On Sunday’s Face the Nation on CBS, fill-in host Chip Reid discussed the economic crisis with left-wing economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, wondering: "I know you've been arguing for a more progressive government for a long time and obviously at difficult times like this, I don't want to suggest that a recession is a good thing. But if looking back at this five years, or some number of years, from now, can you envision a country that is better off because of how it responded to this recession?"
In response, Krugman explained: "Well, if you believe, as I do, that we need a stronger social safety net, that we need universal healthcare, then the revelation of just how vulnerable we are when things go wrong is going to help." Krugman went on to praise the New Deal: "We came out of the New Deal, we came out of the 1930s, as a better country, a middle class country, where we had been in the Gilded Age. We came out as a country that took better care of its citizens."
Sure, its revenues might be plunging along with its share price, but the New York Times is still good for something. In these somber days of winter, the Gray Lady, her name notwithstanding, can still inject the sunshine of humor—albeit of the unintentional variety.
Take its current editorial, Getting Immigration Right -- please. With jobs at a premium and the collapse of the Big Three automakers attributable in no small part to the role of the unions, the Times naturally comes out in favor of:
making it easier for illegals to get into the country to compete for what jobs are left, and
granting the right of illegals once here to . . . unionize.
In 2005, I sensed that journalists in general prefer to call this time of the year in commerce that of “holiday shopping” instead of “Christmas shopping,” but that when it came to people losing their jobs, they preferred to describe layoffs as relating to “Christmas.” My instincts have been proven correct during the past three years.
So did anything change in 2008?
Not that much, but slightly in the secular direction. Here are the overall results of various relevant Google News searches for the past four years (searches have been done three times each year -- just before Thanksgiving, about weeks later, and shortly before Christmas Day; this years Parts 1 and 2 are here and here, respectively; image courtesy of commenter "siouxcityranch" at Dr. BLT's Blog n Roll Studio):
It's special treatment for automakers, according to a former airline executive.
Gordon Bethune, the former CEO of Continental Airlines (NYSE:CAL), now a CNBC contributor, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Dec. 19 the political process is being substituted for what otherwise should be a bankruptcy judge in determining the fate of the big three automakers.
"Wow, what makes them exempt from reality? What are the bankruptcy laws invented for?" Bethune asked. "I mean - if it works in airlines, works in steel - what's the matter with these guys? Why not have a judge decide instead of the political process? And, you know - you get some fairness in the federal court, so there's no excuse for this whole debacle I don't think."
"We're going to turn next to some of the extreme measures that some Americans are taking because of the faltering economy," Gibson said. "According to an ABC News Poll, more than one in four people say someone in their household has been fired, faced a cut in pay or a reduction in work hours. Facing mounting debts and dwindling finances, some people are deciding to put their bodies at risk."
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.
At the top of Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith teased an upcoming story about a protest by laid off workers at a Chicago factory: "Fighting back, workers stage a protest after being laid off, refusing to leave their Chicago factory until their demands are met...We'll take you there live and hear what they're fighting for." Later, co-host Maggie Rodriguez interviewed Leah Fried of the United Electrical Workers and liberal Congressman Luis Gutierrez, no spokesman for the management of the company, Republic Windows and Doors, was featured.
Rodriguez found the real culprit:
RODRIGUEZ: The company says that it had to close because Bank of America canceled their line of credit. I take it you're not buying that?
FRIED: Oh, no. Bank of America definitely is -- is in charge here.
RODRIGUEZ: But I'm saying that you're not satisfied with that explanation?
FRIED: No, no -- well this is the same bank that got $25 billion in bailout funds, so I think we definitely need to hold them accountable for what they do to our economy and whether or not they're investing in jobs, whether or not they're keeping people employed. So we're -- we're fighting hard to make sure that Bank of America is held accountable for what they're doing and the workers feel very strongly that -- that they need to do the right thing here.
The failure of American media to properly vet the political beliefs of Barack Obama during the just concluded presidential campaign was on full display Sunday when the president-elect made clear just how much of a socialist he really is, and did so with nary a challenge from "Meet the Press" moderator Tom Brokaw.
Makes you wonder what the results might have been on November 4 if the press had done its job in exposing Obama's radical economic beliefs rather than attacking Joe the Plumber for suggesting he had them, and how much differently his appearance on "Meet the Press" would have gone Sunday if the moderator wasn't completely on board with these left-leaning philosophies.
Such is important when considering Obama's comments previously reported by NewsBusters here and here as well as a truly telling statement by the president-elect that working for your own financial benefit is "not good for anybody" (video available here):
Those who thought that President-elect Obama's pre-Thanksgiving promise to "create or save jobs," appropriately satirized by Mark Finkelstein at NewsBusters on November 24, might have been another one of the Oh-So-(in)Articulate One's "inartful" statements should know that it has become standard fare in Obama speeches.
In related news, Uncle Sam told us Friday that over 136 million seasonally adjusted jobs were "saved"in November (go here to replicate):
Never mind the 533,000 seasonally adjusted jobs lost -- which illustrates just how risible Obama's promise shift from the presidential campaign really is. Old Media's failure to note this shift is journalistic malpractice that would never occur during a Republican presidency.
In today's coverage of Uncle Sam's Employment Situation Report, the Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa showed no real curiosity as to why November's seasonally adjusted job loss was so much higher than September's or October's. There's a reason for that.
I have noted for quite a while (previous NB-posted examples are here, here, and here) that the business press, led by AP, has repeatedly and erroneously reported seasonally adjusted job gain or loss figures from the government as if they reflect what actually occurred on the ground.
That has usually given reporters like Aversa and other free rein to pretend that real jobs were "slashed" and "vanished" -- even in months where there have been actual but less-than-satisfactory job gains.
Seasonally adjusting the numbers smooths them out, and is a perfectly defensible statistical technique. But anyone who understands what is going on would have to know that since today's seasonally adjusted 533,000-job loss for November was much worse than October's loss of 320,000, something very ugly must have occurred during the most recent month.
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."
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.
That appears to be Jim Cramer's philosophy. The CNBC "Mad Monday" host told NBC "Today" show viewers Dec. 2 that comparisons between the current economy and the Great Depression were inappropriate.
"[T]hat's got to be taken off the table," Cramer told "Today" host Meredith Vieira. "There have been enough things done by this government to absolutely preclude that. I, myself, do not want to use that term ever again on the ‘Today' show even to compare it. Things are very different. We do need help from Europe; we need help from China. But take the Great Depression talk off the table. That is scare tactics."
"I'm reluctant to start talking like that," Cramer said of describing the current recession as "the longest since World War II," as Vieira did. "I've adopted a ‘just the facts, ma'am,' approach, kind of a little bit more of a ‘Dragnet' approach, so to speak. Because when we give those characterizations what happens is we can affect things."
He was right. Comparisons to the Great Depression are way off the mark - Cramer makes them enough, he ought to know.
On Sunday’s Chris Matthews Show, host Matthews led the panel in a discussion over whether conservatives would choose to cooperate with the Obama administration in making "historic changes" to repair the economy, rather than stand in opposition to his programs. The premise of the discussion seemed to be that times are too serious for conservatives to dare dissent from Obama’s plans. At one point, David Ignatius of the Washington Post suggested that "thoughtful" Republicans will work with Obama as he referred to John McCain’s concession speech. Ignatius: "I thought that John McCain set the tone for thoughtful Republicans in his concession speech election night, where he reached out to Obama. He was remarkably generous. One of the best speeches he's ever made, in my book."
As he teased the show, Matthews seemed to wonder if Republicans would try to stand in the way of Obama accomplishing "great things," or if they would see the light and cooperate. Matthews: "Will the mountain of crises our country faces make Barack Obama do great things? And with all the crises, will even Republicans see historic steps are required?"
At this time of year, columns like Derrick Z. Jackson's of today condemning the materialism of the Christmas shopping season are as traditional as Budweiser's Clydesdale-drawn sleigh commercial. And part of me is sympathetic with Jackson's call for people to spurn the malls and curtail their gift-giving budgets.
But this of all years, did the Boston Globe columnist consider the disastrous consequences for the economy and the lives of millions of Americans if people were actually to heed his advice? Apparently not. Jackson's radical suggestion [emphasis added]:
I have a suggestion for these holidays. The average American, according to the government, consumes six times more energy than the world average. Take whatever you spent on gifts last year, slash 5/6ths of it, and see what you can do with the rest - unless of course you make a charitable donation. You're broke anyway, right, so what's the harm?
It's a good thing Barack Obama was elected. Otherwise, the nation's glum Thanksgiving mood might have been downright funereal. At least, that's the impression the New York Times gives in its decidedly downbeat article about the holiday.
"In Lean Times, Comfort in a Bountiful Meal" tells the story of people from coast to coast virtually weeping into their turkey and cranberry sauce. Whether it's a Los Angeles illustrator whose work has fallen 50%, a youngish Ohio husband and wife who've both lost their jobs, or even an equities trader on the Upper West Side who can't bear to open his personal investment statements, the prevailing mood is blue.
With one bright exception: at least we have Obama.
As the Christmas shopping season went into full swing in 2005, I sensed that journalists in general have a strong preference for using the term "holiday shopping" instead of "Christmas shopping" when covering business and commerce, but that when it came to people losing their jobs, they preferred to describe layoffs as relating to "Christmas."
My instincts have been proven correct, as you can see below from the results of three different sets of Google News searches in November and December in each of the last three years (links to last year's related posts are here, here, and here; 2006's are here, here, and here; 2005's are here, here, and here):
Transcript from press conference of Pres. Barack Obama, Feb. 12th, 2011:
CNSNEWS.COM: Mr. President, when you first took office you promised to create 2.5 million jobs by January, 2011. But the Labor Department report issued yesterday indicates that in fact 1.7 million jobs were lost during that period. Why did your plan fail?
PRES. BARACK OBAMA: Ah, but it didn't fail. To the contrary, we succeeded beyond all expectations. You misquoted our promise. We said we would create or "save" 2.5 million jobs. And a report prepared by my White House team being distributed to you demonstrates that had we not taken the bold steps we did back in 2009, we would by now have lost 5.8 million jobs. We therefore in fact saved 4.1 million jobs, more than 50% greater than the number of jobs we promised to save. So our program has been a huge success. Let's see, Keith, you had a question?
KEITH OLBERMANN: Yes, Mr. President. You are so wonderful, sir. Please comment, if you would, sir.
The "or save" makes Obama's plan virtually fail-proof. No matter how many jobs are lost, Obama will always be able to claim that things would have been much worse were it not for his plan. To his credit, NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd pointed out the verbal sleight of hand on today's Morning Joe.
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):
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:
Barney Frank favors bailing out the Detroit automakers over letting them go into bankruptcy. Chief among his concerns is that bankruptcy might "bust" the unions. You know, those organizations whose contract demands have put Detroit on the brink of extinction.
The Massachusetts Dem, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, was interviewed by Maggie Rodriguez on today's Early Show. He appeared alongside Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Al.), ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, who favors letting the automakers reorganize under Chapter 11.
Repent, all ye owners of Suburbans, thou drivers of Explorers. Mend thy ways, ye Escalade-loving louts! Take heed of the warning the prophet Mika has vouchsafed unto you: greedy thou art; verily, destroyers of the environment be thee!
Oy. Mika Brzezinski was on quite a roll this morning. On the one hand, free-marketers would find much to agree with in Mika's arguments. As noted here yesterday, whereas Joe Scarborough has been vigorously advocating a federal rescue of Detroit, Brzezinski favors bankruptcy over bailout. But Mika couldn't help muddling her message, delivering a jeremiad against Detroit for producing larger vehicles and Americans for buying them, actually condemning the latter as "greedy."
Well, they held out as long as the could. But now that the presidential election is over, layoffs in the news business have begun.
Newsosaur predicted as much on the Sunday before the election, and pointed to a major reason:
Public confidence in the mainstream media has been eroding for at least a decade.
The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press reported that only 19% of respondents trusted their local newspapers in 2006, as compared with 29% in 1998. In the same period, trust in national newspapers slid to 21% from 32%, broadcast news fell to 22% from 27% and cable news slipped to 25% from 37%. Confidence in the National Enquirer, however, doubled to 6%.
Job losses announced at Time Inc., which went through a significant shrinkage just two years ago, and Al Gore's Current Media are among the first in what will almost certainly be a long line of similar reports in the coming months.
Here, from Ad Week, is a capsule of what's going down at Time:
To show how foolishly hyperbolic the Old Media and the ignorati in our universities are, the Associated Press issued a dire report that breathlessly informed us all that Barack Obama is facing a "nation in crisis" and it's all "just like Lincoln and FDR." The AP even gets an historically illiterate university professor to sonorously declare how Obama is "one step away" from Lincoln and FDR. But a review of our nation's real history shows that the America Obama will inherit is in nowhere near the state of crisis that Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to deal with. But, in the end, this isn't about real reporting or true historiography but about pumping Obama up and trying to shoehorn him in among what are considered by many our greatest presidents before he's even taken office.
The absurd hyperbole and wild stretching of the historical record to give gravity to Obama's reign is transparent for its effort to force readers into imagining that Obama should be given a mandate to do anything he wants. I'd suggest that the reason this foolish overestimate of our state of national "crisis" is being ladled out to an unsuspecting public is because the AP realizes that Obama did not get a mandate vote and the AP fears that Obama might face more resistance than it would like to his starkly socialist policy proscriptions. So, the AP is trying its best to break down those barriers beforehand.
President-elect Obama's economic plans aren't left-wing and government-centered enough for CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, who about 20 minutes after Obama's Friday afternoon press conference shared his personal suggestion for another WPA (Works Progress Administration) and/or CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), two government make-work programs from the 1930s. To a guest who lived through the Depression as a child, Sanchez proposed: “I'm thinking WPA, I'm thinking it may be time for Americans to do something like that once again because there's so many people unemployed and there's so much that needs to be done in this country.”
With another guest in the same 3:30 PM EST segment, Sanchez cited energy requirements and wondered: “Isn't this the kind of need that could be met by American workers if the government created a WPA or CCC plan?”
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.
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: