Prior to the midterms, CNN ran a number of stories on falling gas prices and a possible conspiracy between the Republican Party and "Big Oil" to lower costs before the elections. Each piece hinted at a dark plot as the reason for declining prices. Well, the elections are over; Democrats are in power, and now America is in ‘a recovery.’ Introducing a segment on Wednesday’s "American Morning," co-anchor Miles O’Brien cheerily discussed the upcoming holiday travel season:
Miles O’Brien: "A week away from your road trip over the interstate and through the malls to grandmother's house. A check of what it will cost you to fill up your sleigh now. Triple A reports the national average of unleaded gas now at $2.22 a gallon. Shoot, grandmother could live further away, or farther away, I guess. And with prices falling more people are heading back to the bigger rides.‘American Morning’s Dan Lothian joining us from Washington with more on that. Hello, Dan."
Reporter Dan Lothian’s story focused on how these low prices are allowing Americans to buy SUVs again:
Dan Lothian: "Good morning, Miles. Well, you know, over the last couple of days we've seen gas prices in some markets across the country trickling up just a little bit. But as you mention, overall the trend is going down. For some people, that means a return to old habits. After months of severe pain at the pump, call it the recovery."
Rubin Urges Democrats to Raise Taxes to Reverse Budget Deficit
Interesting, in light of this in the Washington Post (HT Surly Don Surber; as an aside, I really have to wonder how this plays with the Democratic Underground/Daily Kos base):
Alternative Minimum Tax Targeted
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Democratic leaders this week vowed to make the alternative minimum tax a centerpiece of next year's budget debate, saying the levy threatens to unfairly increase tax bills for millions of middle-class families by the end of the decade.
“Victory is mine,” he seemed to gloat to viewers as with smug delight CNN populist gadfly and resident protectionist applauded the passage of six minimum wage increases in states ballot booths across the country.
Before the election, Dobbs was quite active in pushing such an increase both on his show and in his book, “War on the Middle Class.” Dobbs had a pre-election one-hour special by the same title, biased in favor of more taxation and regulation of the economy.
Following Christine Romans’ report on the initiatives, Dobbs chose to lecture the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and The Heritage Foundation for what he sees as their wrong-headed opinion on the matter.
In his Election Day essay on this morning's Today show, NBC's Tom Brokaw found a shaky Republican in Montana, a squishy GOP senator on the war and thought the Ted Haggard and Mark Foley stories would turn independents the Democrats' way. Running down the various issues voters face today, Brokaw did highlight some positives in the economy but then turned negative as he noted: "But there's so much wrong and a fierce debate about the road ahead. And many more think this country is headed in the wrong direction than in the right direction...Gas prices, health care, housing cost, immigration, gay marriageand the war, always the war." Brokaw then scared up three even Republicans:
Just four days before the election, the network news shows downplayed reports of a major drop in the unemployment rate and the creation of 231,000 new jobs. CBS’s Katie Couric groused, “But do the jobs out there pay enough?” NBC’s Brian Williams declared, “That was below expectations,” and ABC’s Charles Gibson gave the issue a total of 15 seconds.
That wasn’t the way the networks handled bad news in 2002 and 2004, when the final employment reports before Election Day were disappointing. On both occasions, ABC’s “World News Tonight” began its broadcast discussing the negative reports.
This reminds me of something blogger Ace of Spades mentioned to me some time ago about how it's not just the words, it's the pictures. Seemingly without exception, stories about the economy durng the 1990s had images or video of machines producing currency, cash registers ringing, and heavy traffic inside shopping malls. When's the last time anyone saw any of this in a news report about this very good economy?
Without offering any contrary views AP reports that the drop in profits for US Citgo gas stations only hurts Americans.
This half-the-story report was buttressed with a quote from Vance McSpadden, executive director of the Oklahoma Petroleum Association. McSpadden wants to stop Americans from avoiding the Citgo chain of stations -- Citgo gets their imported product from Hugo Chavez' state owned and operated Venezuelan oil companies
Over the Summer, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez went on a world-wide tour of America's biggest enemies telling them and all who would listen how America is the Great Satan and that George Bush is the devil. His whirlwind tour of hate ended at a rostrum in the U.N. where he made himself look the fool in front of the world to the applause of rabid America haters everywhere.
Thanks, Bob Kuttner. You might doubt my sincerity. But really, I mean it. With Nancy AWOL, and Charley Rangel coyly claiming at his age he doesn't buy green bananas let alone speculate what he would do as Way & Means Chairman, perhaps Americans have lost sight of what the Dems have up their sleeve if they get back the majority. So in all sincerity, thanks for telling it like it is.
"We are about to get something all too rare in Democratic politics lately -- some progressive leadership . . . With a little gumption on the Democratic side, the lopsided distribution of wealth, security, and opportunity in America could come roaring back."
A new book has hit the stands that has been a "filler" topic for many talk radio programs this week. Called 101 most influential people who never lived, the book is penned by three authors who rate fictional characters of literature and film who they feel had the greatest influence on society.
The book is being treated as light, amusing reading, with USA Today quoting author Lazar as saying, "The point of the book is to entertain". Most radio interviews I have heard have treated it as a "fun" topic.
But, a recent interview of one of the authors, Dr. Alan Lazar, was aired on Nick Digilio's WLS, Chicago radio program that was quite revealing of the "real purpose" of this book, however.
In an interview with Vice President Dick Cheney excerpted on ABC's World News on Friday night, George Stephanopoulos cited the “exceptionally low” 4.4 percent October unemployment rate announced earlier in the day -- down two-tenths from September to the lowest since early 2001 -- and wondered: “Why don't you think the President's getting more credit for that?" Cheney blamed the media: “Well, you guys don't help. The fact of course is that what's news is if there's bad news and that gets coverage. But the good news that's out there day after day after day doesn't get as much attention.”
Indeed, Cheney was prescient. On Friday night ABC limited coverage to the Stephanopoulos question and 15 seconds from anchor Charles Gibson nearly 19 minutes into the newscast while CBS, and NBC to a lesser extent, spun the good news into bad. NBC's Brian Williams gave it just 20 seconds as he reported “employers added 92,000 jobs in October,” but added how “that was below expectations.” Williams skipped how the August and September job numbers were revised to show 139,000 more jobs created. And though wages have grown by 3.9 percent over the past 12 months, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric used the lower unemployment news as a segue to ask: “But do the jobs out there pay enough? A big issue in the battle for Congress this year is how much the lowest-paid workers make.” Viewers then saw a full story on the plight of minimum wage workers and how raising it is "resonating" with voters. (Transcript follows)
ABC's "Good Morning America" picked up a new complaint by union organizers against Wal-Mart. The company actually wants its employees to show up on time for work.
GMA stacked the deck against the company with 3 of 4 man-on-the-street interviewees scoffing at the company's policy. Employees are allowed three late arrivals before being assigned a "demerit" and risk being fired for racking up demerits in a short period of time.
At the MRC's Business & Media Institute (BMI), we've tracked CNN's war on the economy. Today, Fox News's Brenda Buttner took on the media's negative slant with some cold hard facts:
“If you listen to the Democrats or listen to much of our media, our economy is in dire straights, but pay attention just to the numbers, well they tell a very different story... Number one, Americans employed, there's essentially full employment in the U.S..."
Buttner added that despite media talk of the housing slowdown, the "bottom line [is that] more and more of us today are fortunate enough to enjoy a piece of the American Dream" as 70 percent of Americans own their home.
Can't be because this is 6 days before an election, right?
At any rate, it seems even a liberal pundit cited in the cover story isn't falling for the Lou Dobbs lament that the halcyon days of the middle class are behind us:
“Looking back” with nostalgia “to a golden age of the middle class doesn’t wash,” the USA Today reporter wrote, citing Jason Furman of the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “Overall health care is better now, for example, and far fewer people a generation ago expected to go to college,” Waggoner conceded.
"American Morning" reporter Ali Velshi insinuated on Tuesday’s show that corporations favor the GOP partly because "Republicans have kept hourly wages" low:
Ali Velshi: "All right, no big secret that Big Business favors Republicans, or has traditionally favored Republicans. But with polls showing that their friends in high places might be in some trouble leading into this election, Big Business has decided to cozy up with the Democrats. Corporate America likes Republicans. For the most part, Republicans have kept hourly wages and taxes low, and they keep their hands out of business as much as possible. Republicans like corporate America, and its hefty donations."
So, apparently, in addition to attempting to "criminalize science," Republicans also are the party of low wages? Perhaps that should be on a bumper sticker somewhere. Also, do Democrats not like their "hefty donations" from trial lawyers?
A welcome ray of reason amidst all the MSM gloom. Good Morning America ran a segment about the proposal by NYC busybodies to ban trans-fats. The city's Health Department is holding hearings today on a proposed citywide trans-fat ban at restaurants.
At the end of the piece, which reported on various restaurant chains that have switched to other fats or are considering the move, the story was tossed back to the hosts. That's when Robin Roberts struck a blow for reason and individual freedom:
"Many people feel 'give us the information but allow us to make the decision.'"
I looked around when I heard someone crying, and there was Pollyanna bawling her eyes out. That's how depressing was the one-two punch of pessimism in Paul Krugman's and Bob Herbert's New York Times pay-to-peruse columns of today.
Just in time for the elections, the pair paint a picture of America so dreary you half-expected the Google logarithm to place Prozac ads on the page. Krugman tries to talk down the economy, while Herbert sees a more deep-seated malaise. Annotated excerpts:
Krugman: "Bursting Bubble Blues"
"The housing boom became a bubble . . . the question now is how much pain the bursting bubble will inflict." Guessing Krugman's answer: a lot.
"Some say the worst is already over . . . So maybe this is as bad as it gets. But I think the pessimists have a stronger case." Told you so!
ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson” reporter Mike von Fremd offered a ridiculous comparison between Exxon Mobil and Iceland during a segment about Exxon’s third-quarter profits. Stating that Exxon’s profits of $10.5 billion were “about the same as Iceland’s entire Gross National Product,” was an absurd attempt to persuade the audience that Exxon is making too much money.
Iceland’s entire GNP is created by a population of just under 300,000 people which is roughly equivalent to the city of Newark, New Jersey. But neither comparison has much to do with the price of eggs, or in this case: oil.
CNN might well prove a one-network full employment plan for myself and my colleagues at the MRC's Business & Media Institute, with its ongoing attacks against the strong economy.
You might even say CNN has gone to war against it.
That's the conclusion my colleagues Amy Menefee and Julia Seymour arrived at with their October 25 article.
CNN is no “CSI,” but its reporters and anchors keep declaring things dead. They’ve called the American dream “impossible” and “a lost cause” and said the middle class is “in crisis” or going “out of business” – all in the month of October.
“We hear every day on CNN that the middle class is getting beaten up and that it’s eroding,” said author Barbara Ehrenreich on the October 21 “In the Money.”
Dick Cheney is the well-known hunter in the family but it turns out his wife, Lynne, can hold her own when it comes to hunting down bias. Cheney came loaded for bear or network anchor when she appeared on this morning’s Today show. On to promote her latest history book for children, Cheney wasn't allowed to leave before NBC’s Matt Lauer queried her about Iraq's effect on the midterms, asking: "Are the Republicans in trouble?" To which Cheney fired back with both guns blazing as she asked Matt, why Today wasn't doing more to report on all the positive economic news.
The following is the full exchange as it took place in the 8:30am half hour of the October 25th Today show:
Er, I mean Katie Couric. I guess the legendary perkiness doesn't extend to her reporting on the economy in this election season when pessimism is all the rage in the networks. Somehow I doubt it's because she's still a morning person struggling to deal with a later work shift:
Gas prices hit their lowest point since January and the Dow Jones closed on yet another record high, but on the October 24 evening newscast CBS’s Katie Couric colored her business briefing in red, focusing on Ford Motor Company’s (NYSE: F) quarterly loss and the five-year-old Enron scandal. Competitors ABC and NBC also noted the bleak news from Detroit, but tossed in positive business news items.
Couric set the tone announcing that Ford was “battling red ink and losing badly.”
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.