Just four days before the election, the network news shows downplayed reports of a major drop in the unemployment rate and the creation of 231,000 new jobs. CBS’s Katie Couric groused, “But do the jobs out there pay enough?” NBC’s Brian Williams declared, “That was below expectations,” and ABC’s Charles Gibson gave the issue a total of 15 seconds.
That wasn’t the way the networks handled bad news in 2002 and 2004, when the final employment reports before Election Day were disappointing. On both occasions, ABC’s “World News Tonight” began its broadcast discussing the negative reports.
This reminds me of something blogger Ace of Spades mentioned to me some time ago about how it's not just the words, it's the pictures. Seemingly without exception, stories about the economy durng the 1990s had images or video of machines producing currency, cash registers ringing, and heavy traffic inside shopping malls. When's the last time anyone saw any of this in a news report about this very good economy?
In an interview with Vice President Dick Cheney excerpted on ABC's World News on Friday night, George Stephanopoulos cited the “exceptionally low” 4.4 percent October unemployment rate announced earlier in the day -- down two-tenths from September to the lowest since early 2001 -- and wondered: “Why don't you think the President's getting more credit for that?" Cheney blamed the media: “Well, you guys don't help. The fact of course is that what's news is if there's bad news and that gets coverage. But the good news that's out there day after day after day doesn't get as much attention.”
Indeed, Cheney was prescient. On Friday night ABC limited coverage to the Stephanopoulos question and 15 seconds from anchor Charles Gibson nearly 19 minutes into the newscast while CBS, and NBC to a lesser extent, spun the good news into bad. NBC's Brian Williams gave it just 20 seconds as he reported “employers added 92,000 jobs in October,” but added how “that was below expectations.” Williams skipped how the August and September job numbers were revised to show 139,000 more jobs created. And though wages have grown by 3.9 percent over the past 12 months, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric used the lower unemployment news as a segue to ask: “But do the jobs out there pay enough? A big issue in the battle for Congress this year is how much the lowest-paid workers make.” Viewers then saw a full story on the plight of minimum wage workers and how raising it is "resonating" with voters. (Transcript follows)
At the MRC's Business & Media Institute (BMI), we've tracked CNN's war on the economy. Today, Fox News's Brenda Buttner took on the media's negative slant with some cold hard facts:
“If you listen to the Democrats or listen to much of our media, our economy is in dire straights, but pay attention just to the numbers, well they tell a very different story... Number one, Americans employed, there's essentially full employment in the U.S..."
Buttner added that despite media talk of the housing slowdown, the "bottom line [is that] more and more of us today are fortunate enough to enjoy a piece of the American Dream" as 70 percent of Americans own their home.
CNN might well prove a one-network full employment plan for myself and my colleagues at the MRC's Business & Media Institute, with its ongoing attacks against the strong economy.
You might even say CNN has gone to war against it.
That's the conclusion my colleagues Amy Menefee and Julia Seymour arrived at with their October 25 article.
CNN is no “CSI,” but its reporters and anchors keep declaring things dead. They’ve called the American dream “impossible” and “a lost cause” and said the middle class is “in crisis” or going “out of business” – all in the month of October.
“We hear every day on CNN that the middle class is getting beaten up and that it’s eroding,” said author Barbara Ehrenreich on the October 21 “In the Money.”
Last Wednesday, CNN aired Lou Dobbs's special "War on the Middle Class." Three days later, CNN's "In the Money" continued the network's pitched battle for more government regulation of the economy with the program's uncritical treatment of guest Barbara Ehrenreich.
Here's a bit of what my colleague Julia Seymour noticed from her review of the October 21 program. Her full article can be found here.
The financial program devoted just under five minutes to what amounted to a free advertisement for United Professionals (UP), a new organization co-founded by “Nickel and Dimed” author Barbara Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich is also author of “Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream.” She said the organization’s current function is “providing a way for people to come together, share their experiences and talk about what they’ve been going through” at a cost of $36.50 in annual dues.
Those of us that study the economy and how it is reported by the drive-by media are constantly amazed by how those covering financial issues continually misrepresent statistics to advance their agenda. No finer recent example has occurred than on “The Chris Matthews Show” Sunday when the host bemoaned new highs set by the Dow Jones Industrial Average last week as not accurately reflecting what is going on in the economy.
In his final segment, Matthews actually had the nerve to state, “Eighty percent of the workforce finds their paycheck barely keeping up with inflation.” In reality, nothing could be further from the truth, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics just this past Wednesday released data indicating that the average American's real wage after adjusting for inflation has risen by 2.2 percent since September 2005 as reported by NewsBusters.
Matthews also referenced a recent Wall Street Journal poll suggesting:
In his “New Rules” segment on Friday night’s “Real Time”, host Bill Maher strongly attacked some of America’s leading conservatives, as well as right-wing think tanks for having been so wrong in their predictions about the Iraq war. Yet, in his rant against such entities and their inability to accurately forecast the future, Maher didn’t mention one liberal or left-leaning group that has been just as wrong about events crucial to Americans, including those that have been disseminating consistently bearish views about the economy in the midst of 20 straight quarters of growth (video to follow).
One of the continual carps of the media concerning the current economic expansion has been that only low-paying jobs are being created that aren’t keeping up with inflation. Well, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday:
Average weekly earnings rose by 4.0 percent, seasonally adjusted, from September 2005 to September 2006. After deflation by the CPI-W, average weekly earnings increased by 2.2 percent. Before adjustment for seasonal change and inflation, average weekly earnings were $571.89 in September 2006, compared with $549.86 a year earlier.
One would expect this to be welcome news to Americans. Alas, it is unlikely they will hear about it, because the media don’t report economic data that go counter to their view of the world.
Quite the contrary, as reported by the Business & Media Institute, when positive news about inflation-adjusted earnings was released by the Census Bureau in August, the press largely ignored it. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien even reported the exact opposite finding in a September 4 interview with Labor Secretary Elaine Chao:
It takes a lot of effort to miss 810,000 new jobs. The Labor Department managed it, but at least they corrected the problem. The networks have over-reported job losses and now this huge piece of good news got lost in the shuffle.
The October 8 Washington Post highlighted the incredible revision. “Unemployment is down to 4.6 percent, the lowest in five years, the Labor Department reported, adding with some embarrassment that it had suddenly discovered an estimated 810,000 net new jobs that it had somehow overlooked in the year ended in March,” wrote Steven Pearlstein.
Friday's CBS Evening News led again with the Foley/page scandal, even though the two stories aired offered virtually no fresh information, as anchor Katie Couric justified the news judgment by declaring the issue is “still the talk of the town,” “is not going away” and “is overshadowing every other election issue for the moment” -- all self-fulfilling assessments sustained by the decisions of Couric and her media colleagues. Couric then moved on to Republican Senator John Warner's warning that Iraq is drifting “side-wise,” a comment trumpeted by Brian Williams at the start of the NBC Nightly News, which also led with the page scandal: “When a key Republican Senator comes home from Iraq and says the U.S. has to re-think its strategy, is this a new turning point?”
Buried: The drop in the unemployment rate. ABC's World News, which unlike CBS and NBC, led with something other than the Foley fallout (the fire at a chemical plant in North Carolina), ignored it. CBS Evening News viewers only heard of the positive trend from a clip of President Bush in the middle of Gloria Borger's lead story on how the parties are reacting to the Foley matter: “Today we got more good news: National unemployment rate is down to 4.6 percent." Only NBC offered an actual news report, 20 seconds in length, on the latest numbers.
When Ben Cardin, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Maryland, appeared on this afternoon's Hardball, host Chris Matthews played a Cardin TV ad most of which was taken up by Cardin informing voters that:
"I always try to do what's right, what's in the best interest of Maryland families: taking on the drug companies, the oil companies, the insurance companies."
Let's first note Cardin's daring admission that he tries to do 'what's right.' Bold stuff! Actually, come to think of the track record of Maryland politicians when it comes to obeying the law, maybe it is a rather maverick position after all.
But moving to the meat of his message, is this the platform that Dems in general and Cardin in particular want to offer voters? Vote for us: we'll attack our country's biggest employers and taxpayers! You might call the platform: Cardin vs. Capitalism.
The August jobs report should put to rest any fears that the economy is burning out. Following upwardly revised increases for June (134,000) and July (121,000), companies added 128,000 nonfarm payrolls last month. Meanwhile, the all-important but rarely mentioned household survey of people working gained by 250,000, sending the unemployment rate back to 4.7 percent from the July reading of 4.8 percent.
The cult of the bear, fussing about a housing-related recession, has once more been proven wrong.
The August employment showed once again that, with rare exception, there has been a fundamental disconnect between the number of new jobs reported in the Establishment Survey (phone calls to employers) compared to the Household Survey (calls to households). It's a difference that has been building since the economy began righting itself after enduring and adjusting to the trauma of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The Brahmins might no longer rule the Bay State, but their tradition lives on in the editorial room of the Boston Globe. And what better occasion than Labor Day for the elitist Globe to condescend to workers in a manner that might have brought a smile to the lips of a Lowell or Cabot?
The topic of Labor Day, 2006 is one in great fashion in MSM circles: the horrors of Wal-Mart - and the joys of unionism. According to the Globe, "unionized workers earn on average $1.52 an hour more than those in similar occupations without union representation."
Alack - in the Globe's mind - Wal-Mart workers are too dumb to realize this. With a paternalistic pat on the head, the Globe observes: "[Wal-Mart] employees don't like to think they are patsies." Translation: they are patsies; they're just not smart enough to realize it.
Complete this sentence: The American Dream is the notion that all Americans, regardless of race, country of origin or obstacles to overcome can succeed, providing they . . .
I'm guessing that for most people, the answer is along the lines "work hard."
Not for the Boston Globe. In an editorial of this morning, American Dream Hopes, the Globe has managed to stand the American Dream on its head. What is required to achieve the American Dream is not self-reliance, hard work, gumption, etc. No, what we need to succeed are government-provided or inspired "housing, employment, diversity, justice, access to technology, education, and healthcare." The editorial later makes clear it is talking about 'affordable housing.' Yet another element of restoring the American Dream: jail diversion programs. But of course!
Nothing can put a bigger smile on an old cynic’s face than the normally predictable throwing a twelve to six curveball. Such is what occurred this morning when I opened up a Newsweek article by Robert Samuelson entitled: “Utterly Shameless; How could President Bush publicly brag about a federal budget with a $296 billion deficit?”
After seeing that head and sub-line, I prepared to do battle with what I expected to be the usual liberal mantra concerning budget deficits. Unfortunately, Samuelson didn’t cooperate, for scattered throughout his text was more sense coming from a Newsweek columnist not named George Will than I had seen in decades.
Now, I must caution the reader ahead of time to be prepared for some almost unprecedented sanity from this unlikely source (emphasis mine):
In Washington these days, all eyes are directed to the White House as literally the center of the political universe. President Bush’s job approval rating is the benchmark by which the left measures his clout – and by contrast, its own. When he is brought low, it means they are having a good year.
This is especially true for the national news media, which can barely refrain from a collective self-satisfied smirk these days. But here’s the funny thing. Nobody looks at <ital>their<ital> approval rating. A Harris poll in February found that only 25 percent said they have a “great deal of confidence” in the White House – but only 19 percent had great confidence in TV news, and only 14 percent for “the press” in general.
A week after ignoring the announcement of a roaring 5.3 percent GDP growth rate in the first quarter, and on the day unemployment fell a tenth of a point to 4.6 percent -- the lowest level since July of 2001 -- the CBS Evening News decided to lead Friday with how, as anchor Russ Mitchell put it: “There are new signs this evening that the economy is slowing down.” Reporter Anthony Mason asserted that “rising interest rates and rising gas prices are beginning to put the brakes on the U.S. economy." Mason laid out the bad news: "The newest numbers, just 75,000 jobs were added to the economy last month, well below forecasts. Manufacturing lost 14,000 jobs. But retail took the biggest hit, losing more than 27,000" and “the other hammer to the economy came from the once-booming construction sector. It came to a standstill in May.” Mason concluded with his own domino theory: "One major builder reported a nearly 30 percent drop in new orders for the past two months. Now that ripples right through the economy. Buying slows, then building slows, then hiring slows. And that, Russ, is why the economy is slowing."
