Press reports about the prediction by President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers that the economy would add an average of 95,000 jobs per month during calendar 2010 weren't exactly overflowing with praise, but were lacking in something one would have expected: historical context.
Philip Elliott's Associated Press report provided none. Sewell Chan's New York Times coverage at least pointed out that the promised level of job growth was "barely enough to keep up with the normal number of jobs the economy would have to create to meet the growth in the labor force and keep the unemployment rate steady."
But how would what the administration predicts compare to previous recoveries? As seen in the following chart based on more detailed information here, all based on data from the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 95,000 per month performance in job growth following a breakout quarter after a recession wouldn't exactly be impressive:
As described in a Wall Street Journal editorial today, those two organizations have caught the Obama administration playing with the federal budget numbers, specifically the "baseline." The editorial also makes two important points in its two final paragraphs (bolded by me):
... the White House is proposing to convert spending sold as a one-time economic boost into a permanent feature of future government growth. As both the Tax Policy Center and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget have pointed out, supposedly temporary parts of the stimulus—expansions of the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit and Pell Grants for college students—have now found their way into the budget baseline.
True to the way Mr. Obama has honored his campaign pledge of transparency, this news was buried in a footnote on page 170 of the budget's Analytical Perspectives.
White House Budget Director Peter Orszag and Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf have a problem: They can't revise their budget estimates quickly enough to account for the continued bad news about tax collections arriving daily from the Treasury Department. Luckily for them, but unfortunately for taxpayers, an establishment media obsessed with PDS (Palin Derangement Syndrome), TDS (Tebow Derangement Syndrome), and TPDS (Tea Party Derangement Syndrome) isn't paying any meaningful attention to the problem.
Back in August of last year, the CBO guesstimated that collections during fiscal 2010 will amount to $2.264 trillion. That guesstimate assumed a 7.5% increase over the $2.105 trillion collected in 2009, and clearly depended heavily on a revival in private-sector economic growth and employment.
Well, economic growth has occurred. The problem is that it's the government that has grown, while the private sector has shrunk. Additionally, according to the Establishment Survey published by Uncle Sam's Bureau Labor Statistics, seasonally adjusted total employment has continued to fall.
Thus, CBO dropped its estimate of fiscal 2010 receipts in projections it released in late January to $2.175 trillion. The collections guesstimate in the Obama administration's budget is actually a bit lower:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the monthly jobs report on Feb. 5, showing an "unexpected" decline in the overall unemployment rate. But the reactions from two cable news channels were markedly different.
CNN's Allan Chernoff called it "a little bit of good news," even though 20,000 more people lost their jobs in January. He said economists were actually expecting a gain of 15,000 jobs. So that estimate was off by 35,000.
Chernoff also downplayed a massive revision to the total number of jobs lost during the recession, which indicated that things during 2008 and 2009 were much worse than realized.
My supposedly informative but in reality selective CNNMoney.com E-mail just alerted me to the fact that the unemployment rate dropped in January, but "somehow" forgot to reveal that 20,000 seasonally adjusted jobs were lost (see related post by BMI/NB's Julia Seymour):
CNNMoney.com also "forgot" to say anything about a downward 900,000-job revision (actually, even worse) to previous data (text is from the Bureau of Labor Statistics report released at 8:30 a.m. ET):
You would think that someone going to the trouble of reporting on something would at least provide the most basic of relevant numbers so that readers could understand what they're telling us.
That isn't the case with the 11:51 a.m. version of Uncle Sam's report on unemployment claims by the Associated Press's Stephen Bernard and Tim Paradis. Their report failed to specifically state what analysts predicted, and waited until a much later paragraph to tell us what their predictions are for tomorrow's jobs report.
The first three paragraphs of that version of the story are in the graphic capture that follows:
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."
Want proof low taxes work? Just take a look at the state of New Hampshire, as MSNBC "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough astutely pointed out.
On the Feb. 2 broadcast of his MSNBC program, Scarborough interviewed Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. Shaheen's home state was hosting a jobs town hall put on by President Barack Obama and Scarborough used the occasion for a teachable moment.
"Now, usually none of us would celebrate unemployment rates of 7 percent," Scarborough said. "But that is not only well below the national average, but your neighbor, Rhode Island, to the south of you now sitting with a 13 percent unemployment rate. What's New Hampshire doing right?"
Historically, there are two kinds of White House reporters: those that confront officials with the strongest critique and demand a response (think ABC’s Sam Donaldson, who dogged Bill Clinton in the late 1990s just as he had Ronald Reagan in the 1980s); and those who see their job as simply repeating the White House spin of the day.
Reporting this morning on the Obama administration’s push for another $100 billion in spending, supposedly for “job growth,” NBC’s Savannah Guthrie fell into the second category. Rather than amplify the growing chorus of critics who argue that we can’t afford more massive spending when the previous “stimulus” was so expensive and ineffective, Guthrie on NBC’s Today saluted the President for making a “judgment call” that “all economists” could support:
This is a budget where the President makes a judgment call. He's asking for $100 billion to spur job growth, things like tax cuts for small business, tax breaks to increase wages. And he's doing this knowing that it will drive up the deficit, certainly even more in the short term, but all economists agree the real way to get a chunk out of the deficit is to increase hiring.
On Saturday’s Newsroom, CNN’s Don Lemon deferentially took President Obama’s advice and interviewed a stimulus “skeptic” turned “believer,” whom the Democrat cited as an example of the success of the stimulus during his recent State of the Union address. Lemon talked up the stimulus and the Obama administration’s energy efficiency tax credit with his guest Alan Levin, whose company produces windows.
Before playing his taped interview with guest Alan Levin, CEO of Northeast Building Products, the CNN anchor played the relevant clip from the President Obama’s address: “Talk to the window manufacturer in Philadelphia, who said he used to be skeptical about the Recovery Act, until he had to add two more work shifts just because of the business it created.” After asking Mr. Levin if he was excited by this mention by the President, Lemon inquired about this previous skepticism: “You know what, here’s the interesting thing. You were skeptical about this process- about the stimulus. You weren’t exactly sure that it was going to get you the right people and help at all. And now?”
The White House continues to throw out random numbers in their quest to convince the public that their behemoth stimulus bill is saving jobs at a massive rate. The confusion has even seeped into the President's biggest support group - the media.
CNN recently announced how the stimulus plan funded nearly 600,000 jobs this past quarter. In their article, which parrots the numbers provided by the administration's Recovery.gov Web site, CNN hints that these figures may actually be low, in that they do not include jobs created 'indirectly' (emphasis mine throughout):
"It does not tally jobs created indirectly through companies buying supplies for stimulus projects, people spending their tax cuts, increased unemployment benefits and the like."
Would adding the number of indirect jobs have provided a boost to the stimulus numbers?
Not quite, according to a source CNN can likely trust - themselves...
Keith Olbermann should keep a calculator on hand during his broadcasts. If he'd had one, the liberal MSNBC host of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" could have run the numbers on Jan. 27 following the State of the Union address.
Olbermann was recapping President Obama's speech and told viewers: "Among those seated with the first lady in the visitor's gallery ... a man from Arizona whose company received $99 million from the stimulus and used it to create at least 50 permanent clean energy jobs."
In an attempt to boost flagging approval ratings, President Barack Obama announced a series of initiatives aimed at helping out the middle class on Jan. 25, two days ahead of his State of the Union address.
The networks, which have protected him from public outrage for months, praised the initiative. NBC heralded the move, giving Obama credit for "getting the message" Jan. 25. CBS's Katie Couric said the same thing that night.
"Good evening, everyone. He got the message: it's the economy middle-class voters are most worried about. And with critical congressional elections coming up this year, President Obama today rolled out a series of proposals designed to show he's on the case," Couric said as she teased White House correspondent Chip Reid's story.
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."
It's amazing how Bernard Condon and Tim Paradis of the Associated Press managed to hang the same label on totally opposite political positions in their report on the situation in the stock market late this afternoon.
According to the AP pair, Scott Brown's U.S. Senate win in Massachusetts was due to a "wave of populism," at the same time as President Obama is supposedly planning to use "populist attacks" to save his party's congressional majority in the fall elections. One of those employments of "populism" has to be wrong.
Additionally, they write that it's Scott Brown's type of populism that caused investors to sell heavily in the middle of last week, but that it's Barack Obama's type of populism that caused it to plunge even further during its remainder.
Look at the bright side: As you'll see, the wire service at least got the headline right.
A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the recovery this week: The U.S. Department of Labor reported on Thursday that initial claims for unemployment benefits jumped "unexpectedly" by 36,000 to 482,000, when analysts had predicted a slight drop.
What's more, it turns out that data reported in previous weeks was understated because of "administrative issues" relating to paperwork processing during the holidays. In other words, things have been a bit worse than originally portrayed during the past several weeks.
Not unexpectedly, Reuters seized on the "administrative issues" excuse in an attempt to minimize the damage. Reuters' primary headline ("Jobless claims rise on administrative issues") seemed specifically designed to tell readers that "Hey, it's really no big deal."
The headlines and excuse-making are all the more galling because the same administrative problems occurred at the same time last year -- and almost no one in the press headlined it.
Let's start with Reuters' report from January 22, 2009 (i.e., a year ago), starting with its excuse-free headline (bold is mine):
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has a brilliant solution for Barack Obama to improve his sagging poll numbers: spend more time blaming George W. Bush for the recession.
"The Obama administration’s troubles are the result not of excessive ambition, but of policy and political misjudgments," Krugman wrote Monday.
"The stimulus was too small; policy toward the banks wasn’t tough enough; and Mr. Obama didn’t do what Ronald Reagan, who also faced a poor economy early in his administration, did — namely, shelter himself from criticism with a narrative that placed the blame on previous administrations."
Don't be surprised if such thinking gets this guy another Nobel Prize (h/t NB reader Jeff):
The Washington Post publicizing a report by the liberal Economic Policy Institute (EPI), written helpfully enough that the word "liberal" isn’t used, is usually a media-bias staple for economic gearheads. But Friday’s Post report by V. Dion Haynes might be seen by other Obama-helpers in the media as an unwelcome story. The headline: "U.S. unemployment rate for blacks projected to hit 25-year high."
Unemployment for African Americans is projected to reach a 25-year high this year, according to a study released Thursday by an economic think tank, with the national rate soaring to 17.2 percent and the rates in five states exceeding 20 percent...
According to the Economic Policy Institute report, the unemployment rate for blacks is projected to reach a not-seasonally adjusted rate of 17.2 percent in the third quarter of this year, up from 15.5 percent during the same period last year. And the rate for Hispanics is forecast to jump to 13.9 percent from 12.4 percent. The study is based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data and projections from Moody's Economy.com.
EPI was the long-time policy-research home of Jared Bernstein, who is now Vice President Biden’s chief economist and one of Team Obama’s economics explainers to the media.
This was not a front-page story. It topped the "Washington Business" section on page A-20.
The charts definitely show how utterly wrong reporters like the Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa are when they claim that there has been anything resembling a "rebound" since the economy hit bottom from a growth standpoint in the second quarter of 2009 (the economy has yet to see an employment bottom). They also explain why AP reporter Martin Crutsinger seems to have tired of trying to put a "getting better" face on things in the past couple of days (as seen here and here at NewsBusters; here and here at BizzyBlog).
Here, after screen captures by Morrissey, are the two mind-numbing creations in question, the first showing changes in output (GDP) and the second showing changes in employment:
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood took to the WhiteHouse.gov blog today to try to refute a devastating AP report showing that the the stimulus's highway and road funding has done next to nothing to improve the unemployment situation. Though he offered a couple of valid points, LaHood, pictured right in a file photo, actually did very little refuting.
The AP asserts in its report that "there was nearly no connection between stimulus money and the number of construction workers hired or fired since Congress passed the recovery program. The effect was so small, one economist compared it to trying to move the Empire State Building by pushing against it."
LaHood points out--fairly--that the AP examines the construction industry as a whole while the seven percent of the $787 billion that went towards funding highway and road construction (roughly $55 billion) only affects the transportation construction industry, not the industry as a whole.
CNN's efforts to spin the current economy have gotten to the point of being ridiculous.
For three days in a row, a series of reports all showed persistent layoffs above expectations, and in each case CNN.com inexplicably reported optimism.
First up was an ADP report released Wednesday which tracked the economy from the side of business owners and how many workers they laid off. Instead of showing the complete picture, CNN chose to present a decidedly upbeat angle.
