In a September 19 "Good Morning America" preview of a report scheduled to appear on the same day's edition of ABC's "20/20," chief investigative reporter Brian Ross took a few jabs at the rich who had fallen.
Ross called it "the end of a shameful chapter of American history," and although top executives on Wall Street had been hit hard in a way "they never thought was possible ... it's hardly the soup kitchen."
There was also much indignation in the report over the assets of Richard S. Fuld Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of now fallen Lehman Brothers Inc., and Alan Schwartz, the CEO of now "busted" Bear Stearns.
Of course we all know that it's absolutely wrong and mean-spirited to suggest that anyone on the left could conceivably be unpatriotic [though an exception might be made for unrepentant terrorist friends of Barack Obama who accept from Vietnamese communists rings made from downed US planes.] So while we won't be using the u-word here, two recent MSNBC shows offer a remarkable contrast. Let's compare Chris Matthews' giddy reaction to news of difficulties in the markets with Mika Brzezinski's gloom in begrudgingly discussing the Iraq surge's success.
The first portion of the video is from the opening of Hardball of September 15th, the day when news was breaking of Lehman and Merrill Lynch's travails, and the DJIA had sunk over 500 points. Matthews could hardly contain his glee, comparing McCain to Hoover, and declaring that because of the "terrible news" about the economy, "as of today, this is no longer an election about lipstick on pigs, misleading ads or how many houses a candidate owns. This is serious. The economy is a real issue. With real consequences." Then there was today's discussion on Morning Joe of the surge's success. Mika's pout—on view in the screencap—epitomizes her reaction. I commend the entire video clip to your attention, but would focus on these exchanges.
Chris Matthews spent most of Monday night's "Hardball," laying out a blueprint for how Barack Obama can hit John McCain on the economy, as he compared the GOP presidential nominee to Herbert Hoover.
Opening the September 15 show, Matthews greeted viewers with the following teaser:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Why is John McCain talking like Herbert Hoover? Depression or just depressing? Let's play "Hardball."...Did John McCain really mean to say the "fundamentals of the economy are strong?" Herbert Hoover, who presided over The Great Depression, said quote, "the economy is fundamentally sound." So is it fundamentally good politics to say, with the stock market plunging, that things are hunky-dory?
Then, in the first segment, Matthews kept pressing Sen. Charles Schumer about why Obama wasn't being more aggressive against McCain on the economy:
On CNBC's "Squawk Box," reporter Charlie Gasparino told co-host Joe Kernen, "I will say this about the Bear Stearns thing when you compare that [Lehman] with this. I think our reporting was incredibly responsible. It was so responsible ... and you know we went out of our way with Bear Stearns ... We just report on how feckless management is and I can't help that Bear Stearns was feckless. [Lehman] was feckless too and that is the scary part."
"They're going to parse every ‘is' that a journalist said," said Kernen. "We don't hammer the stock. We watch the stock get hammered and then we talk about it."
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" September 8, Jim Cramer took a shot at owner of The Wall Street Journal, Rupert Murdoch, in the midst of talking about the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac takeover:
I read The Wall Street Journal, sorry, The Fox Street Journal. When is Murdoch going to put his positive right wing implant on left wing journalists? ... When is Murdoch going to broom the Spartacus workers union?
As for Fannie and Freddie, Cramer told the hosts of the September 8 broadcast that "We had a laissez-faire attitude. Now we are going to have the greatest bureaucracy in history created by Republicans. I'm an agent of change," Cramer said sarcastically.
Later in the segment, Cramer joked that the Democratic Party were "Bolsheviks" quipping, "There. How's that for biased media?"
That “Made in America” sticker is looking more attractive.
Second-quarter (2Q) Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was revised up from 1.9 percent growth to a higher than anticipated 3.3 percent, according to reports on August 28.
Rising exports played a significant role in the expansion. According to the Commerce Department, real exports increased 13.2 percent in the 2Q of 2008, compared with an increase of 5.1 percent in the first. Real imports of goods and services decreased 0.8 percent in the first quarter and 7.6 percent in the second.
It seems like a no-brainer: Raising taxes is bad. It's a shame that Barron's is one of the few outlets to pick up on it.
An economic plan floated out by Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, Ill., would raise taxes on incomes above $250,000 - with the highest rate at 39.6 percent - and redistribute the wealth to the poor and middle-class. But that would be a big mistake, according to an article by Jim McTague in the August 25 issue of Barron's.
"It's almost as if Obama wants to repeat the mistakes of Herbert Hoover," McTague wrote. "During the Great Depression, Hoover raised the top marginal rate to 63% from 25% and hiked corporate taxes, too, says Michael Aronstein, chief investment strategist at Oscar Gruss & Son in New York. The moves siphoned needed investment capital out of the markets and into the hands of bureaucrats, delaying the turnaround."
Maybe it is because NBC has the broadcast rights for the Summer Olympics being held in China, but big gas-guzzling, greenhouse gas-emitting automobiles made by General Motors are seen as a plus for the communist nation's embrace of capitalism.
The August 6 "NBC Nightly News" featured the Chinese people's love of troubled U.S. automaker General Motors (NYSE:GM) - an indicator interpreted as an acceptance of capitalism.
"What would Chairman Mao think?" CNBC correspondent Phil LeBeau asked. "Six decades after the Communist Revolution, China has become the hottest capitalist engine on earth. And ironically, some of the most revered symbols of success in today's China are Cadillac, Buick and Chevrolet."
Don't blame Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., member of two influential banking committees - the Senate Finance Committee and the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs - for IndyMac's collapse, says CNBC's Erin Burnett.
Burnett, host of CNBC "Street Signs," disagreed with a claim by MSNBC "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough that a letter to regulators from Schumer caused a run on the beleaguered bank IndyMac, which eventually led to its failure and takeover by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
"I don't think Chuck Schumer caused a run on the bank," Burnett said on MSNBC's July 24 "Morning Joe." "This is the new world of banking. Companies, banks come out and they say, and they say, ‘Oh my gosh - our stock's down 20 percent. It's being manipulated. Please come in and help us government. Oh my gosh, there's a run on our bank - let's blame it on a senator.'"
The massive housing bailout bill, meant to prop up beleaguered government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) and help homeowners refinance adjustable rate mortgages, was praised in a segment on the CBS broadcast. It passed in the House July 23 and won't face resistance from President Bush.
"This afternoon, the House passed a bill that throws an estimated $25-billion lifeline to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae - the backbone of the home mortgage industry," CBS chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod said. "The bill makes it easier for both to raise unlimited capital from the government if needed and would allow hundreds of thousands of homeowners to refinance rather than face foreclosure."
A night after ABC anchor Charles Gibson hit full panic mode by leading with how “markets are gyrating, inflation is rising, banks are closing” and suggesting money is only safe “under the mattress,” on Wednesday night he actually began with how “Wall Street posts its best day in months. Financial stocks rise. The price of oil falls.” But he couldn't be completely upbeat as he proceeded to note that “consumer prices also rose sharply.”
Katie Couric, however, was one hundred percent negative. After teasing Wednesday's CBS Evening News by asserting “the economic vise tightens,” Couric intoned over a matching graphic (see above):
Good evening, everyone. We wish we didn't sound like a broken record, but once again tonight there is troubling economic news. Americans are getting it from all sides. From inflation. Today the government reported the second-biggest monthly increase since 1982. To the mortgage mess where a tight market has sent prices tumbling 29 percent in one year in southern California. And the banking crisis. The FBI is now investigating the failed bank IndyMac for fraud. We have a team of correspondents covering these economic developments tonight...
Hitting full panic mode on Tuesday night, ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased World News: “Markets are gyrating, inflation is rising, banks are closing. Consumer pessimism is at an all-time high.” Actually, only one bank. Gibson explained “we are going to devote a large part of our broadcast tonight to the economy because the news each day seems unrelentingly bad.”
It certainly is on television news where Gibson brought aboard a group of three experts “to help us separate fact from fear,” but they and Gibson spread fear as he put himself in the place of a viewer and wondered: “My house is falling apart, the real estate mortgage companies may be in trouble, and now I hear about possible bank failures. And the stock market is tanking. So how do I be thoughtful about what I do with my money?” An exasperated Gibson soon pleaded:
Tell me where people go now to make sure their money is safe. With stocks down, you think the safest place to do is in the bank, and now we're told that there could be a lot of bank failures. So where do you put your money that you know it's safe? Under the mattress?
Specifically, Cheney's 2000 statement was that "we may well be on the front edge of a recession here," while Bush's 2001 claim was a milder "You know better than me that our economy is slowing down."
So what will be the reaction be to the Sunday assertion by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama that there's "little doubt" the country is in a recession, when no negative growth has occurred?
In the wake of former Sen. Phil Gramm's statements earlier this week about this being a nation full of whiners, the good folks at ABC's "Good Morning America" brought on a consumer psychologist Sunday to discuss whether or not the McCain advisor had a point.
Shockingly, not only did Kit Yarrow tell host Kate Snow that "the way consumers feel about things is very emotional," but also these "emotions are trumping reality" thereby creating a snowball which makes the economy worse.
Yarrow not only believes that things are "not as bad as consumers feel like it is," but also that the media are at fault because "everything is described as a crisis."
What follows is a partial transcript of this rather shocking and refreshing exchange (video available here, photo courtesy ABCNews.com):
As Congress takes new aim at speculators for the high price of gasoline, some media reports seem to be following suit. But as The Biz Flog explains this week, there is considerable debate over whether speculators should be blamed for the high cost of oil.
June 23, the same day Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee condemned oil speculators, the "CBS Evening News" and ABC's "World News" blamed oil speculation for a large chunk of the spike in prices.
"There's no doubt speculation plays a role in the skyrocketing price, but how much?" ABC correspondent Ryan Owens said June 23. "Experts say if it were just simple supply and demand a barrel would cost $75. Today it closed north of $135."
Scott Horsley explained oil speculation on June 29 for National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," where he pointed out that there have always been financial players in the oil market and there is still a debate over what influence they really have.
Although the collapse of Bear Stearns happened back in March, the debate still rages as to what led to the failure of the 85-year old investment bank that had survived years of previous turmoil, including the Great Depression.
"Well, you know, he [Dimon] said one thing that I'm just - listen, I didn't watch it," CNBC's Charlie Gasparino said, "I'm just going by what appears to be a transcript here: ‘Where there's smoke, there's fire.' Oh really? Sometimes where there's smoke, there's no fire, Jamie. I've got news for you."
You can win in a court of law and still get attacked in the court of public opinion. That's what former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Dick Grasso would have learned from MSNBC's "Morning Joe" July 2.
Host Mika Brzezinski called Grasso a "poster child for Wall Street excess" in reporting a New York State Supreme Court ruling allowing Grasso to keep his $187.5 million pension payout.
"There you go, a little justice there," Brzezinski said. "Jack Welch calls it justice; I call it a very large pay package. It's a lot of money, Jack."
Brian Williams raised the possibility of General Motors (NYSE:GM) going out of business on the June 26 "NBC Nightly News" to Jim Cramer, host of CNBC's "Mad Money."
"[J]im, I know you talk about this, think about this everyday for a living and have a formula regarding this," Williams said. "But first, what's going on out there? I heard one analyst today said, ‘GM will go out of business,' though I know a lot of people disagree with that and it's a scary thought."
Subtle bias towards emphasizing unfavorable economic news and against reporting good economic news is present in many places. I will demonstrate that it's even sometimes in the brief e-mail alerts many people receive.
This alert I received today from CNNMoney demonstrates a long-known (by me) but, until now, unproven point:
But when the Dow closed above 14,000 for the first time on October 1, 2007, here is what that day's CNN alert had to say:
The Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger got out the gloom-and-doom paint in his report on the Consumer Price Index on Friday morning.
Here are his opening paragraphs:
Inflation rate jumps by biggest amount in 6 months
Inflation shot up in May at the fastest pace in six months, pushed higher by soaring costs for gasoline and other types of energy.
The Labor Department reported Friday that consumer prices rose by 0.6 percent last month, the biggest one-month increase since last November, as gasoline costs surged by 5.7 percent. Food prices, which have also been rising sharply, were up 0.3 percent as the cost of beef and bakery products showed big gains.
Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, edged up a more moderate 0.2 percent in May. But even there, core prices are up 2.3 percent over the past 12 months, above the Federal Reserve's comfort zone.
Trouble is, the markets weren't buying into the negativity Crutsinger was selling, as SmartMoney.com reported after the closing bell:
Update | 10 AM: McCain Campaign Comments to NB on Mitchell Remarks
McCain campaign deputy chairman Frank Donatelli has commented to NB on Mitchell's remarks. See report at foot.
IMing with a friend in England this morning, Morning Joe on in the background, I was vaguely aware that an Obama staffer was on, touting her candidate's economic plan. Signing off my chat, I focused on the tube, only to realize that the Obama staffer was in fact . . . Andrea Mitchell.
Mitchell cast the battle of the candidates' tax plans as McCain's "old-fashioned" supply-side economics versus Obama's "mainstream, centrist" plans that "do help people" while responsibly "paying for everything."
"Good Morning America" highlighted how financial matters have Americans so stressed out, their health is literally deteriorating.
The segment, titled "Recession Depression," blamed personal issues on the "troubled" economy. ABC made yet another comparison between today's economy and the economy during the Great Depression. Only this time, the reference was used to predict a rise in suicides.
"The link between financial troubles and psychological problems is well documented," said ABC reporter Chris Cuomo.
Business & Media Institute Vice President Dan Gainor told the Fox Business Network on April 4 that the government might be intervening too much in the financial markets to address credit problems, and he criticized the media for failing to cover both sides fairly.
"The networks are not portraying at all the other point which is: maybe we're using too much government intervention. Maybe we're using too much regulation," Gainor said. "Instead they're using the worst-case scenario reporting" to support government intervention.
As economic issues move to the front of the on-going presidential campaign, the mainstream media have given an increased amount of coverage to what is happening on Wall Street. However, they have portrayed Wall Street as something completely alien to what happens on "Main Street."
"Now to Wall Street, which, as you know, doesn't always like what Main Street likes, and by the end of the trading day, it was up," NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams said on Oct. 31, 2007.
But something positive on Wall Street and something positive for Main Street are not mutually exclusive.
Coming off his April 2 interview with Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) on his show "Mad Money," CNBC's Jim Cramer told "Squawk Box" his job entails some hazards.
"You know, look, obviously I've had a lot of death threats," Cramer said on CNBC's April 3 "Squawk Box." "They're actual death threats. And, you go to the state police and the state police go to the local police and the local police call the guy and that's what you have to do, or you bring suit against them. I've had to do a lot of that."
Cramer emphasized his active response to anyone who threatened his life.
"You know, the death threats are not cool," Cramer said. "You know, anybody with a death threat, I go after them with everything I have."
Wall Street saw a 391-point rally on the Dow today, the first day of the second quarter. ABCNews.com saw the development worthy of a "Breaking News" tag towards the top of its Web page and put the story in the top headlines rotation.
But it appears that ABCNews.com was alone among its competitors in trumpeting the news. I checked numerous Web sites shortly after 5:30 and found ABC's to be the only one to give the rally top billing. [see the screencaps below the page break]
Just how obvious is it that the media's economic and business coverage is so negatively skewed that it has to be part of a political agenda in an election year?
Obvious enough for the folks at Fox News to do an entire segment Saturday morning asking the extraordinary question: "Media ‘Talking Down' the Economy to Get a Dem Elected?"
Despite my surprise seeing "Cavuto on Business" begin with such a question framed at the bottom of the screen, I was almost enraptured by the comments from Neil's guests which not only included regular assertions that this is clearly about getting a Democrat in the White House, but also that media are "committing a crime against the general public" by creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that will end up costing people their jobs in the long run.
More importantly, "if we have a serious recession, a great deal will lie at the media's feet."
When is a billion-dollar loss a bonanza? When the person suffering it is one of those greedy Wall Street types the MSM loves to hate. Check out how, in opening this morning's show, Today cast the situation of Bear Stearns Chairman James Cayne:
MATT LAUER: Payday! His company imploded and thousands of stockholders went bust, but the Chairman of Bear Stearns cashes in and gets $61 million dollars. Will there be a backlash?
Watching the intro, I assumed the Chairman, despite Bears' fall, had received some kind of bonus or golden handshake. It wasn't until Maria Bartiromo came on later that we learned that Bear Chairman James Cayne, far from receiving a bonus or bonanza, had incurred one of the worst personal financial losses in the history of the street.
"The American public don't know jack," Cramer said in response to a question from CNBC correspondent Michelle Caruso Cabrera about justifying the move to the American public. "They're just glad they're just not going to lose their job. I mean, this thing was so out of control. Everybody on Wall Street thought they were going to lose their jobs 10 days ago. We're thrilled."