General Motors has had its share of trials lately – renegotiating worker benefits and now closing plants. The media continue to blame the auto manufacturer’s worries on high gas prices and foreign automakers. The glaring omission in the coverage is the United Auto Workers, the union that has driven GM’s costs to unsustainable heights.
That's not Joe Biden's approach, as CBS's Hannah Storm discovered on Tuesday's Early Show.
Hannah Storm: "Let me ask you about general motors, shifting gears a little bit here. They announced 30,000 job cuts, 12 facilities closing in 2008 because of poor sales and rising healthcare costs. How much does this concern you? What are the implications for other U.S. industries here?"
Since his surprise call on Thursday to withdraw American troops from Iraq, the media have been speaking nothing but high praise for Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn). Yet, the press haven’t always been so fond of the congressman, and their recent love affair with Mr. Murtha is totally ignoring their past depictions of him as being “a leading pork-barrel politician” who is often in the middle of a great deal of questionable spending related to defense contracts.
In fact, many of the headlines Murtha made in the ’90s were specifically connected to projects that he pushed through the House that largely benefited his home district in the state of Pennsylvania. His “earmarking” was so legendary that Roll Call’s Mary Jacoby stated in a February 24, 1994 article that it might have prevented him from becoming the chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations:
MRC Free Market Project's Amy Menefee gives two thumbs down to Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Living over at freemarketproject.org.
Writes Menefee, "claims against the company in [producer Robert] Greenwald’s film were
undermined by his hyperbole and his staunch refusal to acknowledge the way
Wal-Mart really impacted communities – paying millions in taxes, employing
thousands, and saving countless shoppers millions of dollars."
The latest edition of "The Balance Sheet," the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP) newsletter, is up and archived on freemarketproject.com. Balance Sheet, published every week on Wednesday afternoon, provides the best of FMP coverage from the previous week on the media's bias against the free market.
You can obtain a free subscription to "The Balance Sheet" by clicking here and signing up for e-mail delivery.
Highlights from this week include FMP director Dan Gainor's take on the Fox News's special from Sunday: "The Heat is On," editor Amy Menefee's analysis of the media's hyped predictions on natural gas prices for this coming winter, and as always, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" in economic and business reporting from the past week, and yes, the New York Times makes the list, but perhaps in a way that will surprise you. All that, plus links to commentaries, analysis, research and upcoming events from experts at think tanks like American Enterprise Institute, Heritage, and Cato.
There’s been a lot of suggestion by the media lately -- especially since the elections last Tuesday -- that the Republican Party is in dire trouble, and could lose control of the House and the Senate in 2006. For those interested in a side of this debate that the media are ignoring, you should watch today’s “Meet the Press,” in particular the second-half with DNC chairman Howard Dean.
Some of the pertinent exchanges of note:
DR. DEAN: I think Democrats always have to stand up and tell the truth and that's what we're doing. The truth is that the president misled America when he sent us to war. They did--he even didn't tell the truth in the speech he gave. First of all, think there were a lot of veterans were kind of upset that the president chose their day to make a partisan speech.
Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift has a new article out, and she once again doesn’t have anything good to say about President Bush. In fact, she now believes that his presidency is in such a state of disarray that Bush needs to “change direction, the way President Bill Clinton did after losing both the House and Senate in 1994.” Clift seems to forget that this change of direction didn’t help the Democrats win back the Congress in 1996, which put Clinton in a position where he was forced to accede to most of the Republican demands in 1997 which included tax cuts that he fought against for two years.
Media Wrong About Dollar: As the frequency of pessimistic reports increases, their accuracy seems to decline.
Since the stock market’s collapse between March 2000 and October 2002, the Free Market Project media have continually been making gloomy and bearish economic forecasts, from predictions of a housing bubble implosion to gasoline prices heading to $5 per gallon and even an economic downturn due to Hurricane Katrina. As The Free Market Project has reported, none of these have panned out.
Other examples of media gloom and doom that ended up being inaccurate were the press’s opinions of the falling dollar at the end of last year, and what they believed were the likely consequences. Tom Fenton of CBS News went so far as to link the decline to the start of the Bush presidency. “Since the end of the Clinton administration – or to put it another way, since the beginning of the Bush administration – the dollar has been heading south at an alarming rate,” he argued in a Dec. 6, 2004, piece.
Julie Chen in the 8:00 a.m. EST half hour of The Early Show hyped "sky-high" gas prices which led to "record profits" for oil companies in a brief anchor-mention on the Senate Commerce hearings today on oil and gas prices, illustrating that a myth debunked in a Free Market Project (FMP) study released last Thursday is still being promoted by CBS News [parts in bold are my emphasis]:
Gas prices haven’t topped inflation-adjusted highs. NBC’s Anne Thompson and other journalists continued to claim “American consumers have suffered through months of record-high gas prices” even as prices dropped.
One of the common themes for gasoline reporting all summer was to claim "record prices," even though the reality was much different. Inflation raises overall prices over time, causing the raw number to go up.A gallon of gas might have cost 25 cents decades ago. That's why inflation-adjusted prices are the only accurate way to compare costs from one decade to the next.
According to the Energy Department, the inflation-adjusted high for a gallon of regular gas is $3.11, set in 1981. But Katrina and Rita sent the media scurrying for stories, and "record highs" were mentioned at least eight times.
CBS was especially fond of the term. It appeared three times during the CBS stories. Anchor Bob Schieffer of the "CBS Evening News" said incorrectly that gas prices had peaked "at a record $3.07 a gallon after Hurricane Katrina" during the October 24 broadcast.
Is Wal-Mart good for America or destroying its families? Two new documentaries show opposing views on the world’s largest retailer, but the media didn’t.
The anti-Wal-Mart film “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” has received most of the attention. The movie on the benefits of Wal-Mart, “Why Wal-Mart Works & Why That Makes Some People Crazy” was slighted. When both did get attention on “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” with the anti-Wal-Mart film getting more airtime from an agreeable Dobbs according to a report by the Free Market Project.
NBC began a November 1 “Today” segment with “A media blitz is under way about Wal-Mart and from Wal-Mart.” Text then appeared on the screen that read “Wal-Mart drives down retail wages $3 billion every year.” Despite mentioning the “media blitz” from Wal-Mart, the only official representation of the store was two lines from an ad. Reporter Dawn Fratangelo mentioned Wal-Mart’s new environmental programs and new health care plan. She then added “But critics call it a publicity stunt,” and interviewed a man from union-backed wakeupwalmart.com about it. Only anti-Wal-Mart people were featured in the story, and nothing positive about the company was included.
Regardless of economic data, press accounts are typically negative and pessimistic.
The economy has been growing at a very strong clip since October 2001. Real estate prices are at their highest levels in history, as are homeownership and Americans’ average net worth. Unemployment also is lower than the average during any of the past three decades. Yet Americans are very down, and one third even think the economy is in a recession. Is consistently negative media coverage influencing public attitudes? Might headlines like “Job growth less than expected” and “Jobs come up weak” have something to do with the gloom being felt across the country?
The Labor Department announced unemployment numbers for October on November 4, and despite a decline in this rate and an addition to payrolls, the media reported the gains as “surprisingly meager,” “stalled,” “damped,” and “disappointing.”
For those of you who were confused, that was an article in today’s New York Times complaining about the lack of tax cuts in the two reform proposals offered by the president’s advisory panel last week.
For those that missed it, Edmund L. Andrews wrote a piece this morning about the recommendations of this panel for future reforms to America’s tax code. In it, he appeared disappointed that there were no significant tax cuts being proposed:
“However sensible those ideas may be, they fall far short of a radical overhaul. Neither of the proposals would have replaced today's system with a flat tax or a pure consumption tax, the goal of many Republican conservatives. More important, neither of the proposals would significantly lower existing tax rates - a crucial attraction of the 1986 overhaul.”
Today's Washington Post features an article about the October employment numbers, which are planted firmly between humdrum and "house afire". The economy seems to have absorbed the hurricanes of the past two months, and high energy prices and posted 56,000 new jobs in October.
