In a class-warfare driven media, where the "haves" are often pitted against "have-nots," you would think an outgoing CEO giving up $37.5 million in pay would be celebrated.
Not quite. CNN's "American Morning" didn't think it was quite good enough when Countrywide Financial's Angelo Mozilo forfeited $37.5 million in severance pay because he said he felt it was the "right thing to do."
I have referred to Mr. Wesbury's work frequently. That's because he has been, as he is today, a sober voice standing up to Old Media-driven economic hysteria with those stubborn things known as facts.
Wesbury first caught my attention when he expressed alarm in late 2005 that 43% of the country thought we were in a recession -- not about to go into one, actually in one. That same poll metric reads 35% today.
Here are some snips from his Wall Street Journal column today, making a number of points about the current economy, and reminding us that inflation has not been relegated to irrelevancy. He doesn't extensively call out Old Media's gloomy economic coverage, but I don't doubt for a minute that he considers it a major negative factor (bolds are mine):
It is hard to imagine any time in history when such rampant pessimism about the economy has existed with so little evidence of serious trouble.
For personal and professional reasons, it gives me absolutely no pleasure to say that I saw this coming, and that it came sooner than I thought it would.
Here's the news, assembled from wire reports by the Cincinnati Enquirer, in an article that should be entitled "Ford to Workers: Go Away" (bolds are mine throughout) --
Ford Motor Co. will offer buyout and early retirement packages to 54,000 U.S. hourly workers, or 93 percent of its hourly work force, in an effort to cut costs and replace those leaving with lower-paid workers. Thursday's announcement came as Ford said it narrowed its losses in 2007 but warned that the outlook for U.S. sales in 2008 remains grim.
When The Washington Post puts a business closing on the front page, the reader might assume it’s a long-running D.C. chain. But on the front page Thursday, black reporters Hamil Harris and Lonnae O’Neal Parker lamented the demise of the small black bookstore chain Karibu Books, founded in Maryland with a pushcart...in 1993. (The story was headlined "Black Readers Are Jolted By A Chain's Demise.") But the Post reporters didn’t go beyond the black reader reaction. Apparently, the first store to close was in Pentagon City right after Christmas. I wandered into that store out of curiosity during Christmas shopping – and was a little bit shocked. Karibu was stocking anti-white hate.
It's really frightening to imagine that people who get the bulk of their news from Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" will be making what they probably think are educated decisions at the ballot box come Election Day.
Stewart, who is now a self-proclaimed economist, said on his January 23 show, "Our economy is tanking." And now you can add financial media critic to Stewart's list of titles.
"For insight, I turned to the two major financial networks to find out what is going on, or as they're known around here, ‘hot ladies talk economy with bald dudes,'" Stewart said.
In a verbal tussle with Fox Business Network host Liz Claman January 24, Business & Media Institute Managing Editor Amy Menefee explained that conservatives are just looking for some balance from the media.
"You get upset when the media is skeptical about certain things and you say that that's un-American," Claman said. "Yet when we're not skeptical you're saying now, ‘Why aren't you skeptical?' Which is it?"
"Well from our perspective ... we just want to hear all the economic sides that are out there which means economists who are talking about, you know, other opportunities, other options," Menefee said about the media coverage of the economic stimulus package. "And there are plenty of economists out there right now who are saying this is not going to do much good."
It remains the Times's most e-mailed story as of Thursday afternoon, so it's no doubt an issue near and dear to the heart of Manhattan's liberal elite gourmands -- who might be just a little less sophisticated (at least in matters of science) than they think they are.
It's quite a sight to behold when media "has-beens" start drinking the doom and gloom Kool-Aid offered up in the media.
Sam Donaldson, who covered the Reagan White House for ABC and who now is a contributor to the network's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," last night told a gathering in Georgetown that the U.S. economy is going "in the dumper" and criticized the Democratic presidential candidates for not capitalizing on it.
