Millionaire Michael Moore says capitalism is evil and that the entire system should be thrown out for one that is "democratic" and "fair."
That's the overarching message of Moore's new documentary, "Capitalism: A Love Story," which will be widely released Oct. 2. The film won two prizes at the Venice Film Festival and was lauded by critics there and at the Toronto Film Festival. Now Moore is being warmly greeting in softball interviews by television anchors and reporters - particularly on ABC.
ABC's "Nightline" ran an 8-minute long segment Sept. 22 interviewing Moore and showing clips of his film, an it received an additional five minutes on "Good Morning America" Sept. 23. ABC didn't include a single critic of Moore in those 13 minutes, and neither segment rebuked Moore for past lies in his movies.
The film has generated uncritical buzz among many other news outlets including MSNBC, The New York Times, Associated Press and "The Jay Leno Show." He is also scheduled to be a guest of "Larry King Live," "The Situation Room," and "The View" Sept. 23 and 24. Four networks, a wire service and three out of five major newspapers will have covered the movie in the span of a week.
In less than 24 hours, ABC devoted 13 minutes to rhapsodizing over liberal Michael Moore’s new, "deeply Christian" film, Capitalism: A Love Story. Featuring the director first on Tuesday’s Nightline, co-anchor Terry Moran took his socialistic agenda seriously and opened the show by teasing, "Is capitalism evil?" (In 2007, the network contributed 21 minutes to Sicko, totaling 34 minutes of promotion for the two films.)
On Wednesday’s Good Morning America, co-host Chris Cuomo cooed, "Many critics are calling the documentary Moore's best ever." He also raved, "You demonstrate the [capitalism] question very well in the new movie. And you do it lots of different ways. People will get where you’re coming from."
On Nightline, Moran offered a few tough questions to the filmmaker, but made no effort to hide his admiration. He extolled, "He's an American populist in the grand tradition, a provocateur, a comic, a rhetorical bomb thrower." The ABC host marveled that Moore hates capitalism "with a savagely funny...and surprisingly religious passion."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) has climbed nearly 45 percent since hitting a March 9 low. The S&P 500 (S&P) is up nearly 53 percent. And the NASDAQ (NASDAQ) has soared a whopping 61 percent since the March bottom.
But that rally has some analysts shaking their heads. Art Cashin, a CNBC regular who also makes frequent appearances on CBS and NBC news programs to offer insight on the financial markets, was skeptical. He told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Sept. 11 he got some of his money out of the market and got burnt, but is still scratching his head over the rally.
"Away from that, I'm still somewhat skeptical about this," Cashin said. "I've been wrong, got out too early, certainly. I took some money off the table as I told you, about a week and a half, two weeks ago. Didn't take it all off, um, may take some more off if they keep going."
Since hitting their lows back in March, financial markets have rallied in the wake of last year's financial crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is up 43 percent since March 9. But can it last?
It could be all given up with this rate of government spending according to CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer. Cramer, responding to a viewer e-mail on his Sept.8 program, explained what a higher national debt would mean to the average citizen and investors in the near and long term. He said expect the market to go down and higher taxes eventually.
"I know that this is going to mean our taxes are going to go way up," Cramer said. "I have to tell you this eventually means this market will come down. It is in when what I call the out years, not to worry about it yet."
Try to keep a straight face when you hear this: President Barack Obama isn't getting enough media love.
That's the world view of MSNBC "Hardball" host Chris Matthews - at least when it comes to the economy. According to Matthews, there has been a plethora of positive economic news - from a stock market that has shrugged off the threat of bad liberal policy, i.e. cap-and-trade or ObamaCare, to the actions of newly reappointed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke of pumping liquidity into the economy.
"What do you make of this whole thing about the good economic news out there the president gets no credit for?" Matthews said on his Aug. 25 show. "I'm in the stock market. I have suffered like others before and I have seen this comeback - back up to almost 10,000 now. He gets nothing for this. The fact that consumer confidence, which was once closer to the bone, is way up. The fact that the Fed chair has done such a good job in pumping up the money supply and pumping back the economy, and averting a Great Depression - no credit."
As the likelihood of President Barack Obama's style of health care/health insurance reform has looked more and more uncertain, health care sector stocks have rallied, nearly 10 percent over the last month.
But now as Obama is showing some signs of managing his message and could be trying to make a comeback, even as polls show the odds aren't his favor, CNBC market analyst Steve Grasso is cautioning viewers to be wary of health care stocks for the time being.
"You know, one of my picks has been health care," Grasso said. "I'm a little shaky on it the longer this process goes on, I think the more we have to look at it. I mean, I caught a glimpse of President Obama speaking today. If they're clapping, that was a hand-picked audience. I have yet to find anyone who likes the plan. So I think health care is on waivers for me at this point."
Ben Bernanke's able use of monetary policy to steer the economy during the current financial crisis sometimes makes it easy to forget that Bernanke helped steer the ship into that crisis early in his term as Federal Reserve Chairman and a member of the Fed's Board of Governors. That's a point Strategic Forecasting (Stratfor) founder and CEO George Friedman made when asked the likelihood of President Obama reappointing Bernanke.
"Bernanke presided over the events leading up to the greatest financial crisis we've seen in quite a while," Friedman told CNBC's Steve Liesman. "The best that can be said is that he didn't make it any worse than he already made it. The president is not going to be wanting to reappoint the man that most of the country regards as responsible for the problem."
Times have been tough financially for media companies across the board and satellite radio has been no exception.
On Aug. 6, Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ:SIRI) posted a second-quarter loss and the company hasn't lived up to expectations after Sirius and XM completed a merger a little over a year ago. According to "CNBC Reports" host Dennis Kneale, part of the satellite radio's problem is shock jock Howard Stern's compensation and the company's debt.
"I feel so, bad - there's, being run by one of what I think is the best executives in media, Mel Karmazin, a great salesman," Kneale said on CNBC's Aug. 6 "Power Lunch." "But in the end, does it turn out they just overpaid for Howard Stern and they have too much debt? I wonder if John Malone bailed them out temporarily hoping that they kind of go belly-up so they can get a hold of those assets really cheap."
On Aug. 3, Richard Bernstein, CEO of Richard Bernstein Capital Management and CNBC contributor, told "Squawk Box" viewers: "One has to wonder how much TARP money has gone into bank balance sheets to speculate on commodities, right? Because the amount that's - the amount of speculation in commodities on bank balance sheets is much larger than what you get from the CFTC."
CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer credits lack of government regulation with a recent market jump in technology stocks. The tech-heavy NASDAQ composite (NASDAQ) shot upward 3 percent, from July 8 through July 23, even defying other market indexes that had down days in the same time period.
"So, now let me explain a pattern that I've discerned that could be incredibly important - important for you to take profits on if President Obama regains his clout and starts pushing hard with the rest of his agenda," Cramer said. "Everyone today wrote him off because of health care. I got to tell you, you can't write this guy off. He's too darn popular."
CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer often showcases erratic and unpredictable behavior and the same goes sometimes for his analysis of the stock market.
While the economy continues to struggle through the recession, the forward-looking indicators known as the financial markets continue to perplex Cramer for not going up when some positive signs, also known as "green shoots" by the financial media, are starting show. According to his analysis - it's the government and a reliance on oil futures that have scared off investors.
"How did we reach this point where investors just can't be bothered to respond to clear unalloyed positives or be tempted by low, low prices of so many stocks?" Cramer said. "I think we've been worn down, I think we've been worn down by two different things - first, the government and then oil. And they're what's keeping everyone apathetic about stocks."
Journalists, take note: Dylan Ratigan should be your model.
Despite working for MSNBC, Ratigan has shown a hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners interview style that is quickly gaining him the reputation for being the toughest interview on television. It isn’t often that an MSNBC host can claim to be tough on both sides of the political aisle, but the former CNBC correspondent could probably do it with a straight face and a clear conscience.
This morning, for example, Ratigan was brought in as a hired gun of sorts, to speak with Obama’s Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), Dr. Christina Romer. Typically, in interviews with White House economic wonks, TV personalities can easily be blown away by the technical rhetoric of economists. Typically, these wonks sound very much like they know what they’re talking about, even when they are in fact dodging the question. This was not a typical interview in either regard.
For example, to kick things off, Ratigan asks a rather technical question:
Should it be the role of the government to determine what amount of risk is appropriate in the private sector? President Barack Obama could have been interpreted as suggesting that much in comments he made about TARP repayments on June 9.
CNBC's Rick Santelli responded to those comments earlier in the day from Obama, "that those who seek reward do not take reckless risks." Santelli said on CNBC's "Power Lunch" that it's not the role of the government to make those judgments.
"It makes me a little nervous and some of the people on the floor express this - whether it was the end of the last administration or the current administration, you know to really understand what's wrong and what needs to be right - that statement's very un-American," Santelli said. "You know, why should the government think they know the magic blend of risk and reward? It's the government's role not to fall asleep at the switch, not to have products that are unregulated and to have speed limits."
Ed Frank created an interesting little video that serves as a stark reminder of how harsh the Old Media was on Bush's "faltering" economy in comparison to today's hearts and flowers style of reporting during the age of Obama, even though the stats are far, far worse under Obama than they ever were under Bush.
Frank's video is shocking for its revelation of how Bush was slapped around and how every economic indicator during his tenure in the White House was deemed as obvious proof of the supposed though times we then faced. Yet now, every dismal indicator is celebrated as if recovery just around the corner. Under Bush the Old Media was sure the economy was a wreck, now the wreck proves we will surely be saved by Summer!
Nonfarm payroll employment fell by 345,000 in May, about half the average monthly decline for the prior 6 months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. The unemployment rate continued to rise, increasing from 8.9 to 9.4 percent.
Ahead of the 8:30 a.m. report, according to Reuters, Dow futures were up 54 points, while S&P and NASDAQ futures were up 5 and 5.75 points, respectively (the time-stamp is 9:22, but the narrative is clearly pre-8:30).
Just after the market opened, I received this CNNMoney e-mail:
With the federal government issuing massive amounts of debt and the Federal Reserve purchasing it in the name of keeping interest rates down, questions have arisen about impact on the U.S. dollar.
On June 2, CNBC's "Power Lunch," aired a clip of the network's chief economics reporter, Steve Liesman interviewing Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner. Geithner claimed the Federal Reserve wasn't monetizing the debt the government was accruing. Following that clip, CNBC's Chicago Mercantile Exchange floor reporter Rick Santelli, famous for inspiring the anti-tax-and-spending tea parties, questioned Geithner's denial of debt monetization.
"Well, you know the first part of that question was economists are worried about quantitative easing - are we monetizing?" Santelli said. "And his answer was no, we have a strong independent central bank. Now the latter may be true but it certainly isn't an answer to the question and I put forth, and I'd like feedback everybody - that quantitative easing can't exist without the monetization process. We issue debt; we print the money to buy it. That is monetizing. I can't believe that was his answer."
The media have lamented use of the word fascism when it has been used to describe moves by the Bush and Obama administrations and the private sector economy.
But when examined from a purely political and economic point-of-view, that is what's going on now according to Thomas Sowell, Stanford University's Hoover Institute Senior Fellow and author of "The Housing Boom and Bust." Sowell appeared on Glenn Beck's May 27 program and was asked if the United States was still a capitalist country.
"Oh, heavens, partially," Sowell replied. "We're not a socialist country, because the socialists believe in government ownership of the means of production. But, the fascists believe that the government should have private ownership and the politicians should tell people how to run the businesses. So that's the route we seem to be going."
Is there another shakeup imminent at CNBC? Since the economy has been on the rocks, NBC Universal's financial network has been in the spotlight - political tug-of-war and all. This time, another one of the network's star on-air personalities, Jeff Macke, could be out.
Roubini, often called Dr. Doom and known for crazy parties, predicted back in 2005 the speculative housing bubble would be the eventual undoing of the economy - and he was correct. However, as Jeff Macke, founder and president of Macke Asset Management and panelist on "Fast Money" explained May 11, being two years early with that prediction wasn't something to hang your hat on.
"Let me give you a little hint on trading," Macke said. "If you're two years early on any idea, what you are mostly is dead. You're a professor, as opposed to a trader. And if we still have time to talk after the five-minute butt kissing we gave the guy, I'll tell you what - he hasn't made anyone a cent. Until he does, as far as I'm concerned, it's a nice opinion but it's not making me money."
It's a whole new wrinkle on the old joke about accountants (when asked what 2 + 2 is, he or she replies, "What do you want it to be?").
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the reported results of the financial institution stress tests were negotiated:
Banks Won Concessions on Tests Fed Cut Billions Off Some Initial Capital-Shortfall Estimates; Tempers Flare at Wells
The Federal Reserve significantly scaled back the size of the capital hole facing some of the nation's biggest banks shortly before concluding its stress tests, following two weeks of intense bargaining.
The overall reaction to the stress tests, announced Thursday, has been generally positive. But the haggling between the government and the banks shows the sometimes-tense nature of the negotiations that occurred before the final results were made public.
It's also clear that the negotiations were over clearly non-trivial amounts:
CNBC's Steve Liesman has always gone after tea party inspiration and network floor reporter Rick Santelli for his views, but this time it was Santelli playing offense.
The CNBC "Power Lunch" crew was discussing Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) CEO Ken Lewis and disclosure of details surrounding his bank's acquisition of Merrill Lynch May 5. Santelli accused Liesman, CNBC's senior economics reporter of saying "dumb things" and acting like Nixon, when he suggested there could be a compelling reason for Lewis was not forthcoming about the acquisition.
"Ask the question in a more compelling way which is - I want you to save the world and not disclose," Liesman said.
It's a response that might incite laughter, as it did from conservative pundit Monica Crowley and MSNBC paleocon talker Pat Buchanan. According to Newsweek's Eleanor Clift, the current problems facing the country and President Barack Obama are due to capitalism.
"I give him a B+ because there's a lot of outcomes that haven't come in yet," Clift said. "But look, this isn't about the failure of government and the Republicans are on the wrong tact talking about big government. This is a failure of capitalism. He's trying to save capitalism."
On CNBC's April 24 "The Call," Santelli expressed his frustration with an overreaction by the government to solve the financial crisis when Kudlow asked him about the expansion of bailout obligations from the original TARP bailout price tag $750 billion to the $3 trillion.
"Listen - I'm glad I didn't say that, I'm glad I didn't say all that," Santelli said. "Do I disagree with it? Probably not. But, I'll take it a step farther - in the beginning, whether it was the commercial paper program, there was a need just like babies have a need for milk. But I don't need to drink a couple of gallons anymore."
It was either an effort to avoid blaming individuals for ill-advised borrowing or an effort to vilify the banking system, but a segment on the April 20 "CBS Evening News" took a very one-sided view of credit-card lending.
On a day bank stocks struggled and dragged the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) down nearly 300 points, "Evening News" scrutinized the current state of the banking system's credit-card lending. According to anchor Katie Couric, that sell-off of bank stocks occurred as a result of the realization the institutions would be forced to cover bad loans.
"Wall Street had been on a six-week winning streak, but today it suffered its worst drop in two months as investors rushed to sell bank stocks," Couric said. "[T]he sell-off came after Bank of America reported earnings of more than $2.8 billion last quarter, but that good news was offset by the word that the bank has set aside more than $13 billion to cover its losses from bad loans made in the past."
While Fox News has celebrated the Taxpayer Tea Party rallies and MSNBC has denigrated them, the impetus of the movement - CNBC and specifically Rick Santelli, its inspiration - had been conspicuously quiet about it.
"A lot of articles about these tea parties," Kernen said. "They all have your name in them, like you caused it. Are you actually attending any or are you just sort of got the idea going initially? What do you think? I mean, you're like a cultural phenomenon at this point."
She's been popping up in a lot of places lately to chime in on the economy.
This time Huffington Post editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington appeared on ABC's April 5 "This Week," where she voiced her disapproval of the March 30 decision by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) relaxing mark-to-market accounting rules.
"This week, we saw so many concessions to the banks," Huffington said. "We saw the suspension of mark-to-market, which is absolutely tragic. Japan, by not having mark-to-market, made it much harder for them to recover."
But as Brian Wesbury and Robert Stein of First Trust Portfolios recently wrote for Forbes magazine, mark-to-market accounting reinstitution was reinstated only in recent years. The last time it was in effect - during the Great Depression - it caused many bank failures.
Although CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer has backed off his hyperbolic attacks on President Barack Obama ever since his "Daily Show" appearance, he's shown that he's not afraid to take on the Democratic-controlled Congress.
So, to give credit where credit is due, the "Mad Money" host dedicated an entire segment to the Employee Free Choice Act, aka card check and how its passage by Congress could be detrimental to Wal-Mart's (NYSE:WMT) stock price on his April 3 program. And during the segment, Cramer used three references to Soviet/Russian communism to describe the Democrat effort pushing card check.
"Right now, in Congress - they're getting ready for what is essentially a referendum on Wal-Mart," Cramer said. "And the referendum's name is the Employee Free Choice Act, also known by slang as card check - a bill that will make it much easier for workers to form unions and much harder for employers to get in their way."