MSNBC's First Read continued its obsession with gas prices to the exclusion of, well, all other economic news this past week. A rough word-count of economic reporting on First Read's blog shows that of 3500 words devoted to economics, 3250 were about gas prices. This does not include a Monday posting ostensibly about the Dahab bombing that spent the second paragraph talking about oil prices.
Ironically, First Read is aware of the problem, even if they don't know that they know. On Friday:
Asked in the April 21-24 NBC/Wall Street Journal poll who is most responsible for high gas prices, 37% of those polled say the oil companies are most responsible. Oil-producing nations rank second at 22%, while only 15% lay the most blame at President Bush's feet and 4% say Congress bears the most responsibility.
Ultraliberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith, perhaps best known to TV/political junkies as an on-air sparring partner of William F. Buckley, has died at the age of 97. I remember seeing the two spar over one of the party conventions on the "Today" show way back when. (I'm guessing it was 1980.) Can you imagine "Today" hosting two intellectuals having a little debate around the conventions today? Today's morning-show world is more likely to be devoted to plastic convention publicity schticks like Republican rappers (remember TRQ, anyone?) and precocious, mop-headed eight-year-old Democrats.
The New York Times greeted Galbraith's death with the headline "Economist Held a Mirror to Society." Apparently, if you believe capitalism is all about the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and you believe avidly in massive government intervention in the economy, you "hold a mirror to society." Or at least a mirror to the face of the New York Times.
The Washington Post lived up to its typical pattern in coverage of economic good news Saturday morning. The fastest economic growth in several years was banished to D-1 again. While the Post put two bad-news-for-Bush stories on Iraq and terrorism on page 1, it put victories against al-Qaeda in Iraq on page A-10.
On D-1, the Post story acknowledged "Economic Growth Surges to 4.8%." Fred Barbash and Bill Brubaker noted "It was the hottest annualized pace for the gross domestic product in 2 and a half years." That news wasn't even mentioned on the front page. The "Inside" box touted two other, less stunning Business items from D-1:
-- "Pentagon Halts Clearances: High demand and a budget shortfall are blamed for putting security checks for 3,000 contractors on hold."
If there's any online media that would be free from infantile whining about corporate greed, it'd be investor Web sites, right? For the most part perhaps, but Motley Fool's Rick Munarriz found a corporate giant to attack for making money: Netflix, the online DVD rental service.
"How much money do you need when your largest competitor is
against the creditors' ropes? Or when a digitally delivered future may mean
thinner moats but without the same kind of capital intensive structure," whined Munarriz, who owns stock in the company. "There's never enough money, apparently, if you happen to be
Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX). In a baffling move, the company is looking to initiate
a secondary offering next month that will dilute investors by an additional 3.5
million shares while raising about $100 million."
On the April 27 "World News Tonight," anchor Elizabeth Vargas coined President Bush's call for more regulation of fuel standards a "bold" move:
We turn, now, to ABC's chief Washington correspondent, George
Stephanopoulos. And George, we had a bold move by the President a short time
ago. He wants the ability to change the miles per gallon standards, the so
called CAFÉ standards, on his own, something he currently does not have the
authority to do.
So let's see, the President's move to wiretap incoming phone calls from terror suspects has been roundly criticized as illegal and in reckless disregard to civil liberties. The call to drill for oil in ANWR to increase oil supply and lower gasoline prices has been called "controversial," but seldom if ever bold. But the call to put more regulatory power over industry in the hands of the President, and grow the scope and size of government, that's "bold."
Perhaps it's not surprising from a network that once spun $2.15/gallon of gas as "averaging under $3." The April 26 "CBS Evening News" overestimated ExxonMobil's forthcoming profit margin.
Jumping the gun on the other networks, "CBS Evening News" reported on the April 26 broadcast that ExxonMobil would report a $9.4 billion profit for the first quarter of 2006. The actual figure, released the morning of April 27, is an $8.4 billion profit, a $1,000,000,000 difference. This isn't CBS News's first time being sloppy with numbers.
The Free Market Project previously reported how CBS exaggerated the rise in natural gas prices heading into the winter of 2005-6:
NBC's Today show was full of negative news for President Bush, as it usually is, so it was a bit surprising when Katie Couric asked Tim Russert why the President hasn’t gained from positive consumer confidence. Maybe it’s because, according to a quick Nexis search of Today, the phrase "consumer confidence" hasn’t even been uttered all year long. During a segment on the bad news for the President in NBC’s latest poll Couric noted:
"We just see the right direction, wrong track question Tim and we can follow that by the economy. Only 19 percent feel confident when it comes to, excuse me, the economy and 77 percent are uneasy. One of Josh Bolten's five point plans, as you know, Tim was to brag more about the economy and there is good news. Consumer confidence this month is at its highest in four years. The Dow is trading at a six-year high. Obviously they've got their work cut out for them but why aren't some of those good things reflected in the poll numbers?"
