"He dug into the idiocy and negligence that produced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression," Steve Kroft opened a segment of the March 14 CBS "60 Minutes," featuring author Michael Lewis' latest work - "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine."
If Lewis "dug into the idiocy and negligence," he did so selectively - or that's what viewers could conclude from the long "60 Minutes" report, which concerned itself with how "some of Wall Street's smartest minds managed to destroy $1.75 trillion of wealth in the sub-prime mortgage markets." Somehow, in a 24-minute report about the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, nobody ever said where all the bad loans originated.
Lewis told Kroft that the financial crisis was "a story of mass delusion."
"How can they not look at the numbers?" Kroft asked. "How can Wall Street be selling all these, buying all of these mortgages and repackaging them and not realizing they are not very good mortgages?"
NBC's "Today" gave backhanded praise to Bank of America (BofA) on March 11 because of its decision to stop charging overdraft fees for debit-card transactions.
"This is clearly an effort by Bank of America to repair its battered image," senior investigative correspondent Lisa Myers said. "But it's also a meaningful step that will save consumers money and keep families from spending more than they have."
The NBC report maintained the media theme that such fees are "abusive" by including Leslie Parrish of the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) who said, "We highly commend Bank of America for getting rid of this abusive practice." CRL is a liberal group funded by far-left wingers like George Soros and Herb and Marion Sandler, according to ActivistCash.
While Myers acknowledged that BofA was "getting ahead" of "new federal rules," she didn't warn viewers about the negative implications of that legislation.
Is it "crossing the line" to ban salt from use in restaurant kitchens? That's what MSNBC's Tamron Hall asked of her viewers shortly before 3 p.m. on March 11.
To discuss the issue, she interviewed New York State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D) on his proposed legislation calling for a ban of salt use in Empire State restaurant kitchens. Each violation would carry a $1,000 fine.
Hall failed to balance out Ortiz by giving equal time for an opponent of the proposed legislation, although she did ask Ortiz, "What about the businesses that would suffer under this rule of no salt?"
In answer to Hall's question, Ortiz erroneously insisted that his legislation would further consumer choice, when in fact his bill is an outright ban that doesn't countenance customer preference, declaring in no uncertain terms that:
Left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore, appearing on Friday night’s Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO to plug the DVD release of his Capitalism: A Love Story screed, cited the 250,000 killed in Haiti, which he snidely described as an unregulated “Republican’s paradise,” as an apt analogy to justify further regulation of U.S. banks.
Live via satellite from Manhattan, Moore spouted:
Chile had an earthquake this past week that was 500 times greater than the earthquake in Haiti. But here's the big difference. In Chile, they have various -- very serious regulations when it comes to building codes. So a thousand people died, sadly, but a thousand people died with a 500 times greater earthquake. And in Haiti, where there are no building codes, no regulations -- a Republican’s paradise -- a quarter of a million people died.
After the closing bell on Friday, just in time for everyone to stop paying close attention, mortgage behemoth and ward of the state Fannie Mae ("Fan") released its fourth-quarter and full-year financial results. Its press release (PDF) informs us that its $74.4 billion loss in 2009 (inclusive of dividends paid to the government) followed a $58.8 billion loss in 2008.
Oh, by the way, Fan also told us yesterday that it will need another $15.3 billion in cash by the end of March. That would bring the total of Uncle Sam's combined Fan-Fred cash infusions to $126 billion.
These outrageous results are made even more maddening by Zibel's kid-glove treatment of the problems at the two entities in paragraphs 8 through 10 of his report:
CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanja Gupta pressed HHS Secretary Kathleen for price controls in all parts of the health care industry on Thursday's Newsroom. Gupta stated that insurance companies were "just the tip of the iceberg" of health care costs: "There are a lot of different organizations, groups, people who contribute to health care costs. Are you going to be going after all these folks?" [audio clip available here]
It looked a bit odd for CNN to choose the correspondent, whom Obama chose to be surgeon general before adviser Tom Daschle was forced to resign, to interview other people who signed up to sell ObamaCare. Gupta's question came during an interview 26 minutes into the 9 am Eastern hour, in which both he and CNN anchor Kyra Phillips asked the Obama administration official about the health care summit later in the day at Blair House. Gupta also hinted at the possibility of going after the profits of health care suppliers in his last question to Sebelius (who was sympathetic to Gupta's proposal in her answer):
My supposedly informative but in reality selective CNNMoney.com E-mail just alerted me to the fact that the unemployment rate dropped in January, but "somehow" forgot to reveal that 20,000 seasonally adjusted jobs were lost (see related post by BMI/NB's Julia Seymour):
CNNMoney.com also "forgot" to say anything about a downward 900,000-job revision (actually, even worse) to previous data (text is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics report released at 8:30 a.m. ET):
After hearing the wit and wisdom of Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., one has to wonder how modern media corporations could stay in business without the expertise and guidance of those elected to the U.S. Senate.