CNN Money writers Jessica Dickler and Hibah Yousuf set the tone as they worked hard to spin unexpected layoffs as a positive sign in their rosy-headlined "Job Picture Gets a Little Bit Brighter":
In a Friday news analysis piece that appeared in the paper's print edition today (teased at its web site as seen on the right), Jackie Calmes at the New York Times began with a pathetic headline, and opened with pity on our poor overwhelmed, stressed-out, stretched-in-all-directions President:
Obama Tries to Turn Focus to Jobs, if Other Events Allow
President Obama keeps trying to turn attention to “jobs, jobs, jobs,” as his chief of staff has put it. But he is finding that it can be hard to focus on any one issue when so many demand attention, often unexpectedly.
This is simply another variation on the "distracted" President theme I noted last year (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog). You know, if those terrorists and other messy realities wouldn't intervene, Barack Obama could do his job sooooo much better.
Calmes resumed the pity party in her seventh paragraph:
Unemployment shot up in 2009 from 7.7 percent in January to 10.1 percent in October before settling at 10 percent in December. Behind those percentages were more than 4.1 million people who lost their jobs during the year. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that's the most job losses in a year since 1940. (BLS could only provide data from 1940-2009)
But don't expect journalists to label President Barack Obama the worst jobs president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933-1945). The media spent 2009 trying to shield Obama from the troubling numbers.
The economy shed far more jobs in December than economists had expected.
The Labor Department announced moments ago that nonfarm payrolls declined by a surprising 85,000 workers last month. Economists had been expecting no change or maybe a small decline.
One bright spot was healthcare which added another 22,000 jobs. Despite efforts by Democrats to "reform" this industry, it remains one of the few that continues to hire having added a staggering 631,000 employees since the recession began in December 2007.
It will be very interesting to see how this announcement gets covered by the Obama-loving media in the coming days:
In the eyes of many in the liberal media, President Obama can do no wrong. If he does, it's not his fault; he is simply a victim of circumstance, or he made the best decision he could given the options. One can tell news items portraying Obama in this light by their descriptions of problems in the passive voice.
Take yesterday's New York Times article by Jackie Calmes, for instance. The piece displays a conspicuous use of the passive voice in the headline: "Promise to Trim Deficit Is Growing Harder to Keep", instead of, say, "Obama's Policies Make Deficit Reduction Unlikely".
The refrain is getting old. When Obama's economic policies caused the debt to skyrocket, and didn't lead to recovery but rather to more federal spending aimed at shoring up the economy, it was because the recession was worse than the administration had planned. Obama's brilliant plans to raise taxes on businesses failed because Congress succumbed to political pressure. Anticipated savings in Iraq were nullified when it turned out winning a war in Afghanistan might actually require significant funding. And Medicare is already being cut to pay for the health care overhaul, so those cuts can't go towards drawing down the deficit. You see, it's never actually Obama's fault.
This is the fifth year I have looked into how the media treats these two topics:
The use of “Christmas shopping season” vs. “holiday shopping season” (note how the AP photo at right uses “holiday” and not “shopping,” even though there is a C-C-, Chr-Chr-Christmas tree in the picture).
The frequency of Christmas and holiday layoff references.
I have done three sets of simple Google News searches each year — the first in late November, followed by identical searches roughly two and four weeks later. The results of this year's first two sets of searches are here (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog) and here (NewsBusters; BizzyBlog).
A table showing the results from this year, plus key comparisons to prior years, follows:
Ever since President Obama took office with his merry band of Democrats controlling both chambers of Congress, the media began reporting high unemployment in the most positive light they could find.
NewsBusters exposed one such trick by Newsweek on December 10 that found a silver lining for unemployed dads to reconnect with their children. ABC News posted a column on their website Thursday that advanced the cause even further: now people who still have jobs are hoping to get laid off.
Such was the case made by one Michelle Goodman in a piece cutely titled "All I Want For Christmas is a Layoff." The premise for this bizarre headline was that many Americans began to realize they were working for "slave wages" in jobs that were far too stressful, so perhaps the recession offered a chance to start over.
According to Goodman, the mental effects of remaining on a difficult job could make the unemployment line look a bit more attractive: