In a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, George Mason University economics professor Daniel Klein today notes that "self-identified liberals and Democrats do badly on questions of basic economics."
It therefore shouldn't be terribly surprising that so many journalists do a poor job of economic and business reporting, because, as the Media Research Center has frequently and consistently documented for over a quarter-century, a significant majority of journalists are, well, self-identified liberals and Democrats.
Sometimes what passes for business reporting in the establishment press isn't the result of conscious bias. Ignorance, as just cited, and a failure to look behind numbers, often because they fit a predetermined outlook, are also factors.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly jobs report on June 4, showing only 41,000 new private-sector jobs. But those jobs were overshadowed by the enormous number of temporary census jobs in the May data.
According to the report, "employment grew by 431,000 in May, reflecting the hiring of 411,000 temporary employees to work on Census 2010." Those Census jobs made up 95 percent of the total payroll employment growth.
Even then, the hiring fell short of expectations. Associated Press said that economists forecasted 513,000 jobs for the month and called it a "disappointing" report. "Hiring by private employers was particularly weak, which is raising concerns that the economy recovery remains slow," AP said.
In a PBS interview June 2, Vice President Joseph Biden predicted 700,000 to 1.4 million jobs would be created by the end of 2010. But at most, that would still be more than 5.2 million jobs shy of matching President Obama's claims about economic stimulus.
Biden forecast job creation "between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs on average all the way through this year" in an interview with Charlie Rose. He also predicted "trouble in paradise" for the GOP.
Left-wing website The Huffington Post reported the prediction calling it "fairly safe" by "recent trends." Sam Stein wrote that, "Biden would not, however, mark a date when he thought the unemployment rate would dip to, say, six percent."
Stein didn't remind readers that Obama said the stimulus package would create more than 4 million jobs by the end of 2010. Once you take out temporary jobs and the 100,000 minimum needed every month to keep up with population growth, the economy would need to create 932,000 new permanent jobs each and every month through the end of 2010.
The federal government saw its tax collections fall by almost 20% in fiscal 2009 compared to fiscal 2008. Through the first seven months of the current fiscal year, year-over-year collections were down by another 4.5%.
New York Senator Charles Schumer (pictured at right; obtained from wbng.com) is desperately searching for another way to fleece taxpayers (because cutting spending is of course out of the question), and has come up with a "brilliant" idea. An unbylined Associated Press story gives Schumer's idea, a foreign call center tax, undeserved cover by going back to seven year-old information about industry job losses that doesn't reflect current conditions.
Here are the first five paragraphs from the AP story, followed by a later paragraph containing the outdated information:
Schumer wants to slow exodus of US call centers
In an effort to slow the exodus of U.S. telephone work to overseas services, Sen. Charles Schumer is introducing legislation that would impose an excise tax on companies that transfer calls with American area codes to foreign call centers.
Update - 5/27, 3:08 PM | Lachlan Markay: A new Harvard study finds that increased government spending actually reduces economic activity, contradicting the basic premise behind CBO's assumptions. Details below.
Good economic news is so rare for the current administration, that when some does emerge, many in the media parrot it as fact without really examining the claims that undergird it. New CBO numbers on the stimulus, for instance, have been trumpeted as proof the legislation at least helped, despite the fact that the numbers have little to no basis in reality.
Congressional Budget Office models are based on the assumption that stimulus spending will create jobs. They assume the conclusion they purport to demonstrate, and then claim they've demonstrated it. But if the model is inaccurate or simply based on false premises, it simply goes on tallying jobs "created or saved" without regard to the actual employment rate.
In March, a reporter asked CBO director Doug Elmendorf: "If the stimulus bill did not do what it was originally forecast to do, then that would not have been detected by the subsequent analysis, right?" His response: "That's right. That's right." Yet despite those numbers' disconnect from reality, the media continue to report them as fact, and proof that the stimulus is working.
The report tells us that Oklahoma had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 6.6% last month. That's far lower than the 9.9% reported for the entire USA two weeks ago. No state with a larger population has a lower unemployment rate than the Sooner State (states with lower April unemployment rates were KS - 6.5%; NE at 5.0%; ND - 3.8%; SD - 4.7%; and VT - 6.4%).
As seen in the chart below, Oklahoma's unemployment rate has been significantly lower than the national rate for well over two years, and on average in 2009 was that way across all major ethnic groups (source data for 2006 to 2009 can be accessed here; scroll down to "Annual Average Statewide Data"):
On Saturday’s Huckabee show on FNC, as the show was broadcast from Las Vegas, singer Wayne Newton appeared as a guest to discuss the economic situation in the city, and, when asked by host Mike Huckabee his reaction to President Obama’s remarks from last year attacking businesses for indulging in trips to Las Vegas, Newton did not mince words: "I think that it was the most irresponsible, arrogant thing I have ever heard a President of the United States say."
Fellow guest and Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons related that hundreds of conventions were canceled after the President’s words, costing the city a fortune in lost business: "There's no doubt that the people of Las Vegas, the city of Las Vegas were severely hurt by the President's remarks. About 400 conventions, business meetings, and that were canceled because of his remarks; $100 million was lost by the community at that remark. People lost their jobs. This city took a real blow when the President made that remark. He was wrong then, and then he said it again, and I don't understand why he keeps picking on Las Vegas."
Newton jumped in again and suggested that the President has been hypocritical in holding political fundraisers in Las Vegas: "He was not so incensed with Las Vegas, that he then decided to come here and do two fundraisers."
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Saturday, May 22, Huckabee on FNC:
"Unexpectedly." It recent overuse by the Associated Press almost makes me nostalgic for the "green shoots" that the mainstream media kept seeing last year in the midst of rising unemployment and other bad economic news. When you see the AP use that adverb nowadays, you almost always know it involves depressing news on the economic front and this time they did not dissapoint with their story about a sharp increase in jobless claims:
WASHINGTON-- The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week by the largest amount in three months. The surge is evidence of how volatile the job market remains, even as the economy grows.
Applications for unemployment benefits rose to 471,000 last week, up by 25,000 from the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. It was the first increase in five weeks and the biggest jump since a gain of 40,000 in February.
The forecast had been for claims to fall by around 4,000 from the previous week.
Believe it or not, there are some who still fail to grasp the notion that the legacy media are overwhelmingly liberal. They act shocked when the media do what they usually do -- toe the liberal line -- and search in vain for some way to explain the apparent bias.
"Does the Media Care About Unemployment?" asked Kevin Drum, a writer for the liberal Mother Jones. Drum postulated that that "the media focused way more on economic hard luck stories in the early 80s than they do now."
While a liberal noting the double standard is refreshing, Drum went on to attribute it to a litany of possible reasons, all the while ignoring the obvious, and painfully simple answer right before his eyes: as B. Daniel Blatt writes, "Because a Republican’s Not in the White House."
While it is often an unpopular viewpoint, many economists realize unemployment insurance can actually promote unemployment.
Business & Media Institute adviser Prof. Gary Wolfram explained this in an op-ed on March 17, 2010, as the media attacked Sen. Jim Bunning for filibustering a bill including an extension of the ability to file for federal unemployment benefits.
Wolfram wrote, "It ought to be clear that if we reduce the cost of becoming or remaining unemployed, then we will have greater unemployment. This is not rocket science by any means. Suppose that unemployment benefits were $6,000 per week and lasted indefinitely. Is there little doubt that most of us would choose unemployment?"
It seems that the U.S. News & World Report is in some serious competition with the Associated Press over who can put the most positive spin on April's increase in unemployment. So the unemployment figure rose last month from 9.7% to 9.9%? Great news according to Rick Newman in his U.S. News blog titled, "Why a Rising Unemployment Rate is Good News." And why is it good news? Newman explains...sort of:
It sounds dreadful. After drifting down consistently since last fall, the unemployment rate has suddenly shot up again, from 9.7 percent in March to 9.9 percent in April. But don't despair: A rising unemployment rate is actually one of the best signs yet that the economy is bouncing back.
The unemployment rate rose for the right reason. Instead of shedding jobs, employers added 290,000 jobs in April, the strongest showing since 2007. The reason the unemployment rate went up is that a lot more people are suddenly looking for work. The government said that the labor force swelled by 805,000 people in April. That's more than three times the number of new jobs, so the proportion of people looking for a job but unable to find one went up. Still, that big increase in the labor force marks an important shift in sentiment among people on the fringes of the economy.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its monthly jobs report early May 7 announcing a rise in unemployment to 9.9 percent and an increase of 290,000 jobs.
Any positive job growth is good news to be sure. But in order for Obama to meet his pledge of 4 million jobs created by the end of 2010, the U.S. economy would have to add 932,000 jobs each and every month between now and the end of the year, taking into account both temporary jobs and the number of new positions needed to keep even with population growth. According to the BLS, 2,662,000 jobs have been lost since February 2009.
The Associated Press reacted immediately to the May 7 jobs announcement by emphasizing the good news in its subhead and lead sentence: "Jobs grow by most in 4 years." They described people streaming "back into the market looking for work."
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):
A $787-billion stimulus. Liabilities of $356 billion for the TARP bailout on the federal government's balance sheet. And that's in addition to other unfunded liabilities from federal entitlements like ObamaCare, Medicare, and Social Security.
But that doesn't mean the U.S. is heading down the path toward socialism because they were one-time expenditures, according to CNBC senior economics reporter Steve Liesman.
On CNBC's "Squawk Box" April 29, as jobless claims for the week was being released on the floor of the CME Group in Chicago, co-host Joe Kernen asked for Liesman's opinion.
In his weekly address today (video only at link; transcript was not present when this post was prepared), President Obama opened with these three sentences:
It was a little more than one year ago that our country faced a potentially devastating crisis in our auto industry.
Over the course of 2008, the industry shed 400,000 jobs. In the midst of a financial crisis and deep recession, both General Motors and Chrysler, two companies that for generations were a symbol of America's manufacturing might, were on the brink of collapse.
Look at what Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville did to those first three sentences in the third paragraph of her report on Obama's presentation:
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."
On the surface, it's one of the Associated Press's better dispatches from the real world on the state of the economy as people are experiencing it.
Datelined in Twinsburg, Ohio, Megan Barr's Monday morning report, "Recession is ending? Some Americans don't buy it," does a good job of mixing macro and micro elements, painting a picture of a struggling town, a non-improving state economy (now eighth-worst, according to AP's "economic stress" measurement tool), a somewhat-improving national picture, and a pervasive belief on the part of most Americans that things aren't really getting better. I couldn't help but notice the irony that AP reporter Jeannine Aversa, who wrote that the top economic story of last year was the economy's "fall - and rebound," contributed to Barr's report.
But something was done to Twinsburg a year ago that goes a long way towards explaining why many people there are likely responding as one quoted resident did -- "Who are they trying to kid?" -- when asked for a reaction as to whether the economy is getting better. The AP didn't cover that story last year -- and should have -- so it didn't know that it should have referred it this year.
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.
NBC host Norah O'Donnell is taking it from all angles for pulling the race card on Newt Gingrich last Friday.
Speaking at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, Gingrich said "shooting three-point shots may be clever, but it doesn’t put anybody to work,” referring to President Obama's basketball skills. Norah O'Donnell embarrassed herself Friday by claiming the comment had racial undertones.
Since then, commentators on the left and right have criticized O'Donnell's race-baiting. Bill O'Reilly and Juan Williams have both condemned her remark, and Gingrich himself has repudiated the accusation.
"The left is becoming a parody of itself," Gingrich said Tuesday morning. He added that "it's relatively hard to go from 'we need someone who is a good president more than we need three point shots' to" racism.
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."
A little over a year ago, President Obama signed into law the $787-billion stimulus legislation that was supposed to prevent the unemployment rate from exceeding 8 percent. And although the unemployment has receded some from its high, it's still well North of 9 percent. So if that stimulus is given more time, will unemployment improve?
Last week's jobless claims numbers, showing a stagnant unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, didn't provide any reason for optimism. And on CNBC's April 12 "Squawk Box," host Joe Kernen asked CNBC CME Group floor reporter Rick Santelli if this economic indicator is going to be stubborn number, which would confirm a failure of Obamanomics.
"Rick, I wasn't here last week when that claims number came out. But if I could really just dig deep down into your view, do you think a year from now we're still going to be talking about a stubborn unemployment rate, Rick?" Kernen asked.
Pop quiz: how do you cut taxes on low and middle-income wage earners and end up with a greater percentage of people paying taxes?
Such is a question the folks at the Associated Press should be asking themselves concerning a piece the wire service published Wednesday entitled "Nearly Half of US Households Escape Fed Income Tax: Recession, new tax credits have nearly half of US households paying no federal income tax."
In the same paragraph, author Stephen Ohlemacher predictably bashed former President George W. Bush's tax cuts that were "generous to wealthy taxpayers" while he applauded "tax cuts for low- and middle-income families, which were expanded when Obama signed the massive economic recovery package last year."
There's only one problem with this premise - the net result was that a higher percentage of people paid federal income taxes in Obama's first year in office than in Bush's last:
A recent blog post from Earl Devaney seeks to dispel several so-called myths involving the Recovery Board, but does little to dispel the notion that those operating the Recovery.gov Web site are woefully inept.
In fact, Devaney's defense for the ‘phantom' congressional districts (clerical errors), the claims that he reports to the Obama administration (they simply listen and adjust their thinking), and the complaint that Recovery.gov itself cost $18 million to overhaul (it might cost up to $18 million), make the operation look amateurish at best.
Couple all of this with stories of overly complicated systems involved in the stimulus application process, and inaccuracies in the reporting of supposed ‘two-time losers' - an error that prompted a statement of apology from the board -, and one can only envision those CareerBuilder monkey commercials from years past.
More troubling is Recovery.gov's insistence on using the phrase ‘jobs created' when tracking stimulus funds - as can be seen here on a report designed to show the viewer the ‘Most Jobs Created by State'. This comes nearly three months after Ed Pound, Spokesman for the Recovery Board, told ABC News that, "...since OMB is not going to use ‘jobs created or jobs saved' anymore, we're not going to use it either."
The reason the Office of Management and Budget was distancing itself from the phrase?
Wondering how much faith the left has in your ability to run your own life? Chris Matthews was brutally honest today when he criticized that "idealistic notion" of self-reliance that ignorant conservatives insist on pushing.
Matthews apparently believes that without massive social welfare programs like Medicare and Social Security, there would be "poor people all over the place, old people lying in the streets," and the nation would look like "Calcutta."
He made these absurd claims -- and they are absurd -- on yesterday's Hardball, and went on to call for a more robust "social state," complaining that lefty bloggers had not done enough to make it seem more desirable to the American people (h/t GatewayPundit).
Jesse Jackson, the civil rights leader, has moved on from the health care debate and found a new oppressed, downtrodden minority: student loan recipients. And naturally, the Huffington Post was happy to afford "the Reverend" a platform for his activism.
"A plan to earn debt forgiveness retroactively must be instituted at once as an acknowledgment that an entire generation is mired in tens of thousands of dollars in student debt," Jackson wrote. "Not every one of them will be able to write a blockbuster memoir to pay off student loans."
Although the federal government's latest takeover in student loans by "cutting out the middleman" pleased Jackson, he called on the Obama administration to take more drastic steps in today's "Second Great Depression."
"Students need more than good intentions," Jackson said. "They need a guarantee that the savings realized by cutting out the banks and Sallie Mae go mostly to them. There are lots of hands out for the income that direct student lending will generate. Some of it will go to subsidize universal access to health care. But most of it should go to students themselves," Jackson opined.
Good Morning America's Bill Weir and Reuters editor Chrystia Freeland on Saturday gushed over Obama administration talking points on the new unemployment numbers. After Weir talked about a White House-created graphic showing job losses slowing, Freeland unselfconsciously rhapsodized, "Well, I was going to say, what I think that first tells you is that [presidential adviser David] Axelrod is a really smart guy, because that is a beautiful graphic."
Continuing to tout how useful the show was being to the Obama administration, she added, "And I'm sure he's really, really happy to see it on TV." Perhaps wanting to spread the credit around, Weir complimented, "Might be [Obama adviser] David Plouffe who came up with that one, too."
Freeland couldn't get over the cleverness of this graphic, which featured the Obama logo, enthusing, "Okay! Okay. Both of you guys, well done." Now, it's one thing to repeat Democratic talking points, but to tout the brilliance of said talking points is quite another.
Democratic congressional efforts to steer the economy not working as advertised. The $787-billion stimulus passed back in early 2009 failed to curb unemployment as promised, and there are other risks of putting a blind trust in government to solve the nation's economic woes.
And to give credit where credit is due, CNN's Christine Romans is pointing these risks out. On the April 5 broadcast of "CNN Newsroom" hosted by Ali Velshi, Romans was asked about the politics of extending unemployment benefits, which were held up through the Easter recess by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. According to Romans, there is a tug-of-war going on in the Senate.
"The Senate Democrats say they are going to plug ahead and plow forward," Romans said. "The issue here is the same issue as last month basically. You have some Republicans - one in particular, Sen. Tom Coburn from Oklahoma - saying, ‘Look, we've got to be able to pay for this. Let's pay for it. Let's do it. It's the right thing to do to help people. Let's find a way to pay for it.' And you have Democrats who are saying, ‘No, this is emergency spending. This is an emergency. The jobless situation is an emergency. Let's just do it right now quickly without finding another way to pay for it.'"
Jason Mattera, author of "Obama Zombies" and newly appointed editor of Human Events, said "members in the media treat leftist politicians as though they are at a Jonas Brothers concert." He also had rather choice words for young Obama supporters stuck in a "brainless slumber" on Fox Business Channel's April 2 broadcast of "Imus in the Morning."
"Somebody about your age - mouthpiece of Franken - is trying to dissuade you from continuing that," host Don Imus noted upon viewing his guest's recent confrontation with Sen. Al Franken.
"Yea, he had his hands all over me like Eric Massa," Mattera joked.
And - in usual politically-correct fashion - he went on to address the devastating consequences that journalists and media bias has on the young generation.
"I just think that we know that members of the lame-stream media aren't gonna grill politicians," Mattera said. "Al Franken, Senator Smalley had no idea what was in the bill - and I'm not gonna sit down and play patty cake with the dude...So I mean I gotta go and confront the dude because we know members in the media treat leftist politicians as though they are at a Jonas Brothers concert. They're just fawning licking the heels of their favorite teen idol."
Is it possible to be so wrapped up in a media culture that one could minimize a sacred religious holiday in a shoddy attempt to write a clever headline? Mediaite's Tommy Christopher and his editors seemed to have pulled this feat off.
Christopher, who has had a much-publicized run-in with Andrew Breitbart, has a new hero, former American Enterprise Institute scholar David Frum. Christopher elevated Frum to messianic status in a Good Friday April 2 post headlined "Did David Frum ‘Die' For GOP's Sins?" specifically praising the former AEI scholar for his appearance on Comedy Central's April 1 "The Colbert Report."