Despite all the gloom and doom, the employment picture in April was much better than economists had expected, and, maybe more important, quite different than the Hooveresque, Depression Era picture media members have been painting for months.
Makes you wonder if in press rooms all around America, as well as in Democrat campaign headquarters across the fruited plain, there was a huge sigh of disappointment at 8:30 AM EDT when the Labor Department released the data.
Critical updates at end of post including FAR better-than-expected factory orders report!
As such, without further ado, here's the news most people in the nation actually hoping for a good economy will be glad to hear:
Would it have been any better for Barack Obama to have said people "rely" on bigotry rather than "cling" to it? I don't think so, but apparently he does . . .
This morning's "Today" aired an extended clip from an interview Meredith Vieira recently conducted of Barack and Michelle Obama. The full interview will be shown Saturday on MSNBC. While I didn't detect any blockbuster moments, there were a few notable nuggets.
On the issue of why he didn't distance himself from Rev. Wright sooner, Obama says: "When those first snippets came out, I thought it was important to give him the benefit of the doubt." That would suggest Obama actually had some doubt as to where Rev. Wright stood. Is that credible, after 20 years in the angry pastor's pews?
The Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa really should change her writing focus, because economics is clearly not her specialty.
After telling readers in March that "Dangerous cracks in the nation's job market" are "ominous signs that the country is falling toward a recession or has already toppled into one," Aversa had the gall to report Wednesday, "The bruised economy limped through the first quarter of this year at a six-tenths of a percentage point growth rate as housing and credit problems forced people and businesses alike to hunker down."
Are you joking? You, your wire service, and virtually every media outlet in the nation have been telling Americans that we're already in a recession. A government report comes out saying that we're not, and this is how you begin your article covering the surprising announcement?
How disgraceful. Sadly, that was just the beginning (emphasis added, h/t NB reader PunditDotCom):
High food prices may be affecting middle-income families, but an anecdotal report on CBS's "The Early Show" April 28 made the situation seem as if one family's use of a food bank was "the new face of hunger."
CBS reporter Priya David highlighted Pablo and Ada Melecio, a couple who recently lost their jobs and have elected to use a food bank to make ends meet. Ada Melecio said their "mortgage payments started falling behind and all the interest on that plus all the credit cards" were making their situation even worse.
Friday's 20/20 aired a piece on liberal columnist Arianna Huffington in which ABC host John Stossel got to challenge Huffington's views on issues like welfare, OSHA regulations, and the "lunatic fringe" of the Republican party. When Stossel took her to task for living in a $7 million home that is "burning more carbon than 100 people in the Third World" even while she is part of the "war on global warming," Huffington responded: "There is no question that the fact that I'm living in a big house, I occasionally travel on private planes, all those things are a contradiction. I'm not setting myself up as some paragon who only goes around on a bicycle and lives by candlelight." (Transcript follows)
The unemployment rate in most states has gone up from September 2007 to March 2008. In states where the rate has gone down, none has shown an improvement like that seen in the Sooner State -- not even close.
Why is that?
What has happened in Oklahoma that hasn't happened elsewhere?
For months, NewsBusters has been warning readers of the likelihood that media will adopt the 1992 Clinton playbook of regularly depicting the economy as being far worse than it really is.
On Sunday, the Democratic National Committee released a new television advertisement attacking GOP presidential candidate John McCain with economic statistics that don't measure up to even the slightest scrutiny.
With this in mind, will press outlets this campaign season investigate the economic claims being made by the candidates and their supporters, or allow inaccuracies present in this ad (embedded video to the right), and likely others in the months to come, to go completely unchallenged?
Consider the following written statement in this ad supposedly answering the question "Are Americans better off than they were 8 years ago?":
Do we all get free wooden shoes? Barack Obama didn't say. But he does have an Impossible Dream to cut poverty that would make Don Quixote proud. Put people to work . . . building windmills. His idea came in response to a question at last night's Compassion Forum on CNN from Jim Wallis, a leading member of the religious left whose focus is "social justice." Wallis wanted Obama to commit to a new War on Poverty.
JIM WALLIS: As you reminded us a week or two ago, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed 40 years ago, he wasn't just speaking about civil rights. He was fighting for economic justice. Was about to launch a poor people's campaign. Yet, four decades after the anniversary of his death, the poverty rate in America is virtually unchanged and 1 in 6 of our children are poor in the richest nation in the world. So in the faith community, we are wanting a new commitment around a measurable goal, something like cutting poverty in half in ten years. Would you commit -- would you at this historic compassion forum, commit to such a goal tonight and if elected, tell us how you would mobilize the nation, mobilize us to achieve that goal?
Surely, you'd think, the candidate wouldn't fall into that big-government trap. Think again . . .
CORRECTION: This item originally cited Ace of Spades as having uncovered that Obama's mentor was Frank Marshall Davis, a man with Communist roots. It was in fact Cliff Kincaid at Accuracy in Media. I regret the error.
Religion is the opiate of the masses. -- Karl Marx, 1843
It's not surprising that they get bitter, they cling to . . . religion . . . as a way to explain their frustrations. -- Barack Obama, 2008
Has anyone else pointed out the striking similarity between Barack Obama's recent statement about tough economic times driving people to religion and that of another person who preached change: Karl Marx?
Obama added guns and xenophobia to his list of proletarian elixirs for bitterness. But the fundamental point remains: Barack apparently doesn't take religion, his own or anyone else's, too seriously. It's not a search for truth or an attempt to live in accordance with God's word. It's just a way to get by, a stupefacient that helps proles endure the pain of living in an economy unfairly dominated by the "haves." Karl would concur.
This morning's Today did take up the controversy that Obama's remark has kicked up. View video here.
Is it just me, or is the Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa doing an end-zone dance because she thinks that the recession Old Media has been pining for has finally arrived?
Someone needs to remind her that one negative quarter, if it even occurs, does not a recession make.
In an early-Saturday story on the economy, Aversa treated the recession as a lock in her first paragraph, even though the fifth paragraph betrayed uncertainty (bolds are mine):
It's no longer a question of recession or not. Now it's how deep and how long. Workers' pink slips stacked ever higher in March as jittery employers slashed 80,000 jobs, the most in five years, and the national unemployment rate climbed to 5.1 percent. Job losses are nearing the staggering level of a quarter-million this year in just three months.
Did you know that 574,000 and 1.1 million more Americans had jobs in March than in February and January, respectively?
Seriously, as you can see on the right (data can be retrieved from this BLS page; select the very first "not seasonally adjusted" table).
Now the fact remains, as you can also see, that job growth during the past two months is nowhere near as great as it was during the same two months in 2006 (1.91 million) or 2007 (1.58 million). This goes a long way towards explaining why total employment, when adjusted for seasonality, fell 80,000 during March, and by 232,000 during the first quarter.
There's no denying that the employment situation has been deteriorating for several months, and I'm not trying to minimize that. What I am saying is that the "employees were thrown out on the streets during March" narrative cooked up by Old Media today, including the Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa, is clearly false, either because Old Media reporters and their editors don't understand a concept as basic as seasonality, or they don't want to.
Touting a new CBS News/New York Times poll on Friday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Maggie Rodriguez teased an upcoming segment on the poll’s findings: "Is America broken? In a new CBS News poll, 81% of Americans believe this country's on the wrong track. Never has that number been so high."
Co-host Harry Smith later introduced the segment by declaring: "A new CBS News/New York Times poll shows 81% of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction. The 14% who think we're on the right track is all -- an all-time low in the 25 years that CBS News has been asking the question." Conveniently, as Smith pointed out, CBS News began asking that question in 1983, during the Reagan Administration, and never asked the poll question during the Carter Administration. If they had, one might suspect that quite a few Americans thought the country was "headed in the wrong direction" at the time.
Smith then highlighted a restaurant owner in New Jersey, Marianne Cuneo-Powell, who "is cutting costs any way she can." Smith went to show how Powell’s situation reflected the poll numbers: "She is among the 78% of Americans who believe the economy is in bad condition... Like Marianne, two-thirds of Americans believe the U.S. economy is already in a recession. And they are not encouraged by their leaders in Washington...Only 21% of Americans approve of President Bush's handling of the economy." Of course a recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth, not based on what the latest poll numbers say.
Just how obvious is it that the media's economic and business coverage is so negatively skewed that it has to be part of a political agenda in an election year?
Obvious enough for the folks at Fox News to do an entire segment Saturday morning asking the extraordinary question: "Media ‘Talking Down' the Economy to Get a Dem Elected?"
Despite my surprise seeing "Cavuto on Business" begin with such a question framed at the bottom of the screen, I was almost enraptured by the comments from Neil's guests which not only included regular assertions that this is clearly about getting a Democrat in the White House, but also that media are "committing a crime against the general public" by creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that will end up costing people their jobs in the long run.
More importantly, "if we have a serious recession, a great deal will lie at the media's feet."
A recent AP story about 50-year-olds moving back into their parents homes because the economy is so bad is one of the best examples of taking anecdotal evidence and stretching it into a universal truth that I have seen for a while. Filled with the sadly common "many say" and all based on the tale of one person who moved back home at 52, the AP magically discerned a national trend. This is the sort of shoddy reporting that is geared for one thing and one thing only: to promulgate a political agenda.
Taking shelter with parents isn't uncommon for young people in their 20s, especially when the job market is poor. But now the slumping economy and the credit crunch are forcing some children to do so later in life -- even in middle age.
In a report from the presidential campaign trail in Wyoming early Saturday morning, Sara Kugler of the Associated Press picked up on an economic meme created out of whole cloth by one of her colleagues, and treated it as an undisputed fact -- all in the name of creating support for campaign rhetoric coming from one of the two remaining Democratic presidential candidates.
The Labor Department's report, released Friday, also showed that the nation's unemployment rate dipped to 4.8 percent as hundreds of thousands of people — perhaps discouraged by their prospects — left the civilian labor force. The jobless rate was 4.9 percent in January.
ABC's "World News Tonight" had a hard time on Friday without normal anchor Charles Gibson, as in its segment about the employment numbers released by the Labor Department, guest host George Stephanopoulos said the figures were from January 2008.
This was stated as a graphic came on the screen reading "JOBS LOST, January 2008, 63,000." Of course, Labor's report was for the month of February.
Sadly, that wasn't the only mistake "World News" made concerning this crucial piece of economic data, for just as the Associated Press had done earlier in the day, ABC's Business Correspondent Betsy Stark claimed (video available here, h/t NBer Gary Hall):
There's no denying the economy is slowing, and may have either entered a recession, or is on the brink of one. Maybe.
However, the media's hysterical response to Friday's February jobs report lacked any historical reference to how the labor market behaved in previous recessions.
Instead, press outlet after press outlet decided that the loss of 63,000 jobs in February was a clear signal the recession they've been calling for since Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in September 2005 had finally begun.
In fact, as they fretted over this decline in non-farm payrolls, media chose not to ask and answer an important question:
For years, NewsBusters and the Business & Media Institute have regularly complained about the abysmal financial coverage offered by the mainstream press while accusing media of consistently painting a negative -- and oftentimes fallacious! -- picture of the economy.
On Friday, a perfect example of such was illustrated by the Associated Press whose article about the February unemployment data just released by the Labor Department grossly misrepresented what was announced.
In fact, the AP's Jeannine Aversa actually fabricated data that went completely contrary to what was reported. Take a close look at paragraph two of Aversa's article published at Yahoo at 9:39AM (emphasis added):
Here's is the core information the Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa had to work with today in the Employment Situation Report released by the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
The "Dec.-Feb. change" column was added by me, but is easily calculated from the data in the BLS report. What Aversa did with this info, and my comments, are after the jump. (see also Noel Sheppard's post here)
Here's how her report began (scare words in bold; the headline is also from AP):
On Sunday’s CBS "60 Minutes," anchor Steve Kroft interviewed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, along with a small group of Ohio Democratic voters who, as Kroft explained: "told us that both race and gender would be hidden factors in southern Ohio, that many blue collar workers here won't vote for a woman, and others would never vote for a black." Kroft went on to focus on Obama: "And Senator Obama has another problem: a malicious campaign against him that surfaced in a number of our interviews."
This "malicious campaign" as Kroft sees it is the suggestion by some that Obama is a Muslim. Kroft was shocked to find this belief from one of the voters he talked to, Kenny Schoenholtz, who said:
I'm leaning towards Obama. There's a couple issues with him I'm not too clear on...Well, I'm hearing he doesn't even know the national anthem. He wouldn't use the Holy Bible. He's got his own beliefs, with the Muslim beliefs. And couple of issues that bothers me at heart.
Kroft was concerned that this one misinformed voter, who said he would probably vote for Obama anyway, was reflective of broader smear against the Illinois Senator:
If you haven't gotten to check out the Business & Media Institute's new weekly video blog, The Biz Flog, this week's topic is the media's shift from reporting on "recession" to all-out "depression."
Complete with old-timey piano music and grainy film, this week BMI gives you our take on the many instances when reporters have compared the current economy to a time when soup lines and the Dust Bowl carried headlines.
Admission: over the course of my NewsBusting, I've actually developed a certain admiration for Bob Herbert. Not that I agree with virtually anything the NY Times columnist has to say, but that I appreciate his directness and the absence in his work of the superfluous sarcasm that marks that of a number of his colleagues.
That said, I offer up Herbert's lament of this morning, "Where Are the Big Ideas?", as the epitome of wrong-headed liberal thinking. Herbert's complaint is that when it comes to the role of government, the presidential candidates aren't thinking big enough. Hillary and Obama's proposals to subject 1/7th of the nation's economy [or whatever the current proportion that health care represents] to government control are small beer in Bob's eyes. He dismisses their plans as "masterpieces of minutiae."
Herbert says that "the essential question the candidates should be trying to answer — but that is not even being asked very often — is how to create good jobs in the 21st century." The columnist gives us an idea of the kind of big-government thinking he has in mind to answer his question:
"[T]he truth is, ["Today" co-anchor] Meredith [Vieira], it doesn't matter if we're in a recession," Bartiromo said on NBC's February 6 "Today." "We can talk ourselves into a recession, and that seems to be what we're doing right now and that certainly begets more weakness."
The media coverage has apparently affected voters. According to the February 6 Washington Times, an exit survey from the "Super Tuesday" primaries showed 47 percent of Democratic voters and 40 percent of Republican voters said the economy was the most important issue in making their choice at the polls.
"[T]here's a system out there where basically what happens is the government makes some assumptions about how many jobs are created or lost every month," Burnett explained. "How many businesses are created - they can't check it every single month, so they have to make some assumptions. It turns out if you look out over history they always do the ‘businesses dying estimate' in the month of January - as a matter of fact, always in the month of January."
However, the glowing reception the $150-billion taxpayer-funded stimulus plan got from each of the network newscasts gave that impression last night.
"Cash is on the way," ABC's "World News" anchor Charles Gibson said. "The check is in the mail, or it will be to 117 million Americans. The president and congressional leaders reached agreement on a $150-billion economic stimulus package today. When passed by Congress, the package will result in the distribution of $100 billion to individuals and families. And it will mean businesses will get $50 billion in tax breaks."
It's really frightening to imagine that people who get the bulk of their news from Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" will be making what they probably think are educated decisions at the ballot box come Election Day.
Stewart, who is now a self-proclaimed economist, said on his January 23 show, "Our economy is tanking." And now you can add financial media critic to Stewart's list of titles.
"For insight, I turned to the two major financial networks to find out what is going on, or as they're known around here, ‘hot ladies talk economy with bald dudes,'" Stewart said.
Worried about finding employment after losing your job because of this gosh-awful recession we're having? Oh, you haven't lost your job yet? Yeah, we aren't actually having a recession yet, but that's just details.
"It's a bumpy ride for the American worker as well. As the economy slows the unemployment rate is rising," anchor Katie Couric said. "About 7.6 million Americans are now unemployed. That's a million more than a year ago. So what should you do if you lose your job? [CBS correspondent] Kelly Cobiella looks at some strategies for job seekers for whom this economic downturn is really hitting home."
On Tuesday's Lou Dobbs Tonight, which was repeated on Sunday, CNN host Dobbs chided the media for not including illegal immigration in exit polls of Democratic voters simply because Democratic candidates have avoided discussing the issue to prevent, according to Bill Schneider, "stirring up a lot of passion," and relayed that he had pressured CNN into including the issue in other polling two years ago. Dobbs: "Would it surprise you if I were to tell you right here in front of God and everybody I had to convince CNN a couple of years ago to include illegal immigration in a poll because we didn't even in this organization believe it was an important issue, some of us didn't?" He even got Schneider to agree with his contention that the media's "complicity with that motive" of the Democratic candidates in ignoring the issue should "bring a sense of shame to these [media] organizations." (Transcript follows)