On NBC, in contrast, Anne Thompson noted how “cuts on factory floors and at the country's retailers held back job gains for the second straight month,” but she characterized those as “signs analysts say of an economy that is slowing but not in trouble." Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, then emphasized how the economy “is throttling back from very rapid growth earlier in the year, but it is still a very strong economy, an economy that will perform well going forward." (Transcripts follow)
Christian Science Monitor reveals what most economists have known for years. Free Market Project
For years, the media have been telling Americans the economy, though growing, is not producing good jobs. From Lou Dobbs’ continuous rant at CNN about “The War on the Middle Class” to the Washington Post’s E. J. Dionne claiming in a February 21 op-ed that “The decline of manufacturing employment means the economy is producing fewer well-paying jobs,” the media mantra has been that wage gains during this recovery have been very disappointing.
“Now Democrats have argued, though, that under the Bush administration, Americans have seen wages remain flat, also high health care costs and high heating oil and gas prices,” CNN’s Elaine Quijano reiterated on an April 15 “CNN Live” report.
After a longtime “Chicken Little” media view of the labor markets, The Christian Science Monitor finally broke from the pack in an April 11 article by Mark Trumbull stating the “Newest job numbers show that businesses are expanding opportunities in high-wage fields.”
Just two days earlier, however, The New York Times asserted that “New technology and low-cost labor in places like China and India have put downward pressure on the wages and benefits of the average American worker.”
Who’s right? Well, the Monitor used some highly-regarded economists to support its assertions:
In the past couple of weeks as illegal immigration has dominated the front pages and the lead stories of virtually every network’s evening news program, you haven’t been able to swing a gato muerto without hitting some pundit or broadcaster discussing the “unwanted jobs” being taken by undocumented workers. In fact, according to LexisNexis, there have been over two hundred news reports since this brouhaha began containing the phrase “jobs Americans won’t do.”
Jobs Americans won’t do? Excuse me?
I don’t know about you, but I find this concept almost as offensive as racial epithets directed at illegal immigrants. After all, is there really a job that Americans won’t do, and, if so, why?
On the other hand, if this is indeed not the case, but rather a convenient media affectation to simplify a complex problem for those with lukewarm intelligence quotients, what is the truth that is clearly eluding the talking headless?
To answer this question, I delved into the hallowed halls of employment data buried deep in the recesses of the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics…God bless me. There, I found answers that some might find rather shocking.
A New York Times reporter who called recent corporate layoffs “worse than the Great Depression” was the paper’s choice to write about the positive job growth in the economy.
Reporter Louis Uchitelle authored somewhat critical view of the latest unemployment report by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That report showed a 211,000-job gain in March 2006 and a low jobless rate of 4.7 percent. By comparison, nearly one in four Americans was without work in the early 1930s.
Despite low unemployment and 31 straight months of job gains, economics writer and author Louis Uchitelle calls for federal laws to restrict corporate layoffs, a policy even a liberal Berkeley economist questions.
The quintessential item of conventional wisdom on immigration is the impracticality of deporting the estimated 11-12 million illegal aliens already in our country. Yet there are dissenters. Conservative columnist and former Reagan aide Jim Pinkerton has said "I think actually you could if you wanted to."
I've suggested that deporting illegals seems at least as practicable as administering the amnesty program. In the same piece in which Pinkerton's quote appears, I put it this way:
"[D]eporting illegal immigrants is much more feasible than the elaborate process the amnesty crowd proposes. Under the amnesty plan, the same 11-12 million illegals would have to be identified and located. They would have to be tested to determine if they had attained English proficiency, monitored for over a decade to see that they sought and maintained jobs, paid their fines, etc. If we can do all that, why couldn't we put the same people on buses to the border or planes to overseas locations?"
NBC and MSNBC have a penchant for gulling viewers into believing they are presenting balanced panels by pairing a partisan Democrat with Pat Buchanan. The sleight-of-hand recently reached an apex when the Today show mislabeled Buchanan a "Republican strategist." Buchanan - the fellow who quit the GOP in 1999 to run for president against W as the candidate of the Reform Party. See report with revealing screen shot here.
Any pretense that Buchanan is anything but a Bush administration critic often more in synch with the Democrats than the GOP was stripped away on this evening's Hardball, when a partisan Democrat let the cat out of the bag.
As millions of college students enjoy spring break, a respected employment firm gave them an early graduation gift: a report showing that the class of 2006 faces the best labor market in five years. But while the media frequently relay reports from Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, the new report has largely been ignored in the media.
Reuters news wire reported on March 20:
In its annual outlook of entry-level jobs, Challenger, Gray & Christmas said strong job growth and falling unemployment makes this spring the hottest job market for America's 1.4 million college graduates since the dot-com collapse in 2001.
The firm pointed to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers which showed employers plan to hire 14.5 percent more new college graduates than a year ago.
Ellen Ratner has nailed a 'No Foreigners Need Apply' sign to the Statue of Liberty. On this morning's Fox & Friends Weekend, Ratner opined that no foreign company, regardless of nationality, should operate our ports, or for that matter other significant chunks of our economy.
Claimed Ratner, the real issue is "what kind of jobs, what kind of outsourcing are we going to do in this country?"
When fellow "Long & the Short of It" guest Jim Pinkerton said that foreign policy considerations [such as the potential relevance of the port deal to our ability to get intelligence and site bases in the Middle East] are more important than who gets port jobs, Ratner replied skeptically "is it?" Apparently for Ratner, the ability of the longshoremen's union to place a favored few of its own is more important than our country's national security objectives.
More than 2 million new jobs were created in 2005 but that wasn’t the story presented by the evening news. The three broadcast networks downplayed strong growth and, instead, emphasized negatives such as corporate layoffs and outsourcing in more than half the stories about jobs or unemployment. As Trish Regan of “CBS Evening News” put it in the July 20 broadcast, “Twenty-five thousand layoffs and more on the way. I’m Trish Regan with why the jobs picture is looking very ‘pink’ these days.”
Ford Motor Company's recently-announced layoffs are the result of years of declining market share coupled with rising labor costs. But while the media have relayed information on Ford's declining market share, they've avoided discussing the role labor unions have had in driving up costs.
One such burden the media have ignored are "jobs banks" which companies like Ford and GM created in the mid-80s as a concession to the United Auto Workers. The Detroit Free Press reports that Ford pays out about $140 million per year from Ford's job bank, Guaranteed Employment Numbers (GEN), to some 1,100 presently-unemployed workers.
None of the Jan. 23 network newscasts mentioned the costly GEN program nor an alternative severance package Ford has for workers which would pay $15,000 per year in tuition for each fired worker.
The Times again looks for holes in the strong U.S. economy, this time on the front page of Sunday’s special Job Market section, in a report by Eduardo Porter, “Pockets of Concern Slow a Strong U.S. Economy.” The caption to an accompanying chart emphasizes “A Weak Jobs Recovery.”
Times readers may find the article’s tone familiar. Here’s Porter from Sunday:
“If you believe most statistics, the national economy is doing quite well. Corporate profits are soaring. Consumer spending and business investment have been growing at a healthy clip. In the third quarter of last year, output expanded at an annual pace of about 4.1 percent. And private-sector economists are expecting growth above 3.5 percent this year. Yet, amid the vim and vigor, there is a weak spot that does not quite mesh with these readings. More than four years since the economy emerged from recession in November of 2001, businesses are still not hiring much. Employment grew by a mere 3.5 million jobs, or 2.7 percent, in 49 months' worth of this economic expansion. Last year, the job market grew by 1.5 percent.”
In many respects, 2005 was the strongest economic year the United States has experienced since 1999. The Gross Domestic Product continued its uninterrupted string of consecutive 3-percent or better quarterly increases – 10 quarters in a row, the longest streak since the mid-’80s. The nation added 2 million new non-farm payroll jobs. The average net wealth of the citizenry reached another all-time high – a total of more than $51 trillion – by the third quarter of 2005. And, as the Labor Department just reported on January 18, inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index was virtually the same in 2005 as it was in 2004, while rising at the core level (excluding energy and food) at the average rate for the last decade.
Yet, regardless of the continuous stream of positive economic news, CNN financial reports were normally quite bearish all year, in particular asserting that wages weren’t keeping up with inflation, causing the average worker to lose ground financially. Phrases like “falling wages have turned an assault on the middle class into a war on the middle class” and “The new jobs that are being created are by and large low-wage jobs” were uttered on a fairly regular basis during CNN broadcasts throughout 2005. A Free Market Project analysis of CNN’s newscasts on wages and inflation throughout the year revealed that journalists touted the relationship between wages and inflation as a cause for concern, instead of the positive sign of economic recovery that it really was.