Gas price rage has blended with executive pay rage recently, since the media have been bashing ExxonMobil’s departing CEO, Lee Raymond, for his pay and pension package.
“Runaway pay,” said NBC’s Brian Williams on April 20, calling executive salaries and benefits “stratospheric” and “staggering.” CBS’s Bob Schieffer compared Raymond’s “golden” retirement to the “average American” on April 13. “How much is too much?” asked NBC’s Matt Lauer on April 11. And ABC’s “Good Morning America” said, “You Must Be Kidding!” referring to Raymond’s package as “stunning” on April 14.
Criticizing highly-paid executives has been in vogue at the news networks lately, but there’s something the anchors aren’t telling you: their colleagues’ top wages could soon be disclosed to the world, and Big Media are fighting it.
Large media companies have been doing everything within their power to hide the compensation plans of their own highest-paid employees from public disclosure. As reported by the Associated Press on April 11:
Reading the table of contents of this week’s U.S. News & World Report revealed a very biased headline: "Vote Democratic, Earn More." Underneath the headline, the promotional copy read: "Campaigns to raise the minimum wage may be just the ticket for the party." The story by reporter Silla Brush led off the magazine's national coverage this week, with the headline: "A Winning Bet? Efforts to increase the minimum wage are proliferating; Democrats say they've found an issue to rally around". Brush touted the way Democrats hope to use minimum-wage hikes as a tactic to drive the labor base to the polls:
Democrats, big labor, progressive religious groups, and community activists nationwide have latched on to the wage-hike campaign as a way to define their own "values." Public approval for a federally mandated raise is at 83 percent, and 20 states already have set a higher minimum wage than the federal level of $5.15 per hour...The federal government hasn't budged on the minimum wage in nearly a decade. At $5.15 an hour ($10,712 a year), its value has eroded so much that the 2 million Americans earning the minimum wage or below today can buy less in real terms now than at almost any time in the last half century.
As reported last week, Dave Price, the weatherman on CBS’s "The Early Show" went to Iraq along with country music artist Charlie Daniels to entertain American troops. This morning, Price gave the first part of a two part series detailing his travels and interaction with the troops.
Once again, Price reassured viewers that troop morale is high, and showed some comments from men and women in uniform, for instance Price made the following statements:
"I went to cheer up the soldiers, but in most cases, they didn't need it."
"Of course morale was sky high during the shows, but what surprised me was what I heard after the music and the laughter faded."
Have a look at the two screen captures from this morning's shows. Same issue, different takes. Good Morning America is apparently sure that gas price gouging exists, and wants to stop it. 'Today' is agnostic, simply posing the question whether gouging is going on.
But when you turn to the substance of the two segments, there was one consistency: neither show adduced any evidence of gouging. Not a scintilla to show that oil companies are in fact colluding. And without collusion there can be no sustained gouging, since any company that pushed prices higher than market levels would immediately lose its sales to competitors.
Over at GMA, the guest was Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, for all the world looking like a politician wanting to give the appearance of doing something about a problem over which he in fact has little control.
Sawyer opened by raising the gouging issue: "You are targeting gouging, which is the guy at the pump, the middle guy. How is this going to help and how soon, specifically, the person paying $2.91 on average right now?"
A seemingly sympathetic Frist replied:"Diane, you're exactly right. This $2.91, over $3 in some areas right now, cannot be sustained by the person driving their kids to school or filling up their tractor with fuel."
Much as this column is quick to point out the prevalent liberal bias of the MSM, fairness compels us to acknowledge those occasions, rare as they might be, when the MSM plays it down the middle.
NBC's handling of the recent spike in gasoline prices could be shaping up to be one of those flying-pig moments of 'fair & balanced' coverage. At the very least, there are indications that the conventional wisdom within NBC News is that the Bush administration is not to blame for the high prices, and/or that there is little government can do to stem the price rise.
As noted here earlier today, Katie Couric and David Gregory both expressed skepticism on this morning's Today show as to the government's ability to do much in the circumstances. Gregory was back at it this evening, guest-hosting for Chris Matthews on 'Hardball.'
When yet another gloomy segment on gas prices and the pessimistic prospects for the GOP finally drew to an end on this morning's Today show, you might have thought that a fluffy piece on crosswords and how mental games help keep aging minds sharp would have offered a respite from liberal media bias.
Hollywood-handsome NBC reporter Peter Alexander somehow managed to work into his segment clips of two liberal icons: Bill Clinton and Jon Stewart! Both are apparently crossword aficionados. Who knew?
For those that haven’t heard, the female singer Pink (Alecia Moore) – who quite recently joined PETA in a protest against Kentucky Fried Chicken’s alleged cruelty to animals – has joined the ranks of musicians voicing their opinions against George W. Bush. In her song “Dear Mr. President,” Pink attacks, amongst other things, “No Child Left Behind,” his positions on abortion as well as same-sex marriage, his former drug and alcohol abuse, and, of course, the war in Iraq. Some of her more poignant lyrics include:
How do you sleep while the rest of us cry
How do you dream when a mother has no chance to say goodbye
What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away
And what kind of father might hate his own daughter if she were gay
You've come a long way from whiskey and cocaine
What follows are the complete lyrics of this piece along with a video link to a recent performance of the number courtesy of YouTube.
MRC's Mike Rule noticed CBS's "Early Show" on Friday was going to extremes to play up the drama of recent gas price increases. People are now suddenly pawning items for gas money?
Julie Chen: “Oil prices reached a new record this morning, at one point they topped $73 a barrel. That's not helping high gas prices; some are going to extremes to pay for gas, pawning their belongings.”
On last night's Hardball Chris Matthews invited on Rolling Stone Editor Eric Bates to promote their Bush-bashing issue imploring him: "Eric, let me ask you about the cover, because it is gonna come out and you’re on to push it, and I want you to push it. " Bates responded in kind stating Bush has: "...domestic policies that have, have trashed the economy and resulted in a dramatic shift of wealth," and declaring "so far [Bush] ranks right down there with James Buchanan, Herbert Hoover and Andrew Johnson."
The following are the exchanges between Matthews and Bates:
Matthews: "And Rolling Stone’s cover this month, I must warn you, if you’re a Republican or a middle-of-the-roader. Look at this. This is a tough one. What does it say? ‘The Worst President in History.’ Can we have that thought explained a bit, Eric. You, you wrote this piece."
On the heels of MSM outrage at the retirement package granted to Exxon/Mobil CEO Lee Raymond [see Brent Baker's report here], Good Morning America was back at the class-warfare ramparts this morning with a new target in its sights, Dr. William McGuire, head of UnitedHealth Group. As the result of share prices that have increased over 7,000 percent, stock options granted McGuire are currently worth in excess of $1 billion.
ABC reporter Dan Harris narrated the segment, and GMA set the tone with its title - "You Must be Kidding!" But there was no joking about the class-warfare on display in the opening lines: "The head of one of the nation's largest healthcare companies is sitting on more than a billion dollars in stock openings while Americans go uninsured."
On this morning's Today show, NY Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman repeated his astonishing wish that the price of crude oil . . . go to $100/barrel ASAP. This is apparently a favorite Friedman mantra, as NewsBusters/MRC's Tim Graham and Brian Boyd have noted.
Friedman's theory is that extremely high oil prices are desirable because they would induce behavioral changes that would ultimately decrease demand and force oil prices way down. Here's how the exchange with host Matt Lauer unfolded:
Friedman: "I hope the Iranians get as crazy as they want. My attitude toward the president of Iran is 'you go, girl', because the faster we get to $100 a barrel, pal, the quicker we're going to get back to $20. Because when we go to $100/barrel, then you're going to see all these people change their behavior and their oil-buying habits and their car-buying habits in a fundamental way."
Christian Science Monitor reveals what most economists have known for years. Free Market Project
For years, the media have been telling Americans the economy, though growing, is not producing good jobs. From Lou Dobbs’ continuous rant at CNN about “The War on the Middle Class” to the Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne claiming in a February 21 op-ed that “The decline of manufacturing employment means the economy is producing fewer well-paying jobs,” the media mantra has been that wage gains during this recovery have been very disappointing.
“Now Democrats have argued, though, that under the Bush administration, Americans have seen wages remain flat, also high health care costs and high heating oil and gas prices,” CNN’s Elaine Quijano reiterated on an April 15 “CNN Live” report.
After a longtime “Chicken Little” media view of the labor markets, The Christian Science Monitor finally broke from the pack in an April 11 article by Mark Trumbull stating the “Newest job numbers show that businesses are expanding opportunities in high-wage fields.”
Just two days earlier, however, The New York Times asserted that “New technology and low-cost labor in places like China and India have put downward pressure on the wages and benefits of the average American worker.”
Who’s right? Well, the Monitor used some highly-regarded economists to support its assertions:
Sunday's off-lead story is by Japanese-based reporter Norimitsu Onishi ("Revival in Japan Brings Widening Of Economic Gap -- Reckoning for Premier -- Egalitarianism Is at Stake as Rich-Poor Division Threatens Mobility").
Of course, Japan's striated class system and government-controlled economy was for decades the main threat to mobility. But Onishi has another culprit in mind: Reaganism.
"Japan's economy, after more than a decade of fitful starts, is once again growing smartly. Instead of rejoicing, however, Japan is engaged in a nationwide bout of hand-wringing over increasing signs that the new economy is destroying one of the nation's most cherished accomplishments: egalitarianism."
CBS and ABC played to petty jealousies on Thursday night. Both aired silly stories which contrasted the large retirement package, earned by former ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Lee Raymond, with the average retiree income or the burden rising gas prices supposedly put on a typical family. CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer announced: “The average American enters the golden years -- retirement -- expecting to live on less than $30,000 a year, and that includes Social Security. Well, it turns out to be a little more golden than that if you run a big oil company,” as if it's news that a successful executive, just like a network anchor, would retire with more than the average income. Reporter Anthony Mason proceeded to hype the biggest number possible -- “Lee Raymond is being rewarded in his retirement with a breathtaking package worth nearly $400 million” -- though that counts stocks and options which will take years to amass. Mason concluded by pointing out how Raymond made $190,000 a day in 2005 while “the average American worker...earns $43,000 a year." The Washington Post reported that Raymond may just get $8 million a year for his pension -- half what CBS will pay Katie Couric to read a tele-prompter for a half hour a night.
ABC's World News Tonight featured a “First Person” account from a man who claimed rising gas prices are “forcing him to change the way he and his family live their life.” Gary McIlroy used his ABC platform to lash out: “The oil companies continue to have soaring profits and soaring prices. And the American people are the ones taking it. We're the ones being gouged. So I sent a letter to the White House, saying, you know, we can't take this anymore if prices continue to go up and our paychecks are staying the same.” Vargas then ludicrously linked gas prices to Raymond's compensation, as if supply and demand have nothing to do with it: “Those high gas prices, in the meantime, are helping finance one of the richest retirement packages in U.S. corporate history. Former ExxonMobil Chairman Lee Raymond received compensation worth nearly $400 million when he retired last year.” Unmentioned by Vargas: How the chief of Disney, which owns ABC, got a lot more when he departed. (Transcripts follow.)
In November, famed television host Oprah Winfrey was gushing over the possible presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton (D-NY) at the International Emmy Awards ceremony. Unfortunately, it appears that these two prominent liberal women don’t share the same view concerning wealth in our nation, for one panders as if she hates it – lavish book contracts and futures trading forays aside – while the other proudly revels in it.
Bloomberg reported Monday: “In an interview previewing a major speech she will give tomorrow at the Chicago Economic Club, Clinton said, ‘the rich are getting richer, everybody else is marching in place’' and ‘I don't think that's good for us.’''
Well, speak for yourself, sister, for People magazine reported on Tuesday: “Oprah Winfrey is a rich woman – and she's got no problem with that."
Say it isn’t so, Oprah! Liberals aren’t supposed to admit – at least not in public anyway – that they are just as fascinated by money as conservatives:
While ABC and NBC presented viewers last night with many of the reasons for the rising cost of gasoline, CBS ignored the link between Iran’s push for nuclear power and rising oil prices. Instead, the network cheered on a “corporate catfight” between automakers and oil companies.
“I won’t be able to afford either rent or gas,” CBS News’s Anthony Mason showed a woman complain on the April 11 “CBS Evening News.” Warning of $3-a-gallon gas this summer, the CBS correspondent sought a culprit in American business, and highlighted a war of words between corporate executives.
Mason pointed to a blog posting by a DaimlerChysler executive blaming oil companies for high prices, and an ExxonMobil advertisement blaming SUV makers for fuel inefficiency.
In the past couple of weeks as illegal immigration has dominated the front pages and the lead stories of virtually every network’s evening news program, you haven’t been able to swing a gato muerto without hitting some pundit or broadcaster discussing the “unwanted jobs” being taken by undocumented workers. In fact, according to LexisNexis, there have been over two hundred news reports since this brouhaha began containing the phrase “jobs Americans won’t do.”
Jobs Americans won’t do? Excuse me?
I don’t know about you, but I find this concept almost as offensive as racial epithets directed at illegal immigrants. After all, is there really a job that Americans won’t do, and, if so, why?
On the other hand, if this is indeed not the case, but rather a convenient media affectation to simplify a complex problem for those with lukewarm intelligence quotients, what is the truth that is clearly eluding the talking headless?
To answer this question, I delved into the hallowed halls of employment data buried deep in the recesses of the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics…God bless me. There, I found answers that some might find rather shocking.
On the politics beat in Wednesday's Washington Post: first, don't ever let them tell you that liberal reporters don't want to be stenographers to power. They don't mind writing news stories that read like a press release...if they're about Hillary Clinton. Political reporter Dan Balz writes up the junior senator from New York's speech on the economy in Chicago without a single critic, just Mayor Richard Daley welcoming the hometown girl "whatever office you are in." Hillary's speech had shades of Old-Style Liberalism in it: "America did not build the greatest economy in the world because we had rich people," she said, "We built the greatest economy in the world because we built the American middle class." She also insisted tax cuts were not "the cure-all for everything that ails the American economy." Balz couldn't note she tends to hate tax cuts...just like liberal reporters.
A New York Times reporter who called recent corporate layoffs “worse than the Great Depression” was the paper’s choice to write about the positive job growth in the economy.
Reporter Louis Uchitelle authored somewhat critical view of the latest unemployment report by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That report showed a 211,000-job gain in March 2006 and a low jobless rate of 4.7 percent. By comparison, nearly one in four Americans was without work in the early 1930s.
Despite low unemployment and 31 straight months of job gains, economics writer and author Louis Uchitelle calls for federal laws to restrict corporate layoffs, a policy even a liberal Berkeley economist questions.
The Bush administration and all Americans got great news on the economic front Friday when the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 211,000 jobs were added in March while the unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, the lowest level in four-and-a-half years. Yet NBC didn't see a booming economy. “President Bush used the jobs numbers as a starting point for a new push to try to convince Americans that the economy is, in fact, on a roll,” NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams noted before adding a “but,” as in: "But as NBC News chief financial correspondent Anne Thompson tells us tonight, the economic picture is a bit more complicated." Thompson highlighted how “a new poll out today shows 59 percent of Americans disapprove of the President's handling of the economy." After relaying how Bush blames Iraq for that, Thompson ran a soundbite from an economist who blamed slow wage growth before she recited her own litany: “Also dragging down attitudes, rising health care costs and gas prices. The nation has a negative savings rate, and household debt...is at record levels and could squeeze already strapped family budgets as interest rates continue to rise.” Thompson ended her piece with a quick look at a Massachusetts computer company which is hiring.
At least NBC gave its viewers the basic numbers of the day before trying to discount them. Friday's CBS Evening News didn't utter a syllable about the jobs/unemployment numbers, yet Bob Schieffer's show found time for a second night of coverage of how Bush “authorized leaking classified information” and for a piece on an orphanage in Kenya for elephants -- and that was even before two fluff “Assignment America” segments. ABC's World News Tonight allocated 25 seconds to the unemployment/jobs numbers as anchor Elizabeth Vargas pointed out the 31 consecutive months of job growth. (Transcript of NBC's story follows.)
While good conservatives and libertarians can agree to disagree amongst ourselves on just how to reform immigration, there's at least a consensus that more taxes and redistributionary spending are NOT part of the solution.
Which is why, I suppose, we need the infinite wisdom of The Washington Post editorial board to tell us otherwise:
Even a small impact on low-wage workers is alarming, given the rise of inequality over the past 25 years. But the question is whether to address that inequality by trying to
stop immigration or to go at it via progressive taxation, larger public
investments designed to prevent poor kids from dropping out of high
school, or some other policy tool. Given the expense and doubtful
effectiveness of border walls and employer crackdowns, progressive tax
and social policies seem preferable. After all, to the extent that
immigrants drive down wages at the bottom, they are driving up the
inflation-adjusted wages of other Americans who get cheaper goods and
services. Taxing the "immigration windfall" that flows to better-off
Americans and passing it on to the less fortunate may be the best way
The quintessential item of conventional wisdom on immigration is the impracticality of deporting the estimated 11-12 million illegal aliens already in our country. Yet there are dissenters. Conservative columnist and former Reagan aide Jim Pinkerton has said "I think actually you could if you wanted to."
I've suggested that deporting illegals seems at least as practicable as administering the amnesty program. In the same piece in which Pinkerton's quote appears, I put it this way:
"[D]eporting illegal immigrants is much more feasible than the elaborate process the amnesty crowd proposes. Under the amnesty plan, the same 11-12 million illegals would have to be identified and located. They would have to be tested to determine if they had attained English proficiency, monitored for over a decade to see that they sought and maintained jobs, paid their fines, etc. If we can do all that, why couldn't we put the same people on buses to the border or planes to overseas locations?"