“Now we switch to the housing market and the U.S. economy and this is a big story,” said NBC “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams on August 23. “Listen to this number on mortgage foreclosures in this country. They’re up 93 percent nationwide last month from the same period last year. This situation is dire. It’s creating a lot of anxiety about how that’s going to affect a great many homeowners and the economy as a whole.”
The powerful "manufacturing is in decline" meme won't go away soon, but it should.
It apparently isn't enough that the Institute for Supply Management's Manufacturing Index has read "expansion" in 48 of the past 50 months. It has become an article of faith among reporters and opportunistic politicians that American manufacturing has been, and continues to be, in a long-term decline.
The fact is that government reports also show the exact opposite. Why apparently no one, including the sector's supporters, has done, or at least published, the simple math involved to debunk the myth of "deindustrialization" is indeed a mystery.
There has been support by anecdote. For example, on August 6, Joel Kotkin, a presidential fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University, wrote an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal ("The Myth of Deindustrialization"; link requires subscription). His column led as follows:
The Los Angeles Times reported a run of Countrywide Bank by its customers as more and more are panicked about the potential of the nation’s largest home lender to go bankruptcy – something fueled by many of the reports in the media.
“[S]ales of existing homes fell in 41 states from April through June,” said CBS correspondent Susan McGinnis on the August 16 “The Early Show.” “Meanwhile, foreclosures continue to soar. And there are growing worries about the nation's biggest mortgage lender; Countrywide Financial could be forced into bankruptcy.”
But some experts seem to think this scare from the media over Countrywide’s bankruptcy is a little premature.
In a recent blog post by CBS Evening News correspondent Cynthia Bowers we find that she has had some problems with the housing market herself. Bowers apparently didn’t grasp the fact that her Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) can actually adjust:
“For a while we were okay. Then that Fed rate started going up, and so did our ARM. Over a five-month period it increased the cost of our monthly mortgage by nearly 40%!” Bowers wrote.
But Bowers shouldn’t have been surprised about her rate adjustment. According to Nexis, Cynthia Bowers has been reporting on the mortgage and housing market since at least 1997. With a decade of industry reporting under her belt, you’d think she’d be able to anticipate the fact that rates shift and payments adjust.
Today's Washington Post story about the latest legal filings in a securities case echoes the bias of liberal blogs and publications on the case.
The Post leads the story this way:
The Bush administration yesterday sided with accountants, bankers and lawyers seeking to avoid liability in corporate fraud cases, arguing that investors must show they lost money after relying on deceptions by third parties in order to proceed with private lawsuits.
"The Bush administration yesterday sided with U.S. manufacturers and their 14 million employees, arguing against a reinterpretation of securities law that could lead to an explosive rise in litigation."
“But fundamentally it comes down to where you’re having the toys made. They’re being made in China, you don’t have oversight, there’s tremendous pressure for them to cut corners and keep costs down, because that’s how you make money. So allow me to ask you sir, how much money are you saving having these toys made in China?”
"Good Morning America" asked "What is going on?" with the stock market on August 16. Anchor Chris Cuomo asked Bianna Golodryga if the market drop is a correction or a recession.
"There seem to be two schools of thought here, those involved in all this sophisticated mortgage lending are saying this is the beginning of the end. But stock analysts are saying it is just a correction. Where are people's heads down there today?" said Cuomo
An on-screen graphic read, "Very Nervy Wall Street Correction Or Recession?"
CNBC’s Jim Cramer went on an impassioned rant August 6 calling for the Fed to reduce interest rates.
“Bernanke needs to open the discount window. That is how bad things are out there … in the fixed income markets we have Armageddon,” said Cramer on “Stop Trading!” Following Cramers’ rant, NBC brought him on “Today” to analyze the economy August 10.
NBC’s Meredith Vieira asked “Are the markets about to crash?” on the August 10 “Today” show.
“Do you fly to San Francisco by any chance?...OK, I have to go out there, are you going to promise me, guarantee me, that if I buy a ticket at the end of August you won’t cancel that flight?”
That was NBC “Today” show host Meredith Vieira’s final question in an interview with Northwest Airlines CEO Douglas Steenland. Vieira phrased the question as though it was Steenland’s faultthat a high number of flights had been cancelled earlier in the summer. To Vieira weather, mechanical problems, and Air Traffic Control apparently played no part in it.
Vieira spent almost the entire five-and-a-half-minute interview berating Steenland.
The New York Times' reliably pro-illegal immigrant reporter Julia Preston, fresh from using a survey compiled by a (unlabeled) Hillary presidential pollster to make a pro-illegal immigrant argument, returned to the beat Saturday with "Farmers Call Crackdown On Illegal Workers Unfair," which located another odd angle to defend amnesty for illegals -- it will hurt agribusiness.
"Facing the prospect of major layoffs of farmworkers during harvest season, growers and lawmakers from agricultural states spoke in dire terms yesterday about new measures by the Bush administration to crack down on employers of illegal immigrants.
"'This is not just painful, this is death to the American farmer,' Maureen Torrey, who runs a family dairy and vegetable farm in Elba, N. Y., said in a telephone interview.
“Crashing” stock market? “Legalized gambling”? ABC’s “Good Morning America” berated the stock market for trampling on a supposed individual right to a mortgage.
Chris Cuomo’s August 13 story on a couple who had their mortgage pulled due the recent “drama on Wall Street” started like this:
“To a certain extent the stock market has always been a form of legalized gambling, where Wall Street tries to cash in on bets made on the right companies. But for many financial institutions, the chips were the mortgages of hard-working American families, in danger of losing their homes, or now never getting a chance to live the American dream.”
At OpinionJournal.com on Thursday ("Fair but Unbalanced -- How the media promote false pessimism about the economy"), Brian Wesbury, who has written several times on the disconnect between the strong economy and the public's perception of it (previous references here, here, here, here, and here), had another generally stellar column about what is nonetheless a relatively small piece of the problem.
Wesbury ascribes much of the disconnect to TV's need for "balance," when giving positive and negative views equal weight is often in reality unbalanced:
If one guest or expert is a "bull," then the other must be a "bear," to keep things fair. Or, if there is a single guest on air, the host often takes the other side of the issue in order to keep things balanced. Get some sparks between guests, a little argument here or there, and it's even better for the ratings. The bigger the audience, the better the show, that's the way the advertisers see it. It's basic supply and demand.
But this idea of presenting both sides of an issue, while entertaining, informative and seemingly balanced, may paradoxically create a warped perspective of the economy.
The Kids Are All Right Economic literacy test: High school seniors beat Congress.
Excerpts (bold is mine):
Since its founding in 1969, the NAEP has become something of an annual exercise in American educational masochism. Last year, only 54% of students met NAEP's "basic" standard--the equivalent of a passing grade--on the science test. The previous year tested history; a mere 47% passed. But when knowledge of economics was tested this year, well, let's just say the supply curve shifted. NAEP reported this week that 79% of twelfth graders passed this first-ever national economics test. Holy Hayek.
..... The depth of knowledge shown by ordinary seniors suggests that they have been able to absorb basic economic truths from their daily experiences. Now, if this wisdom can only survive four years of instruction by your average college faculty.
Overall all the tax questions pushed Bush towards hiking taxes. Notice the first question out of the gate was on raising the gasoline tax, not about oh, how the gas tax funds are perpetually raided by Congress for non-infrastructure spending. The question on corporate tax rates and carried interest also come from the left, pushing Bush on the matter of tax "fairness." I particulary find the questions in bold obnoxious vis-a-vis fiscal policy.
11:18: president concludes news conference.
11:14, unid'd reporter: Given the decision to commute Libby, is it fair for people to ask about your commitment to accountability?
11:13, unid'd reporter, citing Libby pardon, Al Gonzales hearings: Can you give clear examples of how you've held people accountable during your presidency?
11:12, Ann, followup: So you're confident you can continue to sustain the level of spending in Iraq?
Inflation? Forget about it. Let the economists and policy wonks worry about it.
The Federal Reserve’s decision not to drop interest rates drew the ire of “CBS Evening News” correspondent Kelly Wallace on August 7. Wallace’s story about the “credit crunch” centered on Amanda Michalko, a 26-year old Michigan resident, who would not benefit from lower monthly payments on her pending mortgage because of the Fed.
Diane Sawyer kicked "Good Morning America" off this morning with economic worries about Wall Street, the "credit crunch" and "record" foreclosures.
“We do begin with the week on Wall Street, where the Dow took another huge hit, plunging 280 points in just two hours. The cause of the worst credit crunch in almost quarter a century and you’ve seen it in the neighborhoods – a record number of foreclosures,” said Sawyer.
But according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBAA), foreclosures are not at a record when viewed by percentage. GMA’s one-sided talk of a “record number of foreclosures” misled viewers. Foreclosures are up compared to 2006, but so are the number of home loans.
The lesson from this post isn't bias as much as it is making sure not to get taken in by Old Media overreactions.
Jim Cramer of CNBC's "Mad Money" went mad on Friday, declaring Armageddon in this video rant on Friday (watch the whole thing to see just how out-of-control he was; his declaration is at 1:40 in the vid -- "in the fixed-income markets, we have Armageddon.").
The first trading day after Cramer's declaration of Aramageddon went thusly (from a CNN e-mail after the markets' 4PM close):
In a move that might make some people scratch their heads, a loosely formed coalition of left-leaning bloggers are trying to band together to form a labor union they hope will help them receive health insurance, conduct collective bargaining or even set professional standards.
If summer heat and drought were jeopardizing crops in the Midwest, would a climate change obsessed media be having a field day (pun intended) reporting the news whilst connecting it to manmade global warming?
24 hours a day, seven days a week, right? CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC would likely have correspondents in the cornfields giving daily updates about the gravity of the situation.
Yet, further south in Texas, there's a crop very important to Americans in tremendous danger that has gotten almost no attention.
Why? Because abnormally cold summer temperatures are threatening it, and that just doesn't fit the current media agenda. As reported by the Associated Press Friday (h/t NB reader Phillip A. Smith):
One of the Associated Press's earliest articles following Friday morning's release of the government's Employment Report, which showed July's unemployment ticking up 0.1% to 4.6% and new jobs increasing by 92,000, had this outrageous paragraph (backup link is here in case the article is revised or removed; bolds are mine):
Construction companies slashed 12,000 jobs in July. Manufacturers shed 2,000 and retailers cut a thousand. Some 28,000 government jobs were eliminated. In contrast, education and health care added 39,000. Leisure and hospitality expanded employment by 22,000. Professional and business services added 26,000 new positions.
Note that AP uses violent terminology to describe relatively modest decreases in employment caused by (apparently evil) private-sector employers, while it applies relatively bland verbs to much larger private-sector increases. Meanwhile, the description of the large reduction in government jobs slips into passive voice, with no perpetrator identified. Zheesh -- How obviously biased can you get?
More discussion, this week's winner, and a chart comparing Bush 43 and late Clinton-era economic performance are after the break.
Good thing “Nightly News” is focusing on global warming solutions or the network might even try to pin that on the housing market.
“Even Toyota sales fell and blamed a weak housing market for a plunge in light truck sales,” said “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams on August 1. Williams also managed to mention that the DJIA finished up 150 points “despite the fact that the housing and mortgage market are showing even more signs of weakness now.”
Sounding more like ABC's Sam Champion or Al Gore than a "fair and balanced" news anchor, Fox's Shepard Smith slammed Americans in general and his studio audience in particular in a recent "Studio B" interview with a British man who swam at the North Pole as a global warming-related publicity stunt.
See the YouTube video below the fold. Here's an excerpt of the exchange:
A bridge in Minnesota tragically collapsed Wednesday killing an unknown number of innocent people. As reported by the Associated Press:
The eight-lane Interstate 35W bridge, a major Minneapolis artery, was in the midst of repairs when the bridge buckled during the evening rush hour Wednesday. Dozens of cars plummeted more than 60 feet into the Mississippi River, some falling on top one of another. A school bus sat at an angle on the concrete.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those involved including friends and relatives.
Sadly, as every disaster that has occurred since late January 2001 has been somehow blamed on the Bush administration - most notably Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the recent tornados in Kansas - a question needs asking:
You'd think it was the news media that "got a raise" last week for all the cheering. The federal minimum wage was increased on July 24 by 70 cents to $5.85 an hour and will go up by the same amount in 2008 and 2009.
CNN's Ali Velshi gleefully greeted the change on "American Morning" July 24. He called it "unmitigated good news."
ABC's Claire Shipman also called it "good news for thousands of low-paid workers," on "Good Morning America" the same day.
Consumer confidence hit a six-year high in July, a widely watched gauge of sentiment showed on Tuesday, as Americans shrugged off falling home prices to focus on a healthy jobs market, instead.
The New York-based Conference Board said that its Consumer Confidence Index, rebounded to 112.6, its highest level since August 2001 when it recorded a 114.0 reading. That compared to a revised 105.3 in June. The July 24 cutoff for the preliminary survey of 5,000 U.S. households was before last week's stock market tumble, however.
It has to. A six-year high is bad enough; we surely can't afford to let the index get to an 8-year high, or someone might get the mistaken idea that the current economy is as good as or (heaven forbid) even better than the Golden Age of the 1990s (even though by a couple of respected measures it is).
“News that gasoline prices are falling usually comes with a warning – don’t get used to it,” said “CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric. “So consider yourself warned as we tell you gas has fallen 17 cents the past two weeks to a nationwide average tonight of $2.88 a gallon. That is the lowest price in three months.”
That’s right, Katie. When it comes to gasoline prices and the CBS “Evening News,” they’re either high or probably going to get higher.
"Evening News" ignored the initial drop in gasoline prices last week.
It seems the media know why the stock market declined recent. Some journalists are blaming this recent correction in the stock market on widespread credit problems and point to troubles in the housing market as evidence.
“[B]ut nothing is likely to unsettle the markets as much as more credit woes,” said NBC News correspondent Pat Dawson on the July 29 “NBC Nightly News.” “Any additional problems with mortgage defaults or companies trying to borrow and coming up short is likely to send investors running for the exits again.”