The Post, though, seems a bit confused about whether that's good news or bad.
Featured at the top of the page today is the headline "October's Job Growth Stalled". The same article is linked lower on the page, in the business section, with the headline "Payrolls Expand in October".
If you click on the Business section you'll find the same article with the headline, "Payrolls expand in Oct., Jobless Rate Dips".
Even in a free market democracy, policy makers are to blame for all of society’s ills.
According to “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” America is a nation in trouble, and the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of policy makers.
CNN’s Christine Romans began her October 28 report: “Lou, while policy makers wring their hands over this latest Washington scandal, as important as it is, the truth is there are fundamental problems in this country that are eating away the foundations of America and the numbers don't lie. Policy makers, this is what you've achieved.”
Romans’ sweeping attack on the nation, called “America’s Negative Numbers,” cited a variety of national “problems,” and literally blamed them all on “policy makers.” And though she claimed, “the numbers don’t lie” -- her data was at times faulty, incomplete or misleading -- Romans and the experts she interviewed never indicated what government policies were specifically the cause of such societal ills, or offered any policy suggestions to correct them.
For those of you who haven’t seen this morning’s “Meet the Press,” I highly recommend that you do so that you can see William Safire at his best, as well as some great incites from David Brooks. What follows are key statements from the two of them concerning Plamegate, and the events of the week. Though chronological in order, the numbered quotes are separate ideas that did not immediately follow one another:
1. MR. WILLIAM SAFIRE: I think that was an excellent rundown and time line of a complicated series of accusations of a cover-up, but the most important single fact that emerged from the indictment is what was not in it. This whole thing started as an investigation of the violation of a law. And the law that was violated was you must not deliberately out an agent who is undercover. And what the special counsel found is that law was not broken.
With the nomination of a new Federal Reserve chairman, “inflation” is the buzzword of the week. But the media have been warning about rising inflation since Hurricane Katrina hit – some even likening today’s situation to the Jimmy Carter 1970s, a notorious time for both high oil prices and inflation.
“For the second day in a row the stock market took a drop,” said CNN’s Miles O’Brien on the October 6 “American Morning.” “And I think it’s – what do we need, those ‘Whip Inflation Now’ buttons, maybe.” Andy Serwer agreed: “Back to the ’70s. Turn your thermostat down, get your cardigans out.”
The way to the media’s heart is to take jabs at Wal-Mart – JibJabs, that is. JibJab.com, the maker of several popular political videos, unleashed an assault on the nation’s biggest retailer that one CNN journalist called “priceless” and another called “hilarious.”
CNN was especially friendly to the team of Evan and Gregg Spiridellis, dwelling on the video in two separate programs. CNN’s Money.com Managing Editor Alan Wastler even called the video company “our friends at JibJab” during the October 22 “In the Money” show. Not to be outdone, anchor Jack Cafferty said, “I love those guys.”
That was how CNN led into a clip of the anti-Wal-Mart attack that features a potbellied shopper filling first a cart and then a house with mountains of retail “crap.” CNN pointed viewers to the video by naming JibJab one of its recommended “Funsites.”
While the House of Representatives was getting serious about legal reform, CNN was calling it “silly” and other TV news outlets ignored it.
The House passed the “cheeseburger bill” October 19 – a bill that makes people, not the food industry, responsible for consequences of their eating habits. The bill passed 307 to 119 and will go to the Senate.
Andy Serwer on CNN’s “American Morning” October 20 stated that “the only thing sillier than suing McDonald's for being fat is passing a law preventing people from suing McDonalds from being fat.” But Serwer didn’t explain the drain that lawsuits create on the American economy.
One of the few pieces of major legislation that has recently passed with overwhelming support from both parties was the bankruptcy reform bill, signed into law by President George Bush in April. While a bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress endorsed the bill, the media have lamented the new law’s reforms.
Journalists on NBC, CBS, and ABC have called Chapter 7 bankruptcy a “safety net,” a “new lease on life,” and “a fresh start.” In contrast, as one interviewee put it, there’s “a special place in hell” for those who crafted the reform bill. While not every story took such a hyperbolic tone, the media used the victims of Hurricane Katrina to lobby against a reform they didn’t particularly like.
The networks showed roughly the same interest in bankruptcy after Katrina as they did when the bill was in Congress. The Free Market Project analyzed network news stories between April 1 and October 17, finding six full stories in the weeks surrounding the bill’s passage. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction, as the new law’s effective date approached, the media coverage was seven full stories. The recent stories tied the victims’ welfare to the “obvious choice … to file bankruptcy,” as NBC’s Alexis Glick put it on the October 10 “Today” show.
CBS’s Hannah Storm introduced a new problem to America this morning on “The Early Show.” It’s called “presenteeism,” and it stands for employees who show up to work sick. Syler and her guest, Dr. Emily Senay, suggested that this is almost as big a problem as absenteeism, which, of course, is people NOT showing up for work.
Senay presented some statistics to support her case. She mentioned that 48 percent of employers surveyed see presenteeism as being a problem. However, isn’t that a minority? Moreover, 36 percent of employers discourage their employees from coming into work when they’re sick. Conversely, this suggests that 64 percent don’t.
It would have been interesting to see some methodology concerning these surveys. For instance, what kind of employers were questioned? Were they business owners, or managers and supervisors of large corporations?
What follows is a full transcript of this report, along with a video link.
Unfortunately, journalists haven’t accurately reported the data involved.
Catastrophic events in America’s cities have a tendency to generate discussions about race, class, and poverty. The Watts riots in 1965, as well as the Rodney King riots in 1992 are fine examples. Hurricane Katrina has sparked another such debate. Unfortunately, America’s media are relying on consistently questionable or out-of-date statistics to not only exaggerate the problem, but to blame President Bush.
NBC's Tim Russert proclaimed, "It's a year away but the Democrats are feeling almost giddy this morning," as he ran down the negative news from NBC's own poll. Matt Lauer opened this morning's Today show with a teaser for the Russert political analysis segment:
Lauer: "Then to Washington where it rains it really pours. President Bush says he doesn't look at the poll numbers. He might not want to. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows his approval rating is at its lowest level ever. And there's some astounding numbers when it comes to African-Americans and their support for the President. Tim Russert's gonna be here and crunch those numbers in a little while."
During the media's coverage of Katrina the race card was played again and again so it's no surprise that Lauer and Russert led with the fruits of their labor.
The results of the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll were released last night, and pressrooms around the nation appeared to be pleased. “NBC Nightly News” reported it this way (video link to follow):
Tim Russert: Brian, not good news for George W. Bush's second term thus far. Only 39% of Americans approve his job. 54% disapproval. That 39% approval is the lowest in the five years of his presidency. And Brian, listen to this: Only 2%, 2% of African Americans in the United States approve of George Bush's handling of the presidency. The lowest we've ever seen in that particular measurement.
Even when journalists try, they just don’t understand Middle America. CBS proved the point with a story on the multi-billion dollar business of NASCAR. Even in a story made possible by the enormous success of the sport, CBS’s “60 Minutes” depicted racing promotions as “hucksterism” and advertisers as “not wholesome” while the product itself was portrayed as an “good ol’ boy Southern Confederate flag sport” hostile to minorities.
Reporter Lesley Stahl’s October 9 piece described the depths of the free market that NASCAR was willing to delve into: “They'll even rename a race for a sponsor. Warner brothers got the “Batman Begins 400” this summer.” Stahl overlooked the fact that sporting events, like college football bowl games, are often named after advertisers.
Stahl also criticized NASCAR’s aggressive marketing, telling CEO Brian France, part of the sport’s founding family “You are unabashed in the hucksterism category.” France had nothing to apologize for. According to a September 5 Fortune magazine story, “NASCAR had total corporate sponsorship revenue last year of $1.5 billion, compared with $445 million for the NFL and $340 million for Major League Baseball.” Fortune added that 106 of Fortune 500 companies are involved as sponsors – “more than any other sport.”
That wasn’t enough to keep Stahl from criticizing NASCAR’s sponsors. When France told her, “I mean, we have limits,” about which sponsors are accepted, Stahl replied: “You do? Could’ve fooled me.” The exchange continued and Stahl complained that “You do Viagra, you do liquor.” Stahl then got to the heart of her critique: “You promote this sport as family values. You are sponsored by things that are just not wholesome. I mean, for years it was cigarettes. I mean, come on. Now it's liquor.” Stahl never mentioned that all of the products she criticized were legal. She was unhappy because they were “just not wholesome.”
Fortunately, NASCAR’s all-time winningest driver Richard Petty was on hand to explain the free market beauty of the sport and its founding family. “They took nothing, and kept working. And over 55 or 60 years this is what you see, okay? That's capitalism.”
September employment was little-changed despite predictions of 500,000 job losses.
Remember all those reports filed by the mainstream media predicting doom and gloom right after Katrina devastated New Orleans? Well, the first significant piece of economic data to be released since the hurricanes hit suggests that these media prognostications – as predicted by the Free Market Project on September 6 – had no basis in fact.
This morning, the Labor Department released employment numbers for the month of September, and they were much stronger than forecast. In fact, they were so strong that the U.S. dollar rallied against most of the world’s currencies in expectation that the Federal Reserve might raise interest rates further than many economists had hoped.
To refresh everyone’s memory, here is a sampling of what the media were saying about the economy after Katrina first made landfall:
The House of Representatives narrowly passed an energy bill today which would cut some federal red tape which prevents the timely approval and subsequent construction of oil refineries. This is to address what many oil industry watchers say is a shortage of refining capacity, which, moreso than the crude oil supply, impacts heavily on gas prices at the pump. CBSNews.com and The Hill newspaper have write-ups on their respective websites. I did notice The Hill's take was more comprehensive and did mention that Democratic leaders cajoled three dissenters from the party line to vote no, whereas the CBSNews.com article seems to skew heavily towards liberal Republican dissenters who voiced concerns about relaxed environmental protections.
Additionally, while I don't have a transcript available at time of publication, a report a few minutes ago on Special Report with Brit Hume hinted that Republicans believed going into the vote that they had many more Democratic votes for the measure than they did. This might indicate that Democratic leadership strongly leaned on dissenting members.
ABC, CBS, NBC skip $40-billion catastrophe at mortgage giant.
Network news continues to ignore the ongoing $40-billion crisis at mortgage giant Fannie Mae, despite new accounting problems and a recent one-day stock drop of 11 percent.
Print media, led by The Wall Street Journal, have pointed out the many flaws in the Fannie Mae operation. A September 29 Journal piece said that investigators had “found new accounting violations, including evidence that the company may have overvalued assets, underreported credit losses and misused tax credits…”
That report and others received no network news attention. In the six months from April 5 to Oct. 5, 2005, the three broadcast networks combined mentioned Fannie Mae just twice even though the stock has dropped almost $30 billion in value during 2005. One of those reports was a passing mention of Fannie Mae mortgages and the other was a spirited defense of the company by liberal Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) complaining that “you have the administration in an ideologically driven attack on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.” In the June 12 report from “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” Frank went on to criticize “free market fundamentalism going after the two institutions that have done a great deal to make the 30-year mortgage possible through the secondary mortgage market.”
Frank’s comments were an attempt to camouflage the massive wrongdoings at Fannie Mae, including $10.8 billion in overstated earnings – and that doesn’t count the new accounting problems. During the six months that the networks ignored the firm, it has been the subject of congressional hearings, appointed a new chief executive and twice failed to meet deadlines for its earnings reports. In addition, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan warned that the size of Fannie Mae posed a threat to the economy.
None of that was aired on the network news shows.
This is consistent with findings of an April 4, 2005, Free Market Project study about Fannie Mae media coverage entitled “Government Sponsored Enron.” That analysis found broadcast news covered the Enron debacle far more than the crisis at the mortgage leader, even though Fannie Mae’s accounting problems were 19 times the amount of Enron’s. Fannie Mae, a Government-Sponsored Entity, has a special congressional charter, special tax breaks and an implied taxpayer-funded bailout if things go wrong.
