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.
The Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger has been on the opposite of a roll:
Just before Christmas, he appeared to be lowballing the consensus estimate of 4th Quarter 2005 GDP growth by describing it as "around 3 percent," when a broad-based Bloomberg survey of economists indicated a consensus forecast of 3.3%.
Second, he pooh-poohed November's Construction Spending report released two days ago by giving full credit for the increase to a record level to Government Sector spending, which offset decline in "home building." The reality was that Nonresidential spending in the Private Sector deserved the largest portion of the credit, and that the residential spending decline, which occurred in the Government Sector, was most likely related to apartments, assisted-living quarters and other non-owned properties.
Today, he sought to discount the good news about initial job claims, and hearkened back to the previous economic expansion with an incorrect reference.
NYT business reporter/columnist Gretchen Morgenson loves corporate scandals, and she rounds up the year’s greatest hits for an illustrated, above-the-fold story, “The Big Winner, Again, Is ‘Scandalot,’” for Sunday’s Business section year-end wrap-up.
“Same stuff, different year. That’s one way to look at 2005, the fourth consecutive year in which corporate chicanery loomed large….Greed was on display throughout 2005 as throngs of executives pocketed pay that was even greater than the previous year’s. To hear them talk, they deserved the amounts because -- are you sitting down? -- they enhanced shareholder value. Never mind that many of their companies’ stocks ended the year lower than where they began it.”
Imagine you're a guest on the Today show on New Year's Day, and the host asks you to predict the top stories for the year to come.
What are the odds you choose as your two top stories for 2006: job-loss anxiety among white-collar workers, and white-collar crime?
Yet that is precisely what Marcus Mabry, Newsweek's Chief of Correspondents [pictured here], did in his just-completed interview with host Lester Holt.
While acknowledging that the economy is showing signs of strength, Mabry led with unemployment anxiety among white-collar workers as his #1 story for the year to come. He insisted that:
"the confidence of the American worker is at its lowest point in a very long time, particularly white-collar workers. We see anxiety we have not seen since the days of the dot.com bust. What you see is many Americans filled with job insecurity, who are worried about whether they're going to have a job a year from now. We see greater insecurity than in decades."
In reporting what it called a "big win" for Senate Democrats in killing off drilling in ANWR, this morning's Today show aired footage of gorgeous snow-capped mountains, similar to the file photo to the right.
There's only one little problem. The drilling in ANWR won't take place anywhere near those mountains.
It will occur on barren coastal plains far away. A few years ago, attempting to break through the ice-jam of blather over the issue, the National Review's Jonah Goldberg took a trip up there himself. Here's one of the photos Jonah took, giving an idea of the area in which drilling would take place. Them's some mighty small mountains!
A recent report published by the Gallup Organization stated:
“a majority of U.S. investors continue to describe the current economy as being ‘in a slowdown’ or ‘recession’ as opposed to being ‘in a recovery’ or ‘sustained expansion.’”
Regardless of continuously strong economic reports, such bearish assessments have been regularly portrayed by public opinion polls for several years. During this period, economists and politicians – including the Bush administration – have wondered what is responsible for this disconnect between perception and reality.
A detailed look at how unemployment numbers are shared with the public by mainstream media outlets gives us some clues. The Labor Department on Friday announced very strong employment gains for the month of November. In fact, this was the largest number of job creations since April. However, this news was reported to the public in a fashion that largely downplayed its significance. A 3.2 percent annual increase in wages was characterized as employees “basically treading water.” Although energy prices have been steadily declining since September, jobs market stories included references of this still being a “huge concern.” Other news accounts referred to the unemployment rate being “stuck at 5 percent,” as if a 5 percent unemployment rate is a bad thing, while one cable news outlet told viewers to take the numbers “with a grain of salt.”
Yesterday, CBS Early Show co-host Hannah Storm asked White House aide Dan Bartlett about how most Americans think the economy is tanking: "Finally Dan, quickly, I know you came on to talk about the economy today, the President is going to address this today, there are some positive numbers but we have Americans shopping at discounters, they spent their money on gas this summer, they're worried about heating costs. What can you tell the majority of Americans who actually feel that the economy is getting worse?"
You've come to Newsbusters because you want to see a concrete example of liberal bias. Who delivers that better than the New York Times?
This is reality. We're 4 years out from the worst attack since Pearl Harbor, post dot-com crash, we've had more hurricanes than any year since some old man first started keeping track, and we just about had a major U.S. city -- an economically important city -- wiped off the face of the planet. The hurricanes took out oil infrastructure at a time when we can ill afford a disruption in supply.
And yet the economy is, quite simply, running hot.
That would be great, except for the fact that a religious conservative is sitting in the White House. Will the powerful New York Times stand for this? After all, there has been so much invested in making Bush look like a religious idiot.
Perhaps the media's most cherished holiday tradition is the middle-class poverty story, which alleges that hunger and homelessness are now stalking the previously impervious middle class, stories often based on dubious numbers from the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Now, clear a place: Heating bills are joining hunger and homelessness at the liberal groaning board.
The Times discovers middle-class needy in Stony Brook, N.Y., in Sunday's Metro section story by Paul Vitello ("Middle Class Gets in Line for Help With Rising Heating Bills").
"The main government assistance office in Suffolk County sits just off a busy road in an office park surrounded by a neighborhood of deep lawns and two-car garages. Everyone for miles around uses that road every day. But until recently, hardly anyone from the neighborhood -- people whose status in the middle class was thought secured unquestionably by homeownership -- ever turned into the office park to seek help inside the county's nondescript building. This year, they have come in from the fear of the cold. They are retirees, young couples, the temporarily unemployed, the two-income families stretched to the limit of second mortgages and credit cards, a slice of the suburban demographic that social workers call 'mortgage rich and pocket poor.'"
Remember the good old MSM formulation from the days when Newt was Speaker? The notion that slowing the runaway growth of any government program was actually a cut?
Just in time for Thanksgiving, it's back.
My local paper, the Gannett-owned Ithaca Journal, leads with this tear-jerker of a banner headline: "Budget Cuts Would Hit State's Poor Hard". Here is a link to the article.
Gannett News reporter John Machacek writes of thousands of welfare recipients being "squeezed," the poor being dealt a "blow" and the proposals "poking sizeable holes in New York's safety net."
Predictably, the story comes complete with heart-tugging personal stories: a cancer survivor living in a YMCA; a single mother with an asthmatic child, both worried about how the 'cuts' might affect them.
In homes across this country that subscribe to the New York Times, Americans will wake up on Thanksgiving morning to be told that the land they love is still in some kind of Great Depression. Of course, unemployment is at 5 percent, more Americans own their own homes than ever in history, and the average citizen has a higher net worth – meaning assets minus debt – than ever before, including during the supposed boom years of the late ’90s. Alas, none of that is important to the Times editorial staff...not even on Thanksgiving.
To be sure, this kind of economic mischaracterization is certainly nothing new to the mainstream media. However, stuck in the middle of an editorial about one of the nation’s most cherished holidays, on the very day in question, does make it a little more distasteful than usual:
There’s been a lot of suggestion by the media lately -- especially since the elections last Tuesday -- that the Republican Party is in dire trouble, and could lose control of the House and the Senate in 2006. For those interested in a side of this debate that the media are ignoring, you should watch today’s “Meet the Press,” in particular the second-half with DNC chairman Howard Dean.
Some of the pertinent exchanges of note:
DR. DEAN: I think Democrats always have to stand up and tell the truth and that's what we're doing. The truth is that the president misled America when he sent us to war. They did--he even didn't tell the truth in the speech he gave. First of all, think there were a lot of veterans were kind of upset that the president chose their day to make a partisan speech.
Media Wrong About Dollar: As the frequency of pessimistic reports increases, their accuracy seems to decline.
Since the stock market’s collapse between March 2000 and October 2002, the Free Market Project media have continually been making gloomy and bearish economic forecasts, from predictions of a housing bubble implosion to gasoline prices heading to $5 per gallon and even an economic downturn due to Hurricane Katrina. As The Free Market Project has reported, none of these have panned out.
Other examples of media gloom and doom that ended up being inaccurate were the press’s opinions of the falling dollar at the end of last year, and what they believed were the likely consequences. Tom Fenton of CBS News went so far as to link the decline to the start of the Bush presidency. “Since the end of the Clinton administration – or to put it another way, since the beginning of the Bush administration – the dollar has been heading south at an alarming rate,” he argued in a Dec. 6, 2004, piece.
Yesterday (Friday November 4, 2005), the Labor Department announced that the national unemployment rate dropped from 5.1% to 5.0%.
Good news, right? Well, some media outlets did not seem to think so.
In the 3pm PST news updates on ABC News radio and CBS News radio on Friday, anchors made the employment picture sound dim. They highlighted that the net job gain in October of 56,000 jobs was "not as many as expected." Although CBS News tagged their story with the fact that the unemployment rate had dropped, ABC News radio made no mention of this at all!
The Los Angeles Times followed suit today (Saturday November 5, 2005). The (very) bold headline on the front page of their Business section blares the negative, "Job Report Falls Short of Forecasts." You have to go well below the fold to learn of the drop in the unemployment rate.