This post is not about an item in The Onion. It's about a supposedly serious establishment press story at The Hill.
This morning, Amie Parnes and Peter Schroeder covered the Obama administration's apparent plan to pivot to the economy for the umpteenth time. But this time, Obama and his apparatchiks aren't doing it because they think they need to convince people that things are getting better. No-no-no. They're declaring victory, "tying his legacy" to Obama's apparently wondrous stewardhip of the economy. In the words of the Hill pair, they are "seizing on the administration’s successes in boosting the nation during financial woes." Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine):
In a Thursday report on why many Americans are still unimpressed with the U.S. job market, Associated Press reporters Christopher Rugaber and Josh Boak made a rare admission that "Finding a steady full-time job has become harder" than it was before the recession.
The AP pair then contended that "the trend might also reflect a lasting shift among restaurants and coffee shops," but found an "expert" who only acknowledged that such employers are trying to be more careful in their spending. Although they mentioned Obamacare as a reason why pollied Republicans are dissatisfied with the economy, Rugaber and Boak never cited the healthcare law as a possible factor in the significant move to employ part-timers, even though Investor's Business Daily has compiled a list of 429 employers "with strong proof that ObamaCare's employer mandate is behind cuts to work hours or staffing levels." Excerpts follow the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
Which is the more important statistic: A 36 percent decline in U.S. median household net worth since 2003, or a 43 percent decline in that same statistic since 2007?
The average person would certainly be more concerned about the latter, which represents an annual drop of about 7 percent compared to the less than 4 percent per year seen in the past decade. But apparently if you're a reporter or editor at the New York Times, the former statistic is of far more interest, while the latter doesn't merit a specific numerical mention.
There were two pieces of significant economy-related news today. The first was that the Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators increased for the fifth straight month, this time by 0.3 percent, while May's increase was revised up to 0.7 percent. The second was that the University of Michigan's preliminary June reading on consumer confidence came in at 81.3, a decline from May. Both results trailed expectations.
Predictably, the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger put a smiley face on the news, believing it shows that "that economic growth should accelerate in the second half of this year," while Bloomberg News's Nina Glinski was more sanguine, interpreting the confidence report as an indication that "Americans’ outlook for the economy dimmed." Excerpts from both efforts follow the jump.
Late this afternoon, I went to the Top Business Headlines page at the Associated Press's national web site to get today's new home construction news. Because the AP didn't have a story there (saved here for future reference), I knew it had to be bad, especially because to ignore it, the wire service made room in its Top 10 stories for an item on Toyota experimenting with fuel cells and aircraft orders at an air show in England.
The Census Bureau reported that seasonally adjusted housing starts fell by 9.3 percent in June after declining 7.3 percent in May. Seasonally adjusted applications for new building permits declined by 4.2 percent after a 5.1 percent revised May drop. Reporter Martin Crutsinger, doing his utmost to earn the "Worst Economics Writer" tag the National Review's Kevin Williamson conferred on him last year, blamed the weather, blamed "the South" without telling readers how the Census Bureau defines it, and ignored how, even after a very bad month, that region is still outperforming other regions in new homebuilding. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
Paul Krugman at the New York Times and other fever-swamp leftists who, incredibly, are operating under the assumption that the economy has experienced an acceptable if uneven "recovery" during the five years since the recession ended are celebrating what they believe was an epic live "embarrassment" of Rick Santelli at the hands of Steve Liesman at CNBC on Monday.
A Google search shows that Mediaite ("CNBC Reporter Torches Rick Santelli"), New Republic ("CNBC's Rick Santelli Was Embarrassed on Live TV"), Talking Points Memo ("Watch CNBC's Tea Partier Get Told How Wrong He's Been"), Business Insider ("Steve Liesman Issued A Devastating Line To Rick Santelli"), and of course Vox ("Watch Steve Liesman demolish Rick Santelli's inflation fearmongering") are all piling on. Following the jump, I will show that Santelli only claimed to have been right about the direction of the economy for the past five years, after which Liesman changed the subject and hogged the microphone:
At the Associated Press on Friday afternoon, Andrew Taylor, who it should be noted covers Congress and is not routinely on the economics or business beat, relayed an Obama administration prediction that economic growth in 2014 will come in at 2.6 percent.
Taylor noted that this estimate, lowered from 3.3 percent, came about because of "the unexpected 2.9 percent drop in gross domestic product in the first quarter of this year when unusually severe weather dinged the economy." Besides failing to note that the contraction was an annualized drop (the actual contraction was about 0.7 percent), he didn't tell readers how absurdly strong growth will have to be during the rest of the year to hit that 2.6 percent target; it works out to an annualized 4.5 percent during each of this year's remaining unreported quarters. Perhaps the AP reporter isn't economically astute enough to recognize how unlikely that is — or worse, he recognized it and let it pass unchallenged.
Bloomberg’s Eric Roston attempted to keep a straight face while promoting a draft report for the United Nations. It said U.S. emissions would need to be “cut to one-tenth of current levels, per person, in less than 40 years.” Short of societal regression, it is unclear how that could be done.
“It’s perilous to say these things in the U.S., where a mere description of the scale of the climate challenge too often invites ridicule and dismissiveness. Americans are each responsible for about 18 tons of carbon dioxide a year. Taking that down 90 percent would mean a drop in emissions to what they were in about 1901 or 1902. Cue ridicule and dismissiveness,” Roston wrote.
The press loves billionaire Warren Buffett, who can be relied to support President Barack Obama even in implausible circumstances — such as the current economy, where the "recovery" following the 2008-2009 traditionally defined recession has been worse than any since World War II, and barely better than what was seen during the awful post-Depression 1930s.
Thus far, the press has managed to ignore one of the implications of the first quarter's serious contraction. One more quarter of economic contraction could mean that the end of the recession, as Buffett himself has defined it, failed to permanently arrive.
Fox News contributor and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer made a very interesting and logical correlation Friday. The press has predictably failed to make the connection or even to relay Krauthammer's point, simply because it leads to the default assumption that conservatives were right on an important economic issue.
To be clear, the point Krauthammer and National Review Online's Robert Stein made on Thursday isn't directly provable. But the fact that an acceleration in job growth and a significant reduction in the unemployment rate have occurred in the six months since extended unemployment benefits expired is hard to explain away as some kind of lucky coincidence — especially given the endless blather of "weather" excuses the press and the administration have made about the economy in general since early this year. Video and a transcript follow the jump.
In the latest White House press release disguised as analysis at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, AP stenographer Paul Wiseman sang the praises of this nation's "humming" job market and its "steadily rising" growth as the economy is "finally showing the vigor that Americans have long awaited." Wow.
Of course, the White House — er, Wiseman — never mentioned the following (to name just a few): two straight months (April and May) of real declines in consumer purchases; the seasonally adjusted decline of 523,000 in full-time employment paired with an increase of 799,000 part-time jobs in June; April’s and May's trade imbalance coming in worse than March’s, which was already very high; shipments of durable goods barely budging in April and May; factory orders falling in May; or May's flat construction spending. It got worse, as Wiseman concocted five reasons why the U.S. economy is a "world beater." Excerpts from Paul's pathetic prose follow the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
A prominent exhibit explaining why the nation's trust in its media establishment has dropped to precipitous lows would likely include Tom Cohen's Thursday afternoon column at CNN expressing befuddlement over President Barack Obama's unpopularity.
After all, Cohen's headline crows that under Obama we have "more jobs" and "less war" (!), so there's a "disconnect" which must be explained. To give you an idea of how pathetic his attempt is, he managed not to mention any form of the words "immigration," "scandal," or "contraction" (as in, the first-quarter decline in GDP) while pretending to present a complete analysis. Meanwhile, one of CNN's embedded headline links to another story ("Obama to Republicans: 'So sue me'") openly mocks Cohen, doing a better job of explaining the "disconnect" in six words than anything he wrote in his first 37 paragraphs. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine throughout this post; numbered tags are mine):
As people celebrate freedom this Independence Day, the left continues to fight on behalf of an industry monopoly and against consumer freedom.
Historically, liberals championed “trust busting” laws prohibiting monopolies. Since the monopoly in question is made up of union members, often in a government partnership to limit competition -- they cried foul. Just look at the upstart companies disrupting the highly regulated taxi “cartel,” that has the left furious.
Shortly after 3 PM Eastern Time Monday afternoon, an outfit called "Faithful America" issued a "Media Advisory" for an event which would take place at 7:30 PM Central Time.
In the email, Faithful America claimed to be "the largest and fastest growing online community of Christians taking action for social justice," and to have 300,000 members. They may have that many members, but only about 0.01% of them showed up for the event involved: a "vigil" opposing today's Supreme Court decision at Hobby Lobby's flagship store in Edmond, Oklahoma. In covering the titantic event, Edmond Sun reporter Mark Schlachtenhaufen appears to have exaggerated the puny turnout, and made the same misstatement concerning the circumstances of the case we've seen constantly in the national press (bolds are mine):
An undated but clearly recent page at the National Wildlife Federation breathlessly warns readers, in a section entitled "Threats from Global Warming," that "Lake Erie water levels, already below average, could drop 4-5 feet by the end of this century, significantly altering shoreline habitat." A Thursday Huffington Post Canada Business entry observed that "the (Great Lakes) basin has experienced the longest extended period of lower water levels since the U.S. and Canada began tracking levels in 1918." Of course, it's because of "climate change."
Friday, Julie Bosman at the New York Times reported (HT Powerline) that "The International Joint Commission, a group with members from the United States and Canada that advises on water resources, completed a five-year study in April 2013 concluding that water levels in the lakes were likely to drop even farther, in part because of the lack of precipitation in recent years brought on by climate change." But the reason Bosman was on the story is because — fortunately for area residents, but unfortunately for "startled" global warming adherents claiming to be "scientists" — Great Lakes sea levels are rising again (bolds are mine throughout this post):
In a Thursday evening writeup about how the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will allow a California wind farm to "become the first in the nation to avoid prosecution if eagles are injured or die when they run into the giant turning blades," reporter Scott Smith at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, took a big gulp of his hi-test White House koolaid, and wrote: "Under President Barack Obama, wind energy has exploded as a pollution-free energy source that can help reduce the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming."
Slowly but surely, the confident assurances of a fantabulous second quarter for the U.S. economy — one which is supposed to make the serious first-quarter contraction reported on Wednesday a distant memory — are crumbling.
Yesterday at the Associated Press, Martin Crutsinger, who just a couple of weeks ago had been relaying confident second-quarter predictions of annualized 3.5 percent and even 4 percent growth, quoted a still-optimistic economist who, in Crutsinger's words, "said strength in other areas (besides yesterday's weak consumer spending report — Ed.) should still lift economic growth to around a 3 percent annual rate in the current quarter." Today, in covering the University of Michigan's consumer confidence report, Christopher Rugaber, Crutsinger's dynamic duo buddy at the AP, brought the growth figure down to a level which won't even offset the dreadful first quarter:
On Thursday’s Today, NBC host Matt Lauer walked into trouble with the feminists by asking GM CEO Mary Barra if she could be a mother and a CEO and do both jobs well – causing every liberal to pull out the card “You don’t ask the males that.”
Charlotte Alter at Timeasked: “How’s this for a question: Can Matt Lauer be a good dad and host the Today Show? Let’s discuss.” (Video below)
My, those "this quarter's really, really going to be great" predictions can disappear so quickly these days.
Yesterday, in the wake of the government's third revision to gross domestic product showing that the economy shrunk by an annualized 2.9 percent during the first quarter instead of the previously reported 1.0 percent, commentators, analysts, and economists fell all over themselves insisting that the second quarter and the rest of the year will be fine. The reaction at Goldman Sachs was — get this — to raise their estimate for second-quarter growth from an annualized 3.8 percent to 4.0 percent. Today, in the wake of a particularly weak consumer spending report for May, the backpedaling — well, partial backpedaling — is under way, particularly at the Associated Press (bolds are mine):
The press, even in the wake of yesterday's awful reported 2.9 percent annualized first-quarter contraction, continues to regale us with noise about the economy's "recovery" during the past five years.
As P.J. Gladnick at NewsBusters noted yesterday, CNNMoney.com's Annalyn Kurtz, in giving readers "3 reasons not to freak out about -2.9% GDP," concluded her report by telling readers that "This recovery is underway, but it's choppy and still very slow." Actually, it may have resumed this quarter. At the Associated Press yesterday, Martin Crutsinger all too predictably wrote that"the setback is widely thought to be temporary, with growth rebounding solidly since spring." After almost five years of this nonsense, it's long past time that they start telling readers, listeners, and viewers that this economy bears more resemblance to the 1930s economy under Franklin Delano Roosevelt than it does any post-downturn economy we've seen since the end of World War II. Hard proof follows the jump.
Hooray! The Gross Domestic Product shrank by 2.9% in the first quarter of the year. "This recovery is underway."
Your humble correspondent was very careful to put the previous sentence in quotes because I don't want you to think I've taken leave of my senses. This amazing conclusion comes to us courtesy of CNN Money spinmeister Annalyn Kurtz who starts out on a rather gloomy note but manages to spin her way into economic joy:
Sounding a familiar theme at the Associated Press ahead of awful economic news, Christopher Rugaber and Martin Crutsinger prepared a column in advance of tomorrow's final report on the economy's first-quarter economic contraction reminding us, with far more certainy than is justified, that "A GRIM US ECONOMIC PICTURE IS BRIGHTENING."
Guys, before you "brighten," you first have to step out of the darkness. According to the wire service's dynamic duo of reporting on the economy (I guess I could add Josh Boak and call them "the three amigos"), tomorrow's report on the nation's first-quarter Gross Domestic Product is expected to show that it contracted by "nearly 2 percent" on an annual basis. AP reports a week ago didn't include "nearly." Bloomberg News is currently predicting a contraction of 1.8 percent. I'd like to be wrong, but I'm concerned that it might be significantly worse. But Rugaber and Crutsinger say, "Don't worry, be happy; the rest of the year will probably be fine" (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
In a Thursday New York Times op-ed, columnist Timothy Egan, who previously "worked for 18 years as a writer" at the Times, went after Wal-Mart as "net drain on taxpayers, forcing employees into public assistance with its poverty-wage structure." In his view, working at Wal-Mart and receiving its "humiliating wages ... certainly keeps you poor."
At the company's blog, David Tovar, Walmart's vice president for corporate communications, armed with a photocopy of Egan's op-ed and a red pen, ripped Egan's contentions to shreds (portion presented was reformatted to fit the available space; HT Instapundit):
Some readers here may have a tough time discerning why the economy's mediocre to stagnant performance isn't fully registering with the general public, which feels that things aren't going too well but still doesn't how weak the situation really is. The obvious answer is that the press overemphasizes any good news which appears and downplays marginal or bad news — while occasionally, as seen last night in Bloomberg's coverage of yesterday's largely miserable homebuilding statistics, pretending that bad news really was good.
Perfect examples of this problem came in two CNNMoney.com emails I received this afternoon. The emails has news which could be considered news, while leaving out some clearly bad news which delegitimizes their email's optimism:
There must have been a double delivery of Obama administration koolaid over at Bloomberg News this morning.
The business wire service, which ordinarily is slightly less imbalanced in its business and economics reporting than the Associated Press, somehow interpreted a 6.5 percent seasonally adjusted decline in housing starts during May and a nearly identical percentage drop in building permits — with both figures lower than May 2013 — as evidence that "the homebuilding industry stabilized after a first-quarter swoon." That's ridiculous. The first quarter was supposedly as bad as it was because of bad winter weather; so there should have been an overcompensating bounceback. It hasn't happened. Meanwhile, that second Bloomberg koolaid delivery must have been the one meant for AP, whose Josh Boak turned in a report noteworthy for its unusual sobriety (bolds are mine throughout this post):
You've got to hand it to Martin Crutsinger at the Associated Press. His Thursday writeup on May's disappointing retail sales result — a 0.3 percent increase compared to expectations of 0.4 percent to 0.6 percent — was infused with optimism. It's "unlikely to derail overall economic growth." There's been a "revival in consumer spending." We'll see "boosting incomes and supporting stronger consumer spending" as a result of more hiring."
But along the way, Crutsinger quietly downgraded his estimate of second-quarter and full-year economic growth. Just a few weeks ago, AP reports were predicting that the second quarter might come in at an annualized 4 percent, and that 2014 on the whole would surely come in at 3 percent or greater, even after the first quarter's annualized 1.0 percent contraction. Let's see how Crutsinger stealthily reported a far lower estimate after the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
UPDATE [06/16]: Monday's Today offered a correction on Trump's claim that Blair Kamin had been "fired" from the Chicago Tribune. At the top of the 8 a.m. ET hour, news anchor Natalie Morales explained: "Well, in fact, that critic, Pulitzer Prize winner Blair Kamin, has been with the Chicago Tribune for more than twenty years and also spent the 2013 academic year as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard." See a transcript of the June 16 news brief below.
On Friday, NBC's Today and CBS This Morning touted Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin hurling insults at Donald Trump's newest skyscraper in the Windy City, condemning the "brashness" and "egotistical overstatement" of the billionaire's decision to place his name on the building, even calling it a "wart" on the city skyline and comparing it to "Godzilla." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Reacting to the melodramatic declarations during a live phone interview on Today, Trump slammed Kamin: "This was started by a third-rate architectural critic for the Chicago Tribune, who I thought got fired. He was gone for a long period of time. Most people thought he got fired. All of a sudden he re-emerges, and to get a little publicity, he started this campaign."
On Tuesday, the Associated Press carried a regional story about the status of North Dakota's planting season. Readers will be pleased to know that 93 percent, 78 percent, and 92 percent of the state's wheat, potato and corn crops have been planted.
Of course, farm news is important in the Roughrider State. But so is the latest information on its stratospheric economic growth, as well as looking at last year's growth in the nation's other 49 states and DC as reported by the government's Bureau of Economic Analysis yesterday. But I could not locate a national AP story on state-by-state gross domestic product growth, and there have been almost no national-scope stories anywhere else. Perhaps that's because the country's top performers are predominantly deep-red states, while its significant laggards, at least based on who they supported for president in 2008 and 2012, are mostly blue.
At the Associated Press yesterday, Christopher Rugaber's writeup on the latest economic growth projections of the National Association of Business Economists (NABE) contained several glaring weaknesses.
Take the headline (quite possibly not his doing) and his opening sentence. The headline, "SURVEY: GROWTH TO PICK UP, HIRING STEADY," seems designed to ensure that those who only look at headlines in print or on their online devices will remain blissfully ignorant about the economy's first-quarter contraction. The fact is that following a quarter of shrinkage, economic growth first has to "return" or "resume" before it can "pick up."
After investing so much emotional energy in the idea that the weather-impaired contracting U.S. economy of the first quarter is going to give way to a super-duper awesome second quarter and strong rest of the year, it was foolish to think that Martin Crutsinger at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, would backtrack after just one contradictory report on consumer spending, which "unexpectedly" fell 0.1 percent in April, confounding expectations of a 0.2 percent pickup.
And of course he didn't. What's remarkable is that Crutsinger's Friday report seemed to get even more aggressive with his second-quarter prediction, citing "some analysts" who believe that it will come in at an annualized 4 percent — quite the reversal from the first quarter's 1.0 percent annualized contraction. Meanwhile, the AP reporter missed a less buoyant report from his colleague Christopher Rugaber which punctured a bit of Crutsinger's premise. Excerpts from both items follow the jump.