In fact, the networks are still discussing Enron far more than Fannie Mae. The Enron fiasco has become network shorthand for business corruption, cropping up at least 33 times in six months.
Enron has been linked consistently with every kind of corporate misconduct. New York Times reporter Judith Miller went even further on the July 6 “Good Morning America,” saying, “From Watergate to the financial scandals of Enron, to the abuses that took place in Abu Ghraib prison, all of these stories required confidential sources.” The August 3 “CBS Morning News” also told viewers of “another settlement for investors burned by the Enron collapse.” None of these stories discussed the more current – and more expensive – catastrophe of Fannie Mae.
Unlike the broadcast networks, both Fox News and CNN acknowledged the Fannie Mae problem. Fox was the only network to do a complete story on the issue. CNN addressed the topic twice, once in a brief about Greenspan’s criticism of the company. The other time was in a June 15 “Judy Woodruff’s Inside Politics” story about “the revolving door between key White House jobs and big business.” Rather than use that opportunity to point to the huge controversy at Fannie Mae, where several key Clinton staffers once found a home, reporters Suzanne Malveaux and Dana Bash downplayed that and highlighted problems for Bush.
Malveaux simply said, “Clinton budget director Franklin Raines left the White House for Fannie Mae, a private mortgage giant backed by the government.” According to the October 5 Washington Post, Raines and former chief financial officer J. Timothy Howard are being sued by Fannie Mae shareholders after “they were forced from Fannie Mae last year amid allegations that they flouted accounting rules to boost earnings, which in turn triggered millions of dollars in bonuses for themselves and other top executives.”
However, the reporters didn’t mention that. Instead, Bash followed Malveaux’s mention of Raines with this: “But energy ties of Mr. Bush and of the vice president has created a perception problem from day one here about the president’s environmental policy.”
Hurricane devastation has left millions trying to rebuild their homes and lives. But flood-damage lawsuits against insurance companies now threaten the industry’s solvency across the country, and the broadcast media are helping make the case against industry.
According to reporters on CBS and NBC, the fact that some homeowners didn’t have flood insurance is “an ugly surprise” and a “hard lesson” for people “who thought their insurance companies would pay for the wreck they used to call home.”
Reporters have given the impression that Gulf Coast homeowners didn’t understand their insurance policies and that that might give them the legal standing to demand money they weren’t contracted to receive.
CBS’s Harry Smith introduced trial lawyer Richard Scruggs, famed for his $250 billion settlement from tobacco companies, on the October 5 “Early Show.” Scruggs has indicated plans to file suit against three private insurers for coastal clients, accusing insurance companies of misleading them and denying coverage for hurricane losses.
The New York Times reported on October 5 that Scruggs’ first suit, filed on October 4, centers on one Mississippi couple who did not have flood insurance. They say their insurance company misled them into thinking they had protection that they didn’t. Scruggs has said he might file more than 1,000 similar suits, avoiding a class-action suit.
The AP is constructing bad news for the President (Katrina Adds to Public Doubts About Bush). Again. And to do it, they're using a skewed sample poll, and then misrepresenting what it says. The latest AP-Ipsos poll is what they're reporting on. Once again, they've got a sample of adults, and it is signficantly skewed, with 49 percent Democrats and 41 percent Republicans. And they use that skewed sample as a hammer to hit the President, even if it isn't justified by the actual results.
An AP-Ipsos poll shows a sharp increase since the storm in the percentage of people who are most worried about the economy.
Of course it does. Let's stop, for just a moment, and consider what was happening in the media in this country before Katrina hit. Every day, in every outlet, it was all Iraq, all the time. As soon as the storm went through, and the refineries and supply lines went down, the story changed to Katrina and the rising gas prices, and the devastating economic impact. The fact that there's been a sharp increase in people being most concerned about the economy says nothing about George W. Bush.