The Department of Labor reported today that initial claims for unemployment benefits increased to 362,000 from an upwardly revised (as usual) 354,000 the previous week. Expectations were for a reading of 351,000 (Business Insider's email) or 352,000 (Bloomberg).
Over at the Associated Press, also known as the Administration's Press, the headlined reaction in its 9:17 a.m. report was: "Applications Hover Near Low Levels." As usual, it took a New Media source, in this case Zero Hedge, to point out something potentially troubling in the news, namely that "this is the first time we have seen three consecutive weeks of rises since August 2010." True, the rises have been modest, but next week will almost certainly see an upward revision to this week (the case for 51 of the past 52 weeks, averaging almost 4,000 and with no decreases). Modest or not, they run counter to presumptive press claims that the job market is "healing" (Reuters) and "improving" (Bloomberg). The howler of the day came from RTT News, which "offers custom news and information solutions" for which subscribers apparently pay at least $250 a month:
Over at the Associated Press in a report with a Tuesday morning time stamp, Christopher Rugaber produced yet another predictable lemonade-from-lemons story about how the economy is allegedly "improving faster than economists had expected. They now foresee slightly stronger growth and hiring than they did two months earlier - trends that would help President Barack Obama's re-election hopes." Because, after all, that's what it's all about.
The folks at AP, the economists they surveyed for their report, and the rest of the establishment press really need to get out more. Y'know, they used to, at least before November 4, 2008. If they did, they'd find something which it seems only the BBC among major original-source news organizations has found: well over 50 "tent cities." These are not Occupy movement encampments; instead they are places where one will find America's desperately poor:
Comedian Jon Stewart apparently thinks the economy is just fine and that any news outlet that says otherwise must be doing it because they don't want President Obama to get reelected.
Even more preposterous, on Tuesday's Daily Show, the host did an entire segment on how Fox News reporting the national debt, unemployment, and rising gas prices is all a Republican National Committee conspiracy (video follows with highlights and commentary):
An AP report by Rachel Zoll brought to our attention by a NewsBusters tipster headlines a truly weird assertion about GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum ("Santorum benefits from mistaken religious identity"), and submits as evidence an item in a Christian magazine which in turn has its own weird headline ("Catholic Politicians You Thought Were Evangelical").
It turns out that the Christianity Today item tells us that it's not evangelical Christians who misidentify Santorum, whose Roman Catholic faith is well-known. The entity which committed the misidentification by deliberately including the former Pennsylvania senator on a list of "The 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America" while acknowledging that he is a Catholic was ... Time Magazine, in February 2005. Thus, there is no support for Zoll's headline claiming that many people "mistake" Santorum's "religious identity," and that he somehow "benefits." Zheesh.
Since when does a "few" mean thirteen? The answer appears to be: "When Barack Obama says it does, and when the press won't call him in it."
Rush Limbaugh today talked about a January 25 speech President Barack Obama made at Conveyor Engineering and Manufacturing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and pointed to a particular segment demonstrating in his view that Obama was deliberately "downsizing the American Dream." When I went to the actual speech at the White House's web site, I found a statement the President made about his administration's jobs record which was quite problematic (i.e., false), and which, despite the press's rips at Republican candidates who dare question the specifics of Obama's economic performance or the legitimacy of the economic recovery in general, received no press coverage I could locate:
In “For London Youth, Down and Out Is Way of Life,” New York Times reporter Landon Thomas Jr. came up with a sparkling new solution to the looters and rioters who stole sneakers and cell phones in last summer's nationwide rampage: Taxpayer-funded job training!
Thomas last got Times Watch’s attention last December with his bizarre hypothetical of what might happen if Europe abandoned it’s euro currency scheme. He wrote on Thursday’s front page:
Today, President Obama visited Master Lock, a company he cited in his State of the Union speech on January 24 using the following words: "But right now, it's getting more expensive to do business in places like China. Meanwhile, America is more productive. A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home. Today, for the first time in fifteen years, Master Lock's unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity."
Now note how Ken Thomas's report at the Associated Press originally described (since revised) what Obama supposedly said:
According to the Heritage Foundation Barack Obama’s policies, in just two years, have resulted in the number of Americans who rely on a federal program spiking by 23 percent to 67 million. Yet there was no mention of this grim figure on the Big Three network (ABC, CBS and NBC) evening or morning news programs. Since the study was released on Wednesday only Fox News and CNN have mentioned the increase in government dependents was the biggest two year jump since Jimmy Carter was president. (video after the jump)
When I saw CNN's Candy Crowley on Sunday tease an upcoming State of the Union segment saying she'd be discussing Friday's unemployment report after a commercial break, I was hoping to see a complete analysis of the data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Much to my shock and dismay, although she and her guests discussed the economy and the jobs market for eight minutes over two segments, there was not one single word said about the declining participation rate or the record 1.2 million one month increase in the number of people not in the labor force (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CNBC's Suze Orman bills herself as an "internationally acclaimed personal financial expert."
This "financial expert," appearing on HBO's Real Time Friday, said that in 2012, "We are average [sic] 200,000 jobs a month that are being created...[Obama's] done so much in the past four years I can’t even tell you" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
In this week's "Is He Really This Stupid or Just a Bald-Faced Liar" segment, HBO's Bill Maher Friday night once again proved that he is either one of the dumbest people on television or is way too dishonest to have his own show.
On the most recent installment of Real Time, the host emphatically claimed, "We've lost 500,000 public sector jobs since Obama took office and added 3.7 million private sector jobs" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
It certainly is no surprise the Obama-loving media are doing a jubilant victory lap over the stronger than expected headline figures in Friday's unemployment report.
Also not at all shocking was MSNBC's Martin Bashir falsely claiming on the show bearing his name Friday, "Under this president over three million private sector jobs have been created" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
While NBC correspondent Peter Alexander noted on Tuesday's Today how "Republicans are jumping on the president's choice of words" in telling a woman her husband's long-term unemployment was "interesting" to him, neither ABC's Good Morning America nor CBS's This Morning bothered to highlight Obama's aloof flub.
The NBC report played the sound bite of the president's remark: "It is interesting to me – and I meant what I said, if you send me your husband's resume I'd be interested in finding out exactly what's happening right there – because the word we're getting is, is that somebody in that kind of high-tech field, that kind of engineer, should be able to find something right away."
Scott Pelley simply got it wrong on Tuesday's CBS This Morning, when he claimed that the Republican presidential candidates "have finally arrived in a state that was very hard hit by the great recession and has been suffering for a very long time. The unemployment rate here is about 10%." In reality, South Carolina, the state that held the last GOP primary, has about the same unemployment rate, at 9.9% [audio available here; video below the jump].
Two weeks earlier, on the January 17 edition of his CBS Evening News program, Pelley introduced a segment with John Dickerson, who was in the Palmetto State, which referenced the national unemployment rate. But neither on-air personality mentioned the specific unemployment rate inside the state:
A report carried at CBS News in St. Louis from Jim Anderson of the Illinois Radio Network (IRN), which appears to be a private entity, tells readers that a research study (summary; PDF of relevant chapter) published by the Institute of Government and Public Affairs (IGPA) at the University of Illinois has identified "a combination of tough policies (which) could bring the state into fiscal balance by the end of the decade." To be clear, the end of the decade is seven years and eleven months from now.
Predictably, the "tough policies" include "maintaining increased income tax rates after they are scheduled to expire." On the spending side, what IGPA describes as "extreme austerity" means "keeping the growth rate of all spending down to 2.1 percent per year." Those who would rather not look at IGPA's detail can be forgiven, because the opening paragraph of the linked chapter above, which IRN did not cite, gives away the researchers' detachment from reality:
In what amounted to a love letter to California's Democratic Governor Jerry Brown on Thursday's NBC Nightly News, special correspondent Tom Brokaw gushed: "It's not sunshine every day for the California economy, but Jerry Brown has not given up on big dreams. His new big dream, a high-speed rail line from the north to the south..."
Anchor Brian Williams set the scene for Brokaw's fawning report: "California is mounting a comeback led by a man whose name has been synonymous with California government for decades." Brokaw sympathetically declared: "The one-time boy wonder of California politics is now the state's aging lion....Sticking up for his state."
Two examples of poor press handling of what initially appeared to be fairly good news about initial unemployment claims last Thursday got lost in the pre-South Carolina primary hubbub.
The first and most obvious was in the writeup presented by the Associated Press's Chris Rugaber. In his fourth paragraph, he raised the threshold below which a consistent level of weekly claims might be expected to move the unemployment rate downward by 15% from where it was less than 2-1/2 years ago:
In their attempt to demonize Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the Obama-loving media have been misinforming Americans that venture capitalists are robber barons and corporate raiders preying on failing companies to suck every penny out of them with total disregard for employees.
What these ignorant and/or dishonest members of the press are hiding from the electorate is that venture capital-backed companies were responsible for 21 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in 2010 while creating 11 percent of the nation's private sector jobs.
On Tuesday's CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose hinted Newt Gingrich should apologize for a supposedly racially-tinged comment he recently made: "I want to give you an opportunity, because the point was made...about it's better for black Americans to seek a job than it is to seek food stamps, and many people stepped forward to say, isn't that simply true for all Americans who are desperately looking for jobs?"
Rose ended his interview of the former House Speaker with the controversy over a remark the presidential candidate made on January 5 during a campaign stop in Plymouth, New Hampshire: "I'm prepared if the NAACP invites me, I'll go to their convention and talk about why the African American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps."
This critic of the President analyzed the contents of so-called conservative Andrew Sullivan's piece and has come to the conclusion that it is he and the unashamedly liberal magazine he writes for that are lacking in intellectual capacity and/or integrity.
All one needs is read the following from Sullivan's third paragraph to understand the absurdity on display:
On the Monday, January 9, Imus in the Morning, as he was interviewed by phone, New York magazine's Frank Rich - formerly of the New York Times - argued that he believes President Obama should be reelected, and seemed befuddled when host Don Imus, who plans to vote for Mitt Romney, asserted that Obama's foreign policy has been "disastrous." The liberal columnist then tried to give President Obama credit for the death of Osama bin Laden.
After Imus asked, "So you like President Obama, don't you? I mean, you'll vote-"
On Wednesday's CBS This Morning, Charlie Rose acknowledged the widespread spinning of Mitt Romney's "I like to fire people" remark. The anchor asked Romney, "Do you regret the firing comment because of the way it was interpreted by some?" The previous morning, Rose's colleague, Bob Schieffer, was one who spun the GOP candidate's line, claiming it was just shy of saying "Herbert Hoover is my hero."
Schieffer pounced on Romney's "firing" line during a segment with Rose on Tuesday's CBS This Morning, even after correspondent Jan Crawford noted during a preceding report that the sentence was being "taken completely out of context" by several of his Republican competitors. The "Face The Nation" host all but said that the presidential candidate had stuck his foot in his mouth:
Bob Schieffer slammed Mitt Romney on Tuesday's CBS This Morning for his recent "I like to fire people" line, stating that he was "looking for every way he can try to lose and drive down his percentage of victory." He added, "I guess the only thing worse you could say...when people are out of work is that Herbert Hoover is my hero or something like that. It just boggles the mind."
Right after he harped about Romney's apparent incompetence, Schieffer slipped up himself when he confused Ron Paul, one of Romney's competitors, with Les Paul, an early pioneer of the electric guitar [audio available here; video below the jump].
It's more than a little annoying to read a news report containing incomplete information. The irritation level hits the red zone when you realize that the writer is not only concealing important data, but telling you what you're supposed to think about what little he deigned to tell you.
Such was the case with Martin Crutsinger's Associated Press item about the Consumer Credit report issued today by the Federal Reserve. Crutsinger only told us how much debt levels increased without bothering to tell us what those debt levels are -- something a similar AP item in 2004 at the same point in a presidential reelection cycle was eager to disclose. Additionally, Crutsinger framed today's reported expansion as good news while Eileen Alt Powell's January 6, 2004 report framed expanding credit as dangerous. First, several paragraphs from Crutsinger's report (boots-on alert: it gets really, really deep):
In an early-Sunday version of an Associated Press report which has since been revised to exclude the paragraph I'm about to cite, the wire service's Steve Peoples (authorship shown here) apparently had a hard time understanding how Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney could possibly have criticized President Barack Obama's economic stewardship in Saturday's New Hampshire debate in light of what he (Peoples) must have thought were wondrous numbers in the government's Friday employment report.
Even if you ignore the fact (which you really shouldn't) that December's reported 200,000 job additions after seasonal adjustment hid a mediocre actual performance on the ground in historical context, Peoples' reaction was remarkably ignorant and offensively aggressive:
Even with recent "improvements" which are still weak when compared to other post-World War II recoveries and which, as shown yesterday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), are less substantive than December's two major reported numbers (unemployment rate of 8.5% and seasonally adjusted job additions of 200,000) would indicate, it seems fairly likely that the nation's unemployment rate will be higher than it has been on the eve of any presidential election since World War II.
Thus, Paul Wiseman of the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, felt it necessary to show that what matters isn't the unemployment rate, but instead the rate's trend. In the process, he mischaracterized the state of the economy under Ronald Reagan in 1983 and 1984, ignoring the roaring economic growth which occurred during those two years, and gave only one sentence to a statistic -- number of jobs added or lost -- which has become as important as the jobless rate, if not moreso, in the intervening 28 years:
Reporter Shaila Dewan saw a “head of steam,” enough “to cheer President Obama as he enters an election year,” in Labor Department figures released Friday morning showing the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 8.7% to 8.5%: “Economy Gains Steam as 200,000 New Jobs Added.” Does this mean Dewan will no longer ask, as she did in a 2009 story, "Weren't we working too much, anyway?"