Newspaper companies as an investment are less lucrative than they once were. Alan D. Mutter, a Silicon Valley CEO, pointed out on his blog that newspaper companies took a hit in 2008 in terms of share value to the tune of $64 billion.
"In the worst year in history for publishers, newspaper shares dropped an average of 83.3% in 2008, wiping out $64.5 billion in market value in just 12 months," Mutter wrote on Jan. 1. "Although things were tough for all sorts of businesses in the face of the worst economic slump since the 1930s, the decline among the newspaper shares last year was more than twice as deep as the 38.5% drop suffered by the Standard and Poor's average of 500 stocks."
By now, many readers know the New York Times's definition of a "good Catholic."
A good NYT Catholic doesn't necessarily need to go to Church very often. He or she focuses on the importance of alleviating poverty and other world problems, almost invariably through government handout programs and not individual or private charity. Despite the long standing of "just war" guidance, this person opposes all wars, no matter what is at stake. Finally, this person either keeps their yap shut about abortion and sexuality, or mouths platitudes like, "I'm personally against abortion, but ...." Such Catholics, if they are politicians, routinely defend their support of abortion on demand with such platitudes.
Those who run the Ave Maria family of mutual funds don't see things that way. They offer a group of mutual funds that, in their words, invest "in companies that do not violate core teachings of the Catholic Church." Accordingly, they "screen out companies associated with abortion and pornography," and apparently invest in other companies so-called politically correct (but often not orthodoxally correct) Catholics might not like.
Apparently because the funds have run radio ads, the Times's editorial board (as if it's their business) told readers at its blog that it doesn't like Ave Maria's approach. You'll also see in the bolded text that the editorialists fancy themselves to be Biblical experts:
Is it possible the financial media played a role in facilitating the alleged $50 billion Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme? An interesting theory by Jon Najarian, CNBC analyst and cofounder of optionMONSTER, contends that they very well may have unwittingly done just that. Madoff, he believes, used media publicity to lure investors to his scheme.
As Najarian explained on CNBC's Dec. 22 "Fast Money," Madoff got his reputation on Wall Street in the payment for order flow business. That's when a brokerage firm receives a payment as compensation for directing the order to the different parties that can execute the order at a lower cost.
"First of all you needed something that was very credible, because what he started off with was very credible," Najarian said. "As we both know, Dylan, he was in the payment for order flow business before anybody else. That meant folks that he was buying on the bid and selling on the offer back when the spread on NASDAQ stocks was 50 cents wide."
Christmastime is the time of giving. So we can thank Bernie Madoff for giving Americans some special gifts this holiday season.
Yes, I said thank him. OK, maybe not a lot. But the one-time financial wizard's downfall is a morality tale that provides so many lessons it's almost impossible to know where to start.
If you've been living under a rock, the former chairman of the Nasdaq has been charged with securities fraud. Not just ordinary securities fraud, either. Reportedly, Madoff's sons turned in their father, and who could blame them. He had allegedly confessed to them "that his investment business was a giant Ponzi scheme' that cost clients $50 billion, a lawyer for the brothers" told Bloomberg.
Feeling a little bailout fatigue? Tired of the assault on the taxpayer from the federal government to pacify those influenced by the United Auto Workers? CNBC's Larry Kudlow feels your pain.
Call this red meat for the troubled anti-bailout soul. Kudlow, now performing a role as a co-host on CNBC's mid-morning program "The Call," blasted the Union Auto Worker, President George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and anyone else associated with $17.4 billion in loans for auto companies announced earlier today on Dec. 19.
"This is a full-up pooper scooper for the American taxpayer, which now owns General Motors," Kudlow said. "We're going to have a GM cabinet. Barack Obama is going to be the new car czar because Bush basically pushed this pooper scooper his way."
CBS's "The Early Show" included a statement in its Dec. 18 report on the Big 3 bailout from "auto industry analyst," Dan McGinn. Letting the massive car companies fail "would be like 10 Katrinas hitting America at the same time," McGinn asserted. "The American public understands that."
What the report didn't say is that McGinn is also an adviser to General Motors. Furthermore, TMG Strategies the public relations firm McGinn heads, lists GM as a client. McGinn has been making the case for an auto bailout in many news stories and issuing some compelling statements on behalf of his client.
On MSNBC's "Hardball with Chris Matthews," McGinn was labeled as an "auto industry consultant," Dec. 4. There was no mention of his link to GM.
"Five pages into Goldman's earnings report this week, Bloomberg News noticed Goldman's very subtle announcement that the firm's effective tax rate this year was 1 percent," Maddow said. "One percent - they paid 1 percent in taxes. Even though they were down this last quarter, they made $2.3 billion in profit this year."