Billionaire investor George Soros called for more government monitoring and involvement in markets in an interview on CNBC January 23.
"Now we really have to reconsider the whole policy, which has been in my opinion misplaced, of relying on the markets to police themselves," Soros told Maria Bartiromo in Davos, Switzerland, "to recognize the risks. And there are risks which it is the job of the authorities to control, and the authorities have abdicated their responsibilities. So did the rating agencies."
Soros slammed the government for "not taking the right steps in dealing with" what he called upset financial markets. "[T]he authorities ought to move into the market makers, look at the books and make sure that the bad risks are recognized and reassure the markets that the main actors, the banks that are too big to fail, will not fail, that they will in fact be bailed out the same way as Northern Rock was bailed out even if that means wiping out the shareholders or greatly reducing their benefits."
It's no longer enough to say the economy is heading into or already is in a recession. Invoking the memory of the Great Depression has become the latest way to dramatize the economic turmoil caused by the credit markets.
Zuckerman told viewers we're heading into uncharted territory with this current credit freeze-up.
"You have the entire banking system now that is virtually frozen. And there are, not just this subprime mortgage thing, there are other things called credit default swaps where they will lose as much money, $250 billion on. The banks are frozen. They are not making loans because they have such huge debts that they have to take on to their balance sheets and nobody knows how to deal with that," he continued.
Of course, Cramer is a regular on NBC's "Today" and "Nightly News" as an expert on the economy. On December 19, Cramer appeared on "Today" and was very critical of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke for not cutting interest rates more than a quarter point. In another "Today" appearance on January 17, he declared the economy was in a recession, a 180-degree change from his comments earlier in the month when he declared "sunny skies" were ahead for the economy.
American capitalism - it's so great even the Chinese Communist government loves it!
That's sounds like it ought to be a bumper sticker, but the January 16 "NBC Nightly News" advised it is something we should be cautious of.
Foreign investors have been on a buying spree in the U.S. stock markets - as stock prices have fallen with all the skittishness in the wake of the credit crunch.
"So far foreigners buying chunks of Wall Street has not triggered the same political uproar as a Dubai company's ill-fated effort to take over operations of U.S. ports, perhaps because politicians know the alternative could be painful," NBC correspondent Lisa Myers said.
The headline "The Economy Sucks" might be something you'd expect to see in Rolling Stone or on Slate.com, but certainly not in a reputable news magazine, right?
Yet, the January 21 issue of Newsweek defied expectations by using that for part of a headline for a one-sided, pro-Bill Clinton view of the economy. The article recalled the 1992 "It's the economy, stupid!" campaign as it tore down the current economy.
So, why does the economy "suck" according to Newsweek? It isn't that there's a depression looming or that we're in recessionary times, we're just "perilously close to sliding into a recession."
"Today, the nation is perilously close to sliding into a recession; in '92, the economy had already started growing, though a jobless recovery doomed George H.W. Bush's re-election bid anyway," Gross wrote. "The lesson? Voters' perceptions matter more than whether the economy is technically expanding or contracting."
CNBC “Mad Money” host, resident ranter and stock-picker extraordinaire Jim Cramer can now add “media critic” to his list of duties.
Over the past six months, Cramer has become a YouTube sensation for taking shots at Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, including his infamous “They know nothing” rant on CNBC’s August 3 “Street Signs.”
Today Cramer used his “Stop Trading” segment on CNBC’s “Street Signs” to blast Bernanke some more and accused some in the media of kissing up to Bernanke for the “big interview.”
“I guess I should just kiss up and get the big interview with Ben like everybody else wants,” Cramer said to “Street Signs” fill-in host Melissa Lee. “Sorry, I could care less.”
Cramer obviously wasn't impressed with Bernanke's comments yesterday where he said the Federal Reserve stood ready "to take substantive additional action as needed to support growth and to provide adequate insurance against downside risks."
It’s better late than never, might be what vaccine manufacturers are thinking right now.
The pharmaceutical industry had maintained all along that there’s no proven link between a vaccine preservative called thimerosal and autism. CBS had been unwilling to concede that notion until last night.
“In health news tonight, new research finds no link between mercury in vaccines and autism in children,” Katie Couric said on the January 7 “Evening News.” “Suspicion had focused on a vaccine preservative called thimerosal, which contains mercury. Thimerosal was eliminated from most vaccines in 2001, but since then a study in California showed that, instead of going down, autism cases there continued to climb.”
"Business spending, concerns about business spending overall. I think Anne Mulcahy [CEO] at Xerox (NYSE:XRX) may have said something about business spending," Faber said. "I'm hearing business spending slowing. That's the concern - what happens to the stock market in a recession because we're heading into one it looks like."
Toyota is listed second for a reason that would have been almost unthinkable three years ago (bolds are mine):
Ford Motor Co., in the midst of a restructuring, fell to No. 3 in U.S. auto sales last year, as Toyota Motor Corp. posted its 12th straight year of record U.S. sales and moved up to second place behind General Motors Corp.
Even though Ford held on to pickup leadership with its F-Series -- the nation's best-selling vehicle nameplate for 26 years and the best-selling truck for 31 years -- the company's Ford brand is no longer the nation's best-selling make(Note: Chevrolet now is -- Ed.).
A January 4 Associated Press story by Jeannine Aversa pointed to the job data as one of the "problems in the economy" that has "elevated fears about a recession." But even with all these "problems" - housing woes, the credit crunch, high oil prices, weak job numbers - the criteria of the economy being in a recession still haven't been close to being met.
Journalists often fret about Big Business. Yet their coverage leans so pro-union that they won't give the business side of the story - even when they ARE the business.
The writers' strike has cost the networks millions in lost ad revenue from the lack of new primetime and late-night shows. But now that late night lives again, the coverage is all about "awareness" of the writers' guild and the strike.
Once the late-night comedy shows returned January 2, a new controversy arose: guests who dared to cross the picket line to appear on the writer-less shows. One of those was Baptist preacher and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
"I don't think Jesus would cross the picket line, no, I'm almost positive Jesus would be on our side," one striking writer said to CBS's January 3 "Early Show."
CNBC's ticking time bomb Jim "Mad Money" Cramer lashed out at the Federal Reserve again on January 2 for not cutting interest rates. This time he suggesting the Fed was intentionally doling out punishment to reckless investors.
"I have to tell you that I look at this situation and I say to myself, ‘They [the Federal Reserve] want it. They want a recession.'" Cramer said on CNBC's January 2 "Squawk on the Street." "They're Puritans. They want to punish the people who were reckless in their eyes and the punishment has still not finished being metedout."
Cramer was called into a discussion about the Fed with CNBC's David Faber and "Squawk Box" co-host Joe Kernan.
"As 2008 begins, house prices are still skidding, bank losses are still mounting, oil is again flirting with $100 a barrel and consumers are buying less as prices rise," the editorial said. "To many, the wheels appear to be coming off the economy. To others, including President Bush and his aides, the economy is fundamentally sound and resilient."
Two years ago, Old Media, particularly the New York Times, and quite a few chronic sufferers of Bush Derangement Syndrome (but I repeat myself), attempted to hijack the Sago Mine tragedy in West Virginia before the wakes for the 12 dead miners were even held. They wanted to pin the catastrophe, totally without foundation, on the idea that the administration had created the conditions for the tragedy by starving the budget of the Mine Safety and Health Administration and by putting industry cronies who were deliberately lax in safety enforcement in charge.
The Times even tried to tie the tragedy to Hurricane Katrina, which had occurred a few months earlier.
The claims of negligence and pervasive deteriorating safety conditions were definitively debunked at these posts:
In short, yours truly and Bevan found that coal-mine deaths and injuries had been declining significantly during the previous four years; inspection hours had shown no indications of a safety letup; and the budget for MHSA had not been slashed.
