It's the American way, right? It is patriotic to exercise the 1st Amendment by petitioning the government for a redress of grievances - unless of course your effort has a tie to some corporation or lobbying interest. Then regardless of its size, it's phony baloney Astroturf activism.
While groups like the George Soros-funded MoveOn.org have managed to elude the "Astroturf" moniker, from its inception, the Tea Party movement has taken shots from its critics. One of the most popular left-wing charges was to call it "Astroturf," meaning it was presented as a grassroots efforts, but wasn't really grassroots. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi labeled the Tea Party movement "Astroturf" back during the original Tax Day Tea Party protest on April 15, 2009.
"This initiative is funded by the high end - we call it Astroturf," Pelosi said. "It's not really a grassroots movement. It's Astroturf by some of the wealthiest people in America to keep the focus on tax cuts for the rich instead of for the great middle class."
That attitude has been widely echoed in media coverage of the Tea Party, as if it were a corporate effort to subvert the U.S. government's ability to collect revenue and redistribute wealth through public works and social program. Meanwhile, environmental causes, like Earth Day or global warming with their own corporate sponsorship - are rarely labeled Astroturf.
The man who predicted the bursting of the housing bubble as well as 2008's economic collapse says that what happened in the markets around the world today is just the next stage in the financial crisis.
"The first stage was this massive re-leveraging of the private sector that led to the financial crisis and which has responded now with a massive re-leveraging of public sectors with budget deficits of the order of 10 percent," Nouriel Roubini aka Dr. Doom told CNBC's Maria Bartiromo.
"So I think that the markets are realizing that we have socialized a lot of the private losses with unsustainable fiscal deficits."
He believes the bond markets in parts of Europe seriously began realizing the depth of the problem today cautioning, "And soon enough they're going to wake up in the United States" (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):
While everyone is scratching their heads and trying to figure out how the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost nearly 1,000 points before rallying back to lose only 347 points - it appears not to be limited to just one stock.
On CNBC's May 6 "Closing Bell," correspondent Matt Nesto explained that investigators for both the stock exchanges and for Citigroup, the firm that some are pointing fingers at for a so-called trader error, have narrowed it down to a futures index called the E-mini S&P 500.
"A person familiar with the Citi investigation said one focus of the trading probes were the futures contracts tied to the S&P 500 stock index known as the E-mini S&P 500 futures and in particular that two-minute window in which 16 billion of the futures were sold," Nesto said. "Again, those sources are telling us that Citigroup's total E-mini volume for the entire day was only 9 billion, suggesting that the origin of the trades was elsewhere."
As congressional Democrats press on with their attempts to get financial legislation reform passed, a key component has been lacking from the debate: how to handle the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE).
Cramer told MSNBC's April 26 "Morning Joe" that Goldman really has no defense if, as the government alleges, Goldman misled investors when it established a mortgage-backed security in 2007 for a hedge fund client looking to bet against the housing market. And that's in addition to facing heat from shareholders for not revealing that it received a Wells Notice from the SEC.
Does anyone remember when the liberal intellectuals decried populism coming from the likes of Glenn Beck and other conservatives that was aimed at the direction the country is going under the leadership of President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress?
Apparently it is OK to cry foul on so-called populist rants when the mouthpieces tend to be right-of-center. But now, with Congress debating financial regulation, this sort of above-the-fray approach has gone by the wayside, at least for Slate.com. On Slate's Political Gabfest podcast for April 22, moderator John Dickerson asked his panel consisting of Slate editor David Plotz and Slate senior editor Emily Bazelon, if Wall Street banks had a responsibility to self-regulate and do what's right as opposed to solely relying on legislation to set the boundaries. That inspired an "impassioned" populist response from Plotz.
The Pentagon rescinded the invitation of evangelist Franklin Graham to speak at its May 6 National Day of Prayer event because of complaints about his previous comments about Islam.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation expressed its concern over Graham's involvement with the event in an April 19 letter sent to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. MRFF's complaint about Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham, focused on remarks he made after 9/11 in which he called Islam "wicked" and "evil" and his lack of apology for those words.
Col. Tom Collins, an Army spokesman, told ABC News on April 22, "This Army honors all faiths and tries to inculcate our soldiers and work force with an appreciation of all faiths and his past comments just were not appropriate for this venue."
That was the takeaway from an April 22 CNBC "Squawk Box" segment in which the network's Washington correspondent John Harwood explained the upside for the Obama administration in taking an aggressive tack on financial regulation and pushing it through Congress.
According to Harwood, public opinion on this issue favors President Barack Obama. He explained that Wall Street is very unpopular and that's causing some Republicans to be willing to compromise with Democrats on the issue.
"He knows that things are rolling his way on this issue," Harwood said. "You had battle lines initially drawn - both parties took to the trenches, started firing heavy ammunition. But the throw weight is with the Democratic side on this. The public wants financial regulation reform. They don't like Wall Street, just as they don't like Washington. So this is a case where Barack Obama, instead of being the target of public anger, can direct some of it somewhere else. That is what causes Republicans at the end to say, ‘OK, it's time to negotiate, get serious about a deal.' And they're going to get some concessions in that bargaining in exchange for their votes. And they will then be able to stand up and say, ‘This bill was headed to be a bailout bill. We stopped the bailout and everybody can hold hands and say they did something good for the country.'"
It's pretty obvious that oftentimes the media and the Democratic Party work in concert to marginalize opposition of a common goal. ABC's George Stephanopoulos working with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was just one example. The question is, how far will the media and Democrats take it?
According to Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., if the passage of ObamaCare is evidence, they're willing to take it to achieve Draconian financial regulation and ultimate censorship of the Internet. On his April 19 Fox News Channel program, host Sean Hannity asked Bachmann if there were a double standard, or a coordinated attack as the "echo chamber" of the Democratic Party, including the media, seem to "singing from the same hymnal." And according to Bachmann, the attacks on former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and conservative talkers Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh over the weekend for so-called sedition were the latest evidence.
"Well, they are," Bachmann said. "If you look at all of the news shows over this last weekend, they used practically the identical language. They are talking about a war of words. They specifically identified Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin and they were, as you said, they're singing off the same hymnal. But essentially it is whoever they see as an effective voice, that's who they go after and attack right now."
Whenever you are bored or in need of a good laugh, help yourself to some mainstream media coverage of the economy under President Obama.
Each month we at NewsBusters wonder how the recession will be spun anew, and each month news outlets act with increasing hilarity.
First up for April was an earnest little piece by USA Today writer Matt Krantz published Thursday. Krantz insisted on reporting "optimism" and "confidence" in the economy thanks to a phantom supply of "new jobs."
Just one little problem, though: Thursday happened to be the same day the Department of Labor announced a surge in unemployment claims that hampered the stock market.
But no matter to Krantz. You see, Krantz wasn't talking about new jobs that actually existed - he was celebrating an announcement from two companies that they would be strong enough to hire a few people sometime in the future.
The anchor of "NBC Nightly News" asked just that question, pointing out the cover of the April 19 issue of Newsweek magazine that pronounced "America's Back!" On his April 12 broadcast, Brian Williams asked CNBC's David Faber if it was a little premature to make that declaration.
"I'm looking at the copy of Newsweek magazine out today," Williams said. "It says America's back and we have this classic disconnect. We hear numbers out of Wall Street. We see covers of magazines like that. People watching at home, millions of people in the grips of unemployment and poor financial times wondering when they're going to start feeling some of this."
With summer driving season upon us, it's important to note that there's a traditional jump in gas prices. But will this seasonal adjustment benefit commodities, specifically oil and make the price of gasoline even higher? That could happen if those forms of energy lure investment from what seems to be an over-valued equities market, brought on by what some claim is cheap money.
On her April 5 program, "Closing Bell" host Maria Bartiromo asked CNBC's CME Group floor reporter Rick Santelli if a move higher in commodities was due to inflation. However, according to Santelli, it's not inflation but a move by investors out of a potentially over-valued equities market that will cause a rise in commodities.
"Well, you know, I don't like to link the two together," Santelli said. "I mean, many times you know, it is core [minus] food and energy. So I think throw all that away. I think the better question is, is that when people are afraid to put their money to work in treasuries, because rates may be going higher, maybe afraid that we are a little long in the tooth in the sugar-buzz rally of equities - boy, commodities is the place to be. Most of the good dollar trades probably already out there."
Green jobs to save the American economy? If you have listened to the various politicos on the left end of the spectrum, especially before and after the passage of the $787-billion stimulus package earlier, you would think that is the cure-all.
But so far it isn't working and there are other fundamental problems that lie ahead according to some energy market analysts, like much higher oil prices - despite the pledge by President Barack Obama to open up 160 million acres for future oil exploration and drilling. To avoid the price of $100-plus oil, CNBC's CME Group floor reporter suggested expediting the process, as was the case with ObamaCare and TARP.
"I think what you're hitting on is so important because the President of course talking about some of these jobs, but also talking about drilling," Santelli said on CNBC's April 1 broadcast of "Closing Bell." "You know, if the government was able to put forth health care and the government was able to do bailouts and TARP and stretch the rules, if they wanted to get jobs now and avoid the $100-plus oil you know that's coming they could drill quickly if they wanted to. And this is something that needs to be discussed, don't you think?"
With March unemployment data to be released April 2, some are anticipating what potentially lower jobless numbers will all mean for the financial markets and the economy as a whole. However, that data will come with the caveat that it will be misleading because it will include temporary jobs driven by hiring for the 2010 census.
On CNBC's March 29 "Squawk Box," CME floor reporter Rick Santelli was asked how to interpret the expected improvement. He warned it isn't the kind of job creation that is good for a sustained economic recovery.
"You know, I think it's fascinating," Santelli said. "Most experts would agree, the kind of job creation we're going to see is welcome but it isn't the kind we need in the big picture. But having said that, yes, I think that the markets will act in a way that will show a robustness if the number comes in a couple of hundred thousand and I think it's kind of silly."
While a vote on health care reform legislation appears to be imminent, should it pass it could have broader economic implications, even if the bill itself won't take effect for some time.
As CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer predicted - if it passes, get ready to see a sell-off on Wall Street. Cramer appeared on CNBC's March 18 "The Kudlow Report," with his former broadcast partner Larry Kudlow. Kudlow asked Cramer to elaborate on his theory ObamaCare could send the financial markets reeling or "topple the stock market," as Kudlow described it.
"First, it is the single biggest impediment to the stock market going higher," Cramer said. "And a lot of this has to do with what's not being talked about enough with how it's going to be paid and also about what it will do to small business formation. This bill is a disaster for both."
Back on Christmas Eve of 2009, Obama's Treasury Dept. said it would lift the limits on what the federal government could provide in "emergency aid" to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - without seeking Congressional permission.
Very few reporters noticed, except for The Washington Post's Zachary Goldfarb who reported the story on Christmas Day and CNBC CME Group reporter and tea party inspiration Rick Santelli, who later pleaded for the public to take notice. With that occurrence in mind, Santelli scoffed at Sen. Chris Dodd's, D-Conn., legislative proposal of financial system reform that did not include reforms on both Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE).
"You know, I can't believe, first of all - you said, may not be included. They are not going to be included," Santelli said on "Fast Money" March 12. "And I think to put a moniker of reform on something that doesn't include Freddie and Fannie is very disingenuous. And I think that to pass something - what I heard Mr. Dodd say, Sen. Dodd, was, you know, it's the 101st senator. In other words, you know, we'll pass anything we have to show that we're doing something, no matter if it's the right thing or not, you know, I'm not buying that again."
"The Washington Post covers government agencies as closely as any daily newspaper. Yet an investor would have had to scroll through the Washington Post Co.'s (WPO) 10-K filing last week to see news of a Department of Education inquiry into its important education unit," Michael Santoli and Bill Alpert wrote for Barron's. "The Post's education business, anchored by the Kaplan for-profit college and test-prep businesses, contributed 58% of 2009's revenue and all of its $195 million of operating income."
It's been proven time and again in over two hundred years of recorded American history, but some people still don't get it - the government is not the most efficient spender of money.
On CNBC's March 4 "Squawk Box," in the midst of reporting jobless claims and productivity data, the network's senior economics reporter Steve Liesman offered the suggestion that since some banks were increasing their stock dividend, more lending might be on the way. That could be a sign the economy is coming around, but "Squawk Box" co-host warned it could also mean banks want to pay out dividends before the taxes went up on them:
LIESMAN: Isn't right before the banks start to lend, they're going to increase their dividends first. That's the way they're most likely - KERNEN: They better increase their dividends because when the dividend tax goes back up - when does that go back up? WILBUR ROSS (Chairman and CEO of WL Ross & Co LLC): Next year. KERNEN: Next year, after taxes, they won't have the same after-tax return. If you like the wealth effect of stocks rising, it would be nice not to have to just match your after-tax returns --
Oliver Stone's latest attack on American capitalism - "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" is finally hitting theaters April 2010, twenty-three years after its predecessor. According to Michael Lewis, who interviewed the moviemaker for his latest Vanity Fair piece, Stone's biggest problem with the sequel was making a movie based on helplessly diabolical bankers, actually watchable.
Lewis wrote that Stone - an ardent left-wing ideologue, friendly acquaintance to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, a moral relativist concerning Hitler and Stalin, and director of "W" and "Platoon" - felt an obligation to reverse the societal damage and unintended consequences of the first installment.
"As a vehicle of change ... the movie was a catastrophe," Lewis wrote. It apparently inspired, rather than deterred, a generation of young men to enter the field and become the next Gordon Gekko (the "diabolical money manager" played by Michael Douglas).
Just one day after Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the U.S. wouldn't lose its "top-notch" credit rating, one CNBC guest said that ‘"all governments" will default - it's only a matter of time.
When asked by "Power Lunch" co-anchor Sue Herera if he would buy Greek debt, Marc Faber said: "No, I'm not interested in government or sovereign debts because I think that all governments will eventually default, including the U.S."
Shocked, Herera replied, "What! Whoa, whoa, whoa." Co-anchor Dennis Kneale asked for clarification, "All governments?"
"Mhmm. All governments," Faber, editor of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, explained. "Some like Singapore that have basically no government debt and have huge reserves ... in general the problem is the emerging economies today are financially much sounder in terms of debt to GDP than the developed world, including the U.S., Western Europe, the U.K. and so forth.
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 government's traditionally enforced safety standards on automobiles sold in the United States. But the government didn't always own a car company. So you'd expect the media to take a hard look when the government's roles as regulator and competitor converge.
"We've got a fabulous Toyota engine plant in Alabama," Sessions replied. "They've been doing very well. It seems that they've recognized they're going to fix this problem and it's going to take some effort."
It was initially thought the election of President Barack Obama was just going to hit your pocketbook in the form of higher taxes. But if the past several days are any indication, the president has found another way to hit it - by attacking your stock portfolio.
On CNBC's Jan. 25 "Mad Money," host Jim Cramer advised his viewers to be aware of this and to strategically position their stock portfolio with an eye on Obama and Washington's expanded role in the private economy.
"In the last week the world of investing has been turned upside down by Washington," Cramer said. "We can no longer afford to look at stocks the same way we did before the GOP upset in Massachusetts. With the Obama administration now on an anti-shareholder rampage, we now have to factor in political risk when we evaluate different sectors. And the risk may be higher than anytime since Jimmy Carter, who truly hated profits, especially if they were big. In the midst of earnings season, suddenly politics has become just as important as revenue growth or market share gains or earnings' beats. So we need a new prism for valuing stocks."
Is the luster finally wearing off the love affair between the White House press corps and President Barack Obama? It is, if CBS White House correspondent Chip Reid's analysis of President Barack Obama's latest Wall Street proposals is anything to go by.
"Well, you know, it's really the same as it's all been," Reid said. "That there's some unease about both of them, but the President has been satisfied with the jobs they've done. Behind the scenes, they both still have a lot of control. They lost this battle to Volcker, but now they're on board on this new plan for Wall Street, although it really sounds more like politics than a real plan because it's hard to believe it would get through."
Rush Limbaugh is so reviled by the left, that even when he agrees with liberals and issues facts supporting their arguments, they criticize him and demand an apology.
The latest such group to deride Limbaugh for supposedly offensive comments that they themselves have supported is the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL has called on Limbaugh to apologize for suggesting that the Obama Administration's anti-banker populism has troubling anti-Semitic undertones. He did not suggest that Obama is an anti-Semite, nor that is policies specifically single out or target Jews. He did suggest that Jews who voted for Obama may be feeling "buyer's remorse" now that the administration is using language that has so often--historically--been used to demean and discriminate against the Jewish community.
Here is the quote in question: "To some people, banker is a code word for Jewish; and guess who Obama is assaulting? He's assaulting bankers. He's assaulting money people. And a lot of those people on Wall Street are Jewish. So I wonder if there's - if there's starting to be some buyer's remorse there."
The news media have often taken President Barack Obama's side against banks, portraying bankers as the villains. But that was not the case on "American Morning" Jan. 22.
Business correspondent Christine Romans surprisingly blamed the previous day's stock market slide on "tough new rules" proposed by Obama the same day. According to CNN, Obama wants to limit the size of banks, separate commercial and investment banks, implement trading restrictions and "curb risk-taking."
"That's why the Dow is down 213 points," Romans concluded before supplying the perspective from Wall Street:
"But there's a feeling among many who work on Wall Street, many people who analyze and study Wall Street that this might be going a little bit too far," Romans said. "And remember, it might not do anything to help the banks start lending more, which is the whole problem."
Former Barack Obama supporter Jim Cramer on Friday said the stock market would have a huge rally if Scott Brown defeats Martha Coakley in Tuesday's special senatorial election in Massachusetts.
"I think investors who are nervous about the dictatorship of the Pelosi proletariat will feel at ease, and we could have a gigantic rally off a Coakley loss and a Brown win," said Cramer on Friday's "Mad Money."
"It will be a signal that a more pro-business, less pro-labor government could be in front of us."
The often outspoken CNBCer marvelously declared it a "Pelosi politburo emasculation" (video embedded below the fold with partial transcript):
Just in time for what they call "bonus season," ABC's "World News" treated its viewers to a little anti-Wall Street populism Sunday night.
On "World News" Jan. 10, weekend anchor Dan Harris explained there was "backlash" against Wall Street for bonuses that haven't even been paid out yet. But the ABC report made no mention of bonuses paid to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac executives.
"This week on Wall Street, it's the start of the bonus season, when the big banks dish out big bonuses," Harris said. "This is happening despite all the taxpayer bailouts and all the economic pain on Wall Street. The backlash has already begun."
If you believe polls, current Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke favorability has been slipping. A recent Rasmussen Reports poll indicates that only 21 percent of Americans favor his reappointment as the Fed chair.
And this hasn't gone unnoticed by some members of the Senate, where Bernanke's fate lies. Bernanke's reconfirmation passed through the Senate Banking Committee by a 16-to-7 vote on Dec. 17. But that margin calls into question how his reconfirmation vote on the Senate floor could go. And as CNBC "The Kudlow Report" host Larry Kudlow warned, that puts his reconfirmation in question.
"Look, ‘Helicopter' Ben passed the Senate Banking Committee vote on his reconfirmation," Kudlow said on his Dec. 17 program. "He got 16-to-7, but he lost seven votes. I think all the Republicans except Sen. Bob Corker voted against Bernanke, and they were joined by one Democrat, Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon. Now the reconfirmation goes to the floor of the Senate. So, I think Bernanke's reconfirmation could be in some trouble when that Senate vote occurs. I'm going to bet that most, if not all, of the 40 Republicans are going to vote against Bernanke and that they are going to be joined by a number of Democrats."