Sarcasm aside, Franken did admit during a Feb. 4 hearing he didn't necessarily have legal expertise to address the Comcast-NBC Universal merger, but he could more than make up for that shortcoming through his experience in show business. Franken, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee's Antitrust Subcommittee, explained he was bothered by the merger.
"As some of you may know, I'm on the Judiciary Committee, I'm not a lawyer," Franken said. "But I used to be in show business. In fact, I worked for years for NBC and I really feel that I owe a lot to NBC. But what I know from my previous career has given me reason to be concerned - and let me phrase that, very concerned about the potential merger of Comcast and NBC Universal."
Why are the Associated Press's video people piling on Toyota?
Moments ago, in going to business-related stories at hosted.ap.org (example here), I found that the rotation of video teases the AP is presenting to readers has 12 items. Six of them, presented consecutively, relate to Toyota. Each is negative.
No doubt the situations in which the company is involved are newsworthy, but is one company's misfortune half of everything that's going on in the business world?
For much of the liberal media, President Obama operates in a vacuum. In their minds, if he says he will do something, he will most likely do it, even if he has a blatant record of not following through on similar promises.
Take Obama's lobbyist rhetoric, for instance. When the President claimed the White House has "excluded lobbyists from policymaking jobs" he was telling the truth, sort of. He did not mean, and his staff has confirmed this, that they've excluded all lobbyists from the process, as, you know, a reasonable person would gather. He just meant that some lobbyists that applied for jobs in his administration didn't get them.
As it turns out, there are over 40 former lobbyists working in the White House or some branch of the executive (see chart below the fold).
The New York Times today ran a glowing story on President Obama's upcoming crackdown on lobbyists, never once mentioning his duplicitous statement during the State of the Union.
As the old cliché goes, you don't use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, but according to Rick Santelli, that's exactly what it appears the Obama administration is doing terms of financial regulation and fiscal discipline.
On CNBC's Feb. 2 broadcast of "Fast Money," host Melissa Lee proposed that taxing the wealthy is not the path to "economic prosperity and fiscal stability." Santelli, the network's CME Group floor reporter, agreed.
"Well, you're right," Santelli said. "But I also think you're going to see when the Bush tax cuts expire, a lot of middle class write-offs and exemptions and various tax benefits will also fall by the wayside. Not the least of which to mention, I have so many friends that work for the financial industry. And they've learned from the government, even if you only make $25,000 to $125,000 a year, one firm says if you leave to go into another job or whatever, anything outside retirement, they're going to keep 10-to-20 percent of the stock they took from you following the government's directives."
Update - 2/4, 11:46 AM | Lachlan Markay: CBS News President Sean McManus has denied that the network will cut Couric's pay. Details below.
Katie Couric may be getting a taste of her own populist medicine. When the Dow hit 10,000 last October, she (and other network news personalities) used the opportunity to bemoan massive payments to Wall Street bankers. But now the populist sentiment has turned on her. She faces dramatic pay cuts as CBS News downsizes.
Couric, shown in a, er, file photo at right, "makes enough to pay 200 news reporters $75,000 a year! It's complete insanity," one CBS News insider told the Drudge Report. "We report with great enthusiasm how much bankers are making, how it is out of step with reality during a recession. Well look at Katie!"
The employee was referring to Couric's roughly $14 million annual salary, the highest in network news. That salary may be cut dramatically in the face of massive layoffs at CBS News branches in Washington, San Francisco, Miami, London, Los Angeles and Moscow.
The left is up in arms over the Supreme Court's recent decision in "Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission". But few voices have been louder than those emanating from the echo chamber at MSNBC. It seems that the cable network's talking heads feel that their parent company, General Electric, deserves a special exemption to what should be a blanket ban on unrestricted corporate speech.
First a bit of background for those unfamiliar with the Supreme Court decision. The court struck down in a 5-4 ruling a ban on corporate (or union) spending on political speech specifically endorsing or attacking a candidate for office within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election. It ruled that the ban violated the First Amendment.
Few liberals seemed to notice that in attacking corporate speech they were also effectively undermining their own employers, media corporations who employs them for the express purpose of engaging in political speech. Surely Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow would defend MSNBC's right to speak (and spend) freely without interference from the federal government--especially in the run-up to an election when free speech is most important and must be protected.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Americans were treated to a number of populist sermons on the "special interests" who would oppose "reform" at any cost to maintain the "status quo" from which they "profit financially or politically." The drug companies, the energy companies, the Wall Street bankers, and the health insurers were the corporate enemies of a just and harmonious America, or so one might have gathered.
Obama was at the vanguard of this populist charge. But since his election, he has proposed health care legislation that would subsidize Pfizer and PhRMA, a cap and trade plan that would drive profits to General Electric, and Wall Street bailouts that lined the pockets of the same Goldman Sachs bankers he so reviled during the campaign. What happened?
Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney exposes and investigates this monumental disconnect in his new book "Obamanomics: How Barack Obama is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses." Carney explores the "political strategy of partnering with the biggest businesses in order to create new regulations, taxes, and subsidies." Those measures, he argues, actually benefit the biggest businesses by crowding out competition, consolidating market share, or giving billions in subsidies directly to those companies.
One might think a start would be to tone down some of the rhetoric, take a step back and consider retooling the strategy, instead of lobbing more bombs. But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has employed the same protocol as some of the radical fringe elements on the left in attacking Richard Hanna, a candidate for New York's 24th district (h/t Ben Smith of Politico). [emphasis added]
"While making today's announcement that he will once again run for Congress in New York's 24th district, Hanna also launched a new campaign website where he shamelessly touts his ties to the CATO Institute, a right wing extremist group that has long been a vocal advocate for extremist, unfair trade policies that would allow companies to ship American jobs overseas," the Jan. 20 release said.
Last week, in his "analysis" of Barack Obama's proposed "bank responsibility fee," the Associated Press's Jim Kuhnhenn got one important thing right and two others very wrong.
The part he got right was describing the proposed fee as a "tax." The first thing he got wrong was identifying the proposed move as a legitimate form of "populism." The second is his claim that the idea is "straight out of 'It's a Wonderful Life,'" the classic Christmas movie.
Here are Kuhnhenn's first five paragraphs:
It's not just about bad banking.
President Barack Obama's biting criticism of big banks frames the problem as a struggle between jobless, suffering Americans and banks making big profits and paying "obscene" bonuses.
It's populism straight out of Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life," and it aims to score political points in the midst of a weak economic recovery that is fueling public doubts about the president's own economic policies.
The charts definitely show how utterly wrong reporters like the Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa are when they claim that there has been anything resembling a "rebound" since the economy hit bottom from a growth standpoint in the second quarter of 2009 (the economy has yet to see an employment bottom). They also explain why AP reporter Martin Crutsinger seems to have tired of trying to put a "getting better" face on things in the past couple of days (as seen here and here at NewsBusters; here and here at BizzyBlog).
Here, after screen captures by Morrissey, are the two mind-numbing creations in question, the first showing changes in output (GDP) and the second showing changes in employment:
The Associated Press's Tom Raum had to work really, really hard to come up with a sunny way to present today's jobs report and the President's reaction to it, which consisted of awarding $2.3 billion in "New Clean Energy Manufacturing Tax Credits."
Here's what he concocted: The weak employment report gave Obama the chance to change the subject from terrorism, where he continues to get hammered by Republican meanies, to something else. It's as if the only reason that the job losses occurred is because the Undie Bomber distracted Dear Leader's attention from his domestic agenda.
Here are key paragraphs from Raum's ramblings:
Obama refocuses on jobs after weak labor report
His agenda altered by the Christmas bombing attempt, President Barack Obama pivoted back to the domestic economy on Friday, promoting new U.S. spending to create tens of thousands of clean-technology jobs.
Toyota and Ford are on the verge of catching Government/General Motors in monthly U.S. vehicle sales. Based on the sales trends at the three companies, GM may lose its domestic kingpin status in just a few months.
I heard the December facts giving rise to the aforementioned tidbit on the radio Monday afternoon, and wondered whether the commentator came up with them on his own or if early wire reports had relayed them. If it's the latter, the relevant points seem to have disappeared from later wire service dispatches, including this one from the Associated Press's Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin. I think they need to be plucked from the ether and emphasized, especially given the boast by the GM's chairman that it will make a profit in 2010.
The Obama administration's Home Affordable Modification Program (known as "HAMP" to lenders and services, and MHA, or "Making Home Affordable" to the general public) is "failing."
I only learned this because I looked at the Associated Press's feeds on Christmas evening and saw this headline -- "No consequences for lying borrowers."
In an item time-stamped December 25, AP national business columnist Rachel Beck (note: not a reporter) used language that would ordinarily cause many in the press to characterize such a person as a hard-hearted meanie to describe the results of this core Obama initiative this far:
No consequences for lying borrowers
The government shouldn't reward liars. But that's the effect of changes to the Obama administration's failing program to help homeowners modify their mortgages.
On Thursday, the Treasury Department issued a press release, called "Update on Status of Support for Housing Programs." Its fourth paragraph reads as follows:
At the time the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) placed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into conservatorship in September 2008, Treasury established Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements (PSPAs) to ensure that each firm maintained a positive net worth. Treasury is now amending the PSPAs to allow the cap on Treasury's funding commitment under these agreements to increase as necessary to accommodate any cumulative reduction in net worth over the next three years. At the conclusion of the three year period, the remaining commitment will then be fully available to be drawn per the terms of the agreements.
Translation: No matter how badly things further deteriorate at these former government sponsored enterprises, both of which since last year in essence have become government-controlled enterprises, Uncle Sam (i.e., current and future generations of taxpayers) will cover their losses.
Here is how three different news outlets headlined this Treasury/Obama administration move:
On Thursday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent John Blackstone gave attention to the danger for small businesses if the final version of health care reform requires employers to provide health insurance for their employees as he highlighted two business owners – one who fears health care reform could close down his night club business while the other is more optimistic about how her business would be affected. Substitute anchor Jeff Glor set up the report: "As we mentioned earlier, the health care bill passed by the Senate today would extend coverage to 30 million Americans. A key element is a mandate forcing many companies to pay for their workers' insurance or pay a fine – a very difficult choice for struggling small business owners."
Blackstone related that "the prescription for change includes some bitter medicine, mandates requiring companies to pay for health insurance or pay a fine." While Blackstone at one point argued that small business owners are likely to benefit "from insurance exchanges in the reform plans which should hold down premiums in many cases by helping small businesses join together for greater buying power," the CBS correspondent also gave substantial attention to nightclub owner Jay Siegan’s fears that " the music will go silent if he's required to provide insurance."
On Saturday, NBC News host Lester Holt seemed to lament the fact that the climate change conference in Copenhagen did not result in greater regulation of carbon emissions as, on the NBC Nightly News, Holt passed on that "many" called the agreement that was reached "weak and disappointing," and he seemed to accept the premise that more regulations would affect the climate as he relayed that President Obama "admitted a lot more needs to be done to achieve significant changes in global warming." Holt: "President Obama, who took the lead on getting that deal, calls it a breakthrough. But even he admitted a lot more needs to be done to achieve significant changes in global warming."
During the same morning’s Today show, as he introduced correspondent Mike Viqueira, Holt recounted that the conference "fell far short of what many hoped for." Viqueira passed on complaints by environmental activists: "But a lot of people say it falls short. It will monitor emissions cuts, would this agreement, but it sets no target for curbing greenhouse gases, and that has left a lot of people – particularly in the environmental community – very disappointed."
Below are complete transcripts of the relevant stories from NBC’s Today show and the NBC Nightly News from Saturday, December 19:
On Thursday’s Stossel show on Fox Business Network, host John Stossel got to do the kind of show he was not able to do earlier this year when he was at ABC, as he devoted an entire show to the debate over access to health care, and gave attention to the market-based plan utilized by most employees of Whole Foods, which uses health savings accounts and encourages employees to shop around for health care, and to conserve their money for use in future years. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who has been the target of attacks from socialized medicine advocates despite the popularity of his company’s program with its employees, was the featured guest on Stossel's show, though he and Stossel at one point did get to debate socialized medicine advocate Russell Mokhiber. When Mokhiber cited the dubious statistic that 45,000 Americans die yearly from lack of health insurance, and contended that "zero Canadians die from lack of health insurance," Mackey charged that in Canada, "They oftentimes die from a lack of health care as they wait for services that are rationed by governmental bureaucrats."
While Stossel argued that too much involvement by a third party like insurance companies or government programs have caused health care prices to increase because consumers shop around less, Stossel and Mackey also charged that government regulations that forbid health insurance companies to compete across state lines, and that require insurance companies to cover procedures in their plans that are not desired by many customers, have helped create the problem of high insurance prices:
Longtime readers of Associated Press dispatches have long since learned that many of the most important facts of a story -- especially facts that put the government, bureaucrats, and leftists in a bad light -- are often found in its final paragraphs. This is a way for the wire service to boast that it really did report all important facts while usually ensuring that harried broadcasters and other users of AP content who attempt to digest it down to a couple of sentences will probably will leave the meaty and incriminating stuff on the cutting room floor.
Such is the case with a report on the arrest of dozens of Medicare ripoff artists in various US cities. While the details of the arrests are indeed important, the final three paragraphs of AP writer Kelli Kennedy's report are the real jaw-droppers, especially in the context of the president's and Congress's dogged determination to set a statist takeover of the entire health care system into motion before the end of this year (bolds are mine):
CNN’s Larry King equated efforts against further regulation of the banking industry to letting the mentally ill run their psych wards on his program on Monday. King pressed conservative columnist S. E. Cupp: “Banks are lobbying against a bill to tighten regulatory controls. Are you going to let the inmates run the asylum? You don’t think we should regulate banks?” [audio clips from the segment available here]
The CNN host moderated a panel discussion on the economy during the first segments of the program. The panel surprisingly leaned to the right on economic issues. Besides Cupp, King had Penn Gilette and Larry Elder, both libertarians, and liberal former Clinton administration official Robert Reich. After the host used the “inmates run the asylum” idiom in his question, the columnist first answered that “we do need regulation, but it’s putting them in a really tough spot.” King interrupted with a blunt one-word question: “So?”
If there's a Ground Zero for America's foreclosure mess outside of much of California and metro Las Vegas, it's probably Cleveland, the Northeast Ohio city known in most of the rest of the state as the Mistake on the Lake.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Mark Gillespie got out from behind his desk, committed some good old-fashioned journalism, and went looking for the mistakes that exacerbated the town's breathtaking home foreclosure rate. Lo and behold, he found that city government itself contributed mightily and extraordinarily negligently to the debacle. Go far enough into Gillespie's report, and you will also find an implicit admission that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) also played a pivotal role (bold is mine):
How Cleveland aggravated its foreclosure crisis
The city of Cleveland has aggravated its vexing foreclosure problems and has lost millions in tax dollars by helping people buy homes they could not afford, a Plain Dealer investigation has found.
Thomas Friedman of the New York Times dismissed the ClimateGate scandal during an interview on Thursday’s Situation Room on CNN, labeling it “nonsense” and an “idiot debate.” Anchor Wolf Blitzer only pressed Friedman slightly when he repeated his call for a “price on carbon that would trigger mass innovation in green technology,” meaning a large surtax on fossil fuels.
Blitzer raised ClimateGate during the second half of his interview with Friedman: “Let’s talk about ‘Hot, Flat and Crowded’ and global warming; this conference that’s under way in Copenhagen right now. The release of these e-mails, what’s called ‘ClimateGate,’ how much damage does that do to those who say man does have this significant role in global warming and this whole debate takes a new twist as a result of that?”
The New York Times columnist immediately played the “denier” card, and pointed to his favorite country, China, as an example of a society that wasn’t paying any attention to the scandal:
There's certainly an argument to be made that college football's Bowl Championship Series (BCS) isn't an ideal system, but just to what degree should the federal government come in and regulate this multi-billion dollar industry?
According to Andy Staples, a writer for Sports Illustrated's Web site, SI.com who appeared on the Fox News Channel's Dec. 9 "Studio B," the industry should be revamped from a regulatory aspect because of an issue of "fairness." He was asked by host Shepard Smith why it is appropriate for Congress to be meddling in the college football.
"It is funny because everybody says, ‘Why is Congress wasting its time on this?'" Staples said. "It is a multi-billion dollar business involving more than 100 publicly funded universities. That is probably something Congress might want to dabble in if there is a question about it, and there are some questions about it."