So where is coal-mine safety, and mine safety in general, two years later?
According to MasterCard SpendingPulse, retail sales were up 3.6 percent during the holiday season - 2.4 percent excluding gas prices. But because it's not as big an increase as recent years have produced, the media reported it as bad news.
On NBC's "Nightly News," reporter Savannah Guthrie announced a "dramatic" 2.4 percent decrease in women's clothing sales. She didn't think the same percentage increase was "dramatic," however. Instead, she referred to the overall sales increase as "disappointing."
Other media labeled the figures "dismal," "small," "weak," "bleak" and "a clear sign that the economy is slowing down." Most made sure to point out, like "Good Morning America's" Ryan Owens, that the increase is "the smallest in four years."
Does the New York Times let bias creep into its post-Christmas reports on the shopping season just completed?
Smart-aleck answer: Is Maureen Dowd obsessed with Dick Cheney? (His name appears in 295 of her columns, all but four appearing during the last seven-plus years. That would be almost 40 Cheney inclusions per year, probably close to half the number of columns she has written during that time.)
After reviewing 17 years of those reports, the answer is a definitive "Yes."
For each year from 1991 through 2007, I went back to the Times's first or near-first post-Christmas report on the shopping season. I expected to find blue sky and sunshine during the Clinton years, and gloom as far as the eye can see during Bush 41 and Bush 43. While it wasn't quite that bad, the bias is there, and it's more obvious in recent years.
Business & Media Institute Director Dan Gainor appeared on the Fox Business Network December 21, 2007, to discuss the media's coverage of the economy. Full of Christmas spirit, Gainor had kind words for two mainstream reporters.
"Even in the mainstream media there are people who get it. Looking back this year one of the big stars whose improvement was surprising is CNN's Ali Velshi who delivers a much calmer look," Gainor said.
"It's nice to see somebody out there saying, ‘Oh, actually the markets aren't really doing that bad," he said, praising ABC's Bianna Golodryga. The "Good Morning America" reporter received high marks for balanced coverage of the stock market.
NewsBusters and affiliate The Business & Media Institute have been reporting for many months the continuous, bearish assessments of economic gloom and doom by America's press.
Of course, this all comes despite 24 straight quarters of Gross Domestic Product growth, 50 consecutive months of job gains, higher wages for virtually all Americans, and last month's consumer spending explosion.
Ignoring all this Sunday morning were panelists on "The Chris Matthews Show" who demonstrated such a deplorable lack of economic acumen that maybe they shouldn't be allowed to comment on such matters when cameras and microphones are on.
In 2005, I sensed that journalists in general prefer to call this time of the year in commerce that of "holiday shopping" instead of "Christmas shopping," but that when it came to people losing their jobs, they preferred to describe layoffs as relating to "Christmas."
My instincts were proven correct that year and in 2006, so I chose to track the same items this year to look for any noticeable change or trend.
As in previous years, it was pretty easy to predict the results. But the extent of the disparity might surprise you.
Here are results from the three sets of Google News searches I did during during this year's Christmas season, compared to the previous two years (the Dec. 22, 2007 searches were done at about 2 p.m.; previous 2007 posts are here and here; links to 2005's related posts are here, here, and here; 2006's are here, here, and here):
Since the stock and credit market turbulence began in July, NewsBusters has been informing readers that media continually predict recessions that never happen.
On the sad flipside, bearishness in the press can become so pervasive that an economic downturn ends up being an unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy.
NewsBusters affiliate the Business and Media Institute made this very point in a late-November article by Amy Menefee entitled "Talking Ourselves Into Recession."
This concern is shared by business leaders like Craig Hester, CEO of Hester Capital Management, who during an interview with CNBC's Erin Burnett and James Cramer Friday spoke an inconvenient truth about media's impact on the economy that folks in the press sadly don't recognize as they disseminate pessimistic after pessimistic predictions often leading to people unnecessarily losing their jobs - or worse: