast earlier this summer and about $68 billion less than the $318 billion deficit recorded in fiscal 2005. Corporate tax receipts have continued to come in ahead of expectations, CBO said. The Treasury Department will release the official budget figures next week.
The Washington Post has gotten around to noticing the popularity of baseless conspiracy theories about gas prices.
After all, a recent USA Today poll found 42 percent of respondents believe gas prices are being deliberately rigged for the GOP's political advantage.
But even as he sought to dismiss the theories' plausibility, reporter Steven Mufson relied on liberal activist Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen to argue a kernel of truth to the notion that politics plays a role in oil and gas prices.
"I don't think the influence is as explicit as some people out there are alleging. But all markets are susceptible to politics, and oil is no exception," Slocum told the Post.
Do you favor tax cuts? If so, you're no better than a congressman wanting to slip the pants off a page. Worse, for that matter. That's the reasoning of Rosa Brooks, L.A. Times columnist. In Grand Old Party of Child Endangerment, Brooks argues that:
"Foley's acts may have damaged the handful of boys unfortunate enough to have attracted his attention, but the damage to children caused by his abuse of power is still far, far less than the damage to American children caused by this Congress' disastrous mismanagement of the American economy."
By "mismanagement," Brooks makes clear she largely means tax cuts:
"Though only the Foley scandal has generated substantial media coverage, the Republican-led Congress has a long record of child endangerment. Recall that from 2000 to 2005, Congress handed out tax breaks for the rich like hors d'oeuvres at a Republican fundraiser. They slashed the estate tax and the capital gains tax, selling these cuts with an advertising campaign that misled ordinary people into thinking the cuts were going to help working Americans, instead of just the rich."
Paul Krugman teaches teaches economics at Princeton, and has done the same at MIT. Enron evidently thought enough of his understanding of the dismal science to hire him as a consultant - though Krugman has at times been reluctant to disclose that fact. But judging by his latest anti-Wal-Mart jeremiad [subscription required] in this morning's New York Times, you really have to wonder how much the good professor of economics . . . understands about capitalism.
Krugman's portrait of Wal-Mart is a caricature of greedy management conducting what he calls a "war on wages." Krugman has apparently gotten hold of a couple leaked internal Wal-Mart memos that discuss ideas for keeping labor costs under control. Among the ideas: increasing the percentage of part-time workers, since they qualify for fewer benefits, and limiting raises for long-term employees.
All three broadcast networks last night reported on the Dow record high, pointing to falling oil prices as a reason for the latest market rally.
But the market's been heading on an upward trend for years, throughout climbing oil prices and the media's persistent pessimism on the economy.
Of the three networks, I found CBS had the most negatively-slanted coverage, and NONE of the big three gave any thought to the Bush tax cuts being a catalyst for economic growth.
For my full story, check out the MRC's BusinessandMedia.org.
Here's an excerpt:
While CBS’s Anthony Mason offered qualified praise for the market’s recent rally, he sowed seeds of doubt about the market’s strength. Mason highlighted a retiree who “doesn’t trust this new rally” and then warned that “some Wall Street analysts see another bubble in the economy” with real estate.
The October 1 edition of ABC’s “World News Sunday” preached that the 51 houses of worship in Stafford, Texas are a holy terror to the city’s finances, citing the mayor’s complaints about lack of tax revenue. But reporter Geoff Morrell left out that the city has already enacted more regulation to discourage churches and that at that beginning of the year, the mayor gave a very positive assessment of the city’s finances.
Far from the negative tone Scarcella took in his appearance in Morrell’s story, neither the mayor’s 2006 State of the City Address nor his Fiscal Year 2005-2006 Budget Message warned of dangers to city revenue from too many houses of worship.
First from Reuters, which has not always been very even-handed in reporting economic news, a pretty decent report:
Consumers bright, Midwest business strong in Sept
By Ros Krasny
CHICAGO (Reuters) - U.S. consumer spending slipped in August but falling gasoline prices elevated shoppers' moods by September and Midwest factory activity picked up as well, according to reports on Friday that suggested the economy was still motoring along.
Meanwhile, consumer prices outside food and energy edged up just 0.2 percent in August, although year-on-year price gains hit an 11-year high, offering a mixed reading on inflation.
Poor Martin Crutsinger of the Associated Press, on the other hand, must have had a lot of pent-up negativity to get out before the weekend commences, as he took the same data and turned it into what Jim Taranto at Best of the Web described thusly: "If we didn't know better, we'd think we were heading for another Great Depression."
The latest "Media Myth" study from the MRC's Business & Media Institute is out. BMI deputy editor Amy Menefee and researcher Julia Seymour found that the media were quick to hype rising gas prices but slow to recognize the ground-rocketing they've been taking lately.
In 35 straight business days of falling gas prices, evening news shows emphasized “high” or “rising” gas prices more often than falling prices.
In half the stories where journalists mentioned falling gas prices, they undermined the news with warnings of future price increases.
It took NBC three weeks to report falling prices on the "Nightly News." By that time, the average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline had fallen 24 cents.
This morning's big political news at 'Today' was the Bob Woodward book, State of Denial. Turf battles and rivalries in a White House - who would have thought it? Dems are presumably clinging to it as the Last Best Hope for Liberal-kind.
But in terms of revealing the liberal MSM mindset, I found much more interesting a few off-the-cuff comments made by members of the Today cast. At the end of the first half hour, the entire gang gathered on the studio couch, and talk centered on a just-completed segment on a proposal in NYC to ban the use of trans-fats by city restaurants.
If you see a fellow walking down the block on his hands today, you can be pretty sure he's a Democrat. For, at least from now till Election Day, Dems inhabit a topsy-turvy world in which good news is bad and bad news is good - unless the bad news is very bad, which would be bad. Got it?
By now we're all familiar with BDS - Bush Derangement Syndrome. In recent weeks, a new, virulent strain has mutated: GPDS. No, not a virus affecting the positioning gizmo in your car permitting men to achieve nirvana - never again having to ask for directions. We're talking about Gas Price Derangement Syndrome in which Democrats - depressedly deranged by dropping gasoline prices - blame the good news on a diabolical plot concocted by Karl Rove and carried out in the covens of Exxon-Mobil and company.
After weeks of CNN entertaining the notion of a gas price
conspiracy and one day after the Dow Jones had it’s second highest close, CNN’s
Andy Serwer flatly told viewers to ignore the idea that Republicans were
artificially boosting Wall Street.
“There’s the conspiracy theory that says that because we’re
coming to an election, the GOP is making the market go up, which, don’t believe
it. If they could do that, they would be on Wall Street getting really, really
rich, instead,” Serwer added in his “Minding Your Business” briefing of the
September 27 “American Morning.”