If print is becoming journalism's dying backwater, Paul Krugman isn't showing it.
In a Dec. 6 interview in Stockholm, Sweden, the Nobel Prize-winning New York Times columnist told the ironically named Adam Smith, editor-in-chief of Nobelprize.org, that he found himself more effective in his role at the Times lately He said he was more influential in shaping policy as a journalist than he would be in a high-ranking position on the Obama economic team.
"I like to think I'm a good analyst," Krugman said. "But, I don't think I'm a good bureaucrat of any kind. I might think differently if I wasn't at the Times, but as it is I have a mouthpiece, people are listening. I probably can have as much influence, as say on the shape of this upcoming economic stimulus package from where I am as I could if I were, you know, the third-ranking member of the Obama economics team - something like that, so I think it's probably as good of position as any."
When Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke speaks, Wall Street listens - and investors should beware. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) has lost over 2,500 points on days he has spoken, including three of the worst point losses ever.
Today's drop in the Dow of 215 points is the 14th time out of the last 20 times the Dow has lost ground on a Bernanke has spoken over the past six months. Bernanke gave a speech at the Federal Reserve System Conference on Housing and Mortgage Markets in Washington today, where he continued to hammer the message the economy is in bad shape.
"The U.S. financial system has been in turmoil during the past 16 months," Bernanke said. "Credit conditions have tightened and asset values have declined, contributing substantially, in turn, to the weakening of economic activity."
"Talk about too big to fail," said managing editor of Time Richard Stengel on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Dec. 4, who was on the program promoting the latest cover story for the magazine entitled, "The Case for Saving Detroit." Stengel:
"I find the fact that so many Americans are unsympathetic to Detroit to be kind of amazing," Stengel said:
We make the case that in fact the, you know, the Big Three have adapted in a lot of ways ... They haven't managed things well, they have too much capacity, but I mean, talk about being too big to fail in a way, right?
The fact is Americans don't understand what collateralized debt obligations are, yet they sort of said, ‘Okay, let's bailout all of these banks and AIG' and yet people feel like, ‘Hmm what about the big car manufacturers?
That was the warning from the mayor of Lansing, Mich., on CBS's "The Early Show" Dec. 2. "You know this is a sure prescription to go from recession to depression if you allow this auto industry, our manufacturing prowess, to fall by the wayside," Virg Bernero warned:
This industry is too important, not just to Lansing, Mich., but to the whole country. This is our manufacturing base. You know we were the arsenal of democracy. We've talked a lot about economic security, and that's number one, but what about national security? You know, we were the arsenal of democracy in World War II; it was the auto industry that helped turn us around. Can you imagine a country, I would ask, can you imagine America losing our manufacturing edge, not having that manufacturing prowess? That hurts our national security.
In the interview for Wednesday’s Barbara Walters Special on ABC with Barack and Michelle Obama, excerpts of which were also shown on Wednesday’s World News with Charles Gibson, Walters asked few questions that put the Obamas on the defensive, in contrast with her January 2001 interview, aired on 20/20, with then-President-elect Bush in which she challenged him on a number of fronts. Most notably, she seemed to chide Bush for choosing John Ashcroft as Attorney General because he "openly opposes abortion," and claimed that Ashcroft was "not considered a friend to civil rights." She asked Bush about reports that, as governor of Texas, he "spent relatively little time studying specific issues," and "only does a few hours of work" a day. The ABC host also challenged Bush from the left on the trade embargo against Cuba, and even asked Laura Bush if her more "traditional" plans for her time as First Lady would be a "setback for women." It is also noteworthy that Walters asked Bush about his plans for dealing with Saddam Hussein and cited "people in the know" who contended that the Iraqi dictator was "stronger than ever."
If you had any questions about how differently the economy will be covered with Barack Obama in the White House they were answered by George Stephanopoulos on Sunday when he credited the president-elect with causing the recent stock market rally as well as better than expected sales the day after Thanksgiving.
I kid you not.
During the panel discussion of the most recent installment of "This Week," Stephanopoulos said (video available here, relevant section at 11:05):
In yet another example of post-election continuing BDS (that's, er, "Bush Derangement Syndrome," natch) the Detroit Free Press's Rochelle Riley has called upon Speaker Nancy Pelosi to begin impeachment proceedings against George Bush "for [the] economy's sake."
Pelosi wouldn’t have to start from scratch: Rep. Dennis Kucinich, the bravest member of Congress, introduced legislation 11 months ago to impeach the president and vice president. Last January, the House gave a first reading of one of those articles of impeachment. Our own Rep. John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, joined 38 other representatives to sponsor HR 635, which would form a committee to look into whether there are grounds for impeachment. Revive that effort!
Last week, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, submitted a resolution demanding that Bush stop issuing “pre-emptive pardons of senior officials in his administration during the final 90 days of office.”
Less than 12 hours after George Stephanopoulos, on Good Morning America, glowed that “we have not seen this kind of combination of star power and brain power and political muscle this early in a cabinet in our lifetimes,” he popped up on World News to hail how Barack Obama's team recognized the Bush administration's “vacuum” and so decided to “step in and fill” it by showing “the President-elect taking action on the economy” day after day.
Anchor Charles Gibson set up Stephanopoulos by marveling: “George, I don't think I've ever seen a President-elect getting so involved in policy so early. It does seem like we've got, at the moment, two Presidents.” Stephanopoulos admired Obama's take charge actions:
I think what the Obama team saw -- starting last week with all of that uncertainty in the markets, in the dropping stock markets -- is they had to step in and fill a political vacuum. It began with that leak of Tim Geithner's name as Treasury Secretary on Friday, an announcement of a jobs plan on Saturday, carrying through to today, and there will be announcements both tomorrow and Wednesday to show the President-elect taking action on the economy.
Neil Cavuto and Ben Stein had quite an argument about bailouts on FNC's "Cavuto on Business" Saturday morning that nicely covered the issues people on both sides of this contentious debate will likely be discussing around dinner tables this Thanksgiving, though hopefully with less screaming:
Though given a perfect opportunity to do so, Tom Brokaw on Sunday chose not to discuss the similarities between Franklin D. Roosevelt's refusal to work with President Herbert Hoover on solving the Depression before he was inaugurated in March 1933 and president-elect Barack Obama doing the same thing today with George W. Bush.
For those not familiar with the historical reference, the financial crisis at the time of the 1932 elections was so bad that banks were failing on almost a daily basis. As a result, Hoover felt the country couldn't wait until March when inaugurations used to take place to hear what Roosevelt's plan was to solve these problems, and wanted FDR and his economic team to come to the White House in order to work some things out together.
Sadly, Roosevelt refused, and although he claimed it was so that his hands wouldn't be tied once he officially became president, some historians feel FDR's delay was designed to allow the crisis to deepen so that it would become easier for him to get his policy proposals passed.
On Sunday's "Meet the Press," the fact that President Bush wants to work with Obama and his team concerning the financial crisis surfaced in discussion with former Reagan treasury secretary James Baker and former Clinton commerce secretary Bill Daley. Unfortunately, Brokaw chose not to address this seemingly-important historical comparison and precedent (video embedded below the fold, relevant section begins at 6:15, file photo):
Fox Business Network anchor Alexis Glick is frustrated by the way the government's $700 billion financial bailout is being used, and suggested on "Money for Breakfast" Nov. 21 that it was contributing to market declines.
"I mean, look, we are now at levels at least on the S&P that we haven't been since 1997. You know, people are pretty unhappy with how the TARP fund is going," Glick said in an interview with NYSE Euronex CEO Duncan Niederauer. "I mean, it's got to be - I'm frustrated, I mean I don't know about you."
It's not the first time that Glick has taken issue with the misuse of TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
Remember the years of media flak President George W. Bush received for his alleged use for political gain of first the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and then the related Afghanistan and Iraq Wars?
Will the press be as vociferous now? Incoming Obama Administration Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, speaking on Wednesday on and to the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, stated outright his desire to make political hay with the ongoing travails of the U.S. and global economy:
"You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before."
Wonder why President-elect Obama resigned from the Senate so early (while Vice President-elect Joe Biden remains an active member) and is hanging back, not wading into the debate over bailouts etc, and naming candidates for nearly every Cabinet post save Treasury (the man or woman who will have $350 billion to dispense when he/she walks through the door)?
"Well, we're not yet in anything remotely resembling the crisis, the scale of crisis of the Great Depression." When Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, 13 million Americans were unemployed. "That was 25 percent of the work force," Kennedy told Bloomberg host Tom Keene.
The professor laid out exactly what has changed since the troubled 1930s:
So what exactly is the government doing with your money? Fox Business Network's Alexis Glick would like to know.
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announced Nov. 12 he would be redirecting the $700 billion bailout to focus on propping up financial institutions instead of buying troubled mortgage assets, which was the original intent of the rescue plan.
Glick, the host of FBN's "Money for Breakfast," told the CBS's "The Early Show" Nov 13 that the Treasury Department's move away from the original plan to buy up troubled mortgages "does not make sense" and was "actually pretty outrageous":
[T]he markets responded to that yesterday ... Look, the original intent of this Troubled Asset Relief Program was to purchase troubled assets. And I think the marketplace started to adjust several weeks ago when we started to see the size and magnitude of the capital injections.
"I agree with you," economics reporter Louis Uchitelle said, also pointing out that it took two years before the government really "stepped in and acted" during the Depression - referring to Franklin Roosevelt's action.
Norris said one of the first lessons of the 1930s was that bailing banks out would "limit the damage of the financial crisis."
"If you go back just two or three years ago, you had this powerful argument that government was the problem.So there is emerging from this an understanding that markets and government are married whether they like it or not," Uchitelle said.
Were John McCain to have won the election and the Dow have dropped the same extent it has in the immediate aftermath, it's highly unlikely the media would not draw the message that Wall Street was taking a nosedive due to the indefinite continuation "of the failed policies of the Bush administration." But with Obama as the victor, the media are not suggesting the markets may be wary of the incoming Democratic administration's tax, spending, and regulatory agendas.
Yet the "Conventional Wisdom" for Newsweek is that the Dow's record-breaking post-Election Day dive is simply a sign that "a new president alone won't settle [the] markets.":
Stockholders [down arrow]: Election Day euphoria gives way to harsh reality that a new president alone won't settle markets
The two-day loss in the Dow since Tuesday is roughly 10 percent, reports the Associated Press. As financial news wire Reuters noted on November 5, the 486-point drop the first day of President-elect Obama's victory lap "marked Wall Street's biggest loss ever on the day after a presidential election."
The MSM have already begun circling the wagons around their guy. Like a secular priest, Chris Cuomo this morning absolved Barack Obama of any responsibility for yesterday's stock market nosedive, the largest post-election drop in history.
Cuomo offered his absolution while chatting about the economy with Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer today.
DIANE SAWYER: First we've got to start with the market. Market went way down. Why?
CHRIS CUOMO: Well, not because it was Obama that got elected. That had already been figured into the markets. It went down because the news about the economy is not good.
Who's going to be the leader of the financial world in the role of Treasury Secretary under President Obama? It may be Democratic New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, who has pushed for an additional economic stimulus package to the tune of $300 billion to support infrastructure projects.
CNBC's Carl Quintanilla asked Corzine outright on "Squawk Box" if he would accept a job in the Obama administration as Treasury Secretary. "If it's offered, governor, will you say no?" Quintanilla asked.
"Squawk Box" co-host Joe Kernan encouraged Corzine to consider accepting the job if offered, even as the former U.S. senator expressed his contentment as governor. "You could save the world" as Treasury Secretary, Kernan said.
Perhaps this is coming a little late with the election already underway, but the idea the current economy is as threatened as it was during the Great Depression is unfounded, according to the Nov. 4 USA Today.
"Failed banks. Panicked markets. Rising unemployment. For students of history, or people of a certain age, it all has an all-too-familiar ring. Is this another Great Depression? Not yet," John Waggoner wrote for USA Today
Soup lines, Hoovervilles and other Depression-era imagery have become commonplace in the media. Journalists have compared the current downturn to the Great Depression hundreds of times. On the networks (ABC, NBC and CBS) alone, there were 70 comparisons in the first six months of 2008. Since July 1 that number more than doubled to 157. But as Waggoner pointed out - the similarities aren't even close.
"Periods of crisis often beget bad policies," Lee E. Ohanian, an economist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) said in an interview with Reason.tv. The professor stressed that six weeks ago the fundamentals of the economy looked "pretty good," before bailout "rumors" caused "panic":
What I mean by fundamentals are the amount of factories and office buildings and capital equipment we have in place, there's no change in that. There is no change really in individuals' interest in working. We've got the same work force right now we had six weeks ago. Productivity is about the same as it was perhaps even higher. All those fundamentals of the economy are the same.
Ohanian said Gross Domestic Product growth over the last five to six quarters was "on average," and productivity growth was "very high"
It's obvious The Washington Post's "Style" section is broadening it horizons beyond fashion, music, books and other fluff, plus of course - Howard Kurtz's media column and the comics. The editors of that section are tackling important events that changed history by commemorating them as milestones.
Normally such attention is given to anniversaries that fall more under the definition of a landmark: the 25th, 50th, 75th, etc. But with the American public seeing the economy as the top issues in the presidential election - and the media tendency to compare current economic conditions to the Great Depression already well-established - the Post has deemed the 79th anniversary worthy of attention.
Sometimes former CEOs have a reason to be downbeat when they make predictions.
Former Chairman and CEO of Citigroup Sanford Weill told CBS's "The Early Show" Oct. 28 that unemployment would hit 9 percent and that Wall Street CEOs "didn't deserve bonuses this year." It went something like this:
Well, I think we've set in motion a whole series of events that is going to make the economy really, really bad over the short term. I think we are going to see the biggest drop that we've seen in GDP. I think we are going to see unemployment go up to about 9 percent.
Weill said that a year from now things would be a lot better, but still was critical of the Federal Reserve for not acting sooner: