Thursday's CBS This Morning stood out as the only Big Three network morning newscast to zero in on Education Secretary Arne Duncan's false assertion about the sequester – that "there are, literally, teachers now who are getting pink slips; who are getting notices they can't come back this fall". Correspondent Bill Plante noted that "Duncan conceded he knew of only one county nationwide where there had been notices", and underlined that "those notices weren't sequester-related."
CBS News political director John Dickerson also highlighted that "the Washington Post caught...Duncan in an exaggeration about those effects." Actually, "exaggeration" is an understatement on the part of Dickerson, as the Post's Glenn Kessler ripped the Cabinet official over several statements he's made on the sequester issue:
The first is that it will cost a lot of money, totaling an amount which appears to have a chance to come within striking distance of about half of the annual profits in the entire commercial baking industry. The second is that there is little if any evidence supporting DOL's finding that imports have seriously harmed the industry. Excerpts from that editorial (do read the whole blood-boiling thing), followed by a bit of analysis by yours truly, follow the jump.
You've got to hand it to the headline writers at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press. They sure know how to abuse their power to shape public perceptions.
The headline at Martin Crutsinger's report this morning on projected economic growth for 2013, which the wire service is treating as this morning's "Big Story," reads: "ECONOMISTS PREDICTING MODERATE GROWTH IN 2013." Many people using computers, tablets and smartphones will see that headline, conclude that the economy's not so bad, and move on without clicking through. Too bad Crutsinger's first two paragraphs directly contradict that headline.
In attempting to make the case that "Even as the private sector has been slowly adding jobs, governments have been shedding them," a chart from the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, shows how public-sector employment (not labeled as "seasonally adjusted," but that's what it is) has declined from a peak of 22.3 million in May of 2010 to 21.3 million in January 2013.
There's only on "little" problem -- That May 2010 peak occurred in the midst of the federal government's decennial census.
For the past six weeks combined, actual jobless claims filed nationwide have been virtually the same as the were during the six comparable weeks in early 2012.
You wouldn't know that from Christopher Rugaber's coverage at the Associated Press of the Department of Labor's unemployment claims report released yesterday. Rugaber, who described last month's jobs report showing the unemployment rate rising to 7.9 percent with a mediocre 157,000 jobs added (both figures are seasonally adjusted) as "mostly encouraging," wrote Thursday that the movement in jobless claims "suggests slow but steady improvement in the job market." If so, that "suggestion" is at best a whisper.
Yesterday, the Department of Labor announced that it had certified "more than 18,000 former Hostess workers around the country as eligible to apply for Trade Adjustment Assistance." I'll save excerpts from DOL's inane announcement for after the jump.
The story has garnered some local coverage in areas affected by Hostess plant closures late last year, including a couple of regional Associated Press stories. But the AP, based on a search on "hostess," did not have a story at its national site as of 9 a.m. today, even though former Hostess workers in 48 states are affected. Additionally, virtually every story found in a Google News search on "Hostess trade adjustment" (not in quotes) is local in nature. Could this possibly be because doling out tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to workers whose unions thought the company was bluffing when it said it would throw in the towel without acceptable labor contracts is more than a little embarrassing, especially when President Barack Obama is simultaneously claiming that the federal government will have no choice but to lay off and furlough employees if sequestration takes place?
I am indebted to Amity Shlaes for gently correcting a joke of mine that dates back to July 8, 1972. On that date in the New York Times, I joshed that President Calvin Coolidge "probably spent more time napping than any president in the nation's history" and therefore was a successful president. My joke was a play on an earlier joke by H. L. Mencken, and now Shlaes has corrected both of us. She has written a very impressive biography titled simply "Coolidge," wherein she never mentions Cal's naps but rather what made him the most successful president of the 1920s. He reversed the economic insolvency of President Woodrow Wilson, and set the economy on the road to growth, a road made rocky by Cal's successor, President Herbert Hoover, and rockier still by Hoover's successor, Franklin Roosevelt.
Though one would not know it today, Coolidge was the most successful president of the 1920s. Vice President Coolidge came to the presidency on the death of President Warren G. Harding in August 1923 and won the presidency outright in 1924 with 54 percent of the vote over the Democrat, John W. Davis, who had 28.8 percent of the vote, and the Progressive, Robert M. La Follette, who won just 16.6 percent of the vote. Moreover, Coolidge had won every race he ever contested from his first run for city councilman in 1898 to the governorship of Massachusetts in 1918, usually by astoundingly large margins. His combination of civility, effectiveness, standing by the law and, as president, tax cuts, budget balancing, and growth, was wildly popular with American voters, as was his singular asset, taciturnity.
Liz Sidoti's offering this morning at the Associated Press, which is clearly a serious competitor for Worst AP Item Ever, carries the "column" label. As such, I suppose we're expected to accept the idea that the "analysis" offered is hers alone.
But you would think that the self-described "essential global news network" would have enough business judgment to review a reporter's work to make sure it doesn't talk down to the general public and indict its own reporting on the economy at the same time. You would be wrong, as will be seen after the jump.
On Friday, Renee Dudley at Bloomberg News exposed the contents of February 12 internal emails revealing that Walmart executives are worried -- very worried -- about sales during the first 10 to 14 days of the its most current fiscal period (mostly likely either the first 10 days of February if the company works with calendar months, or 14 days if it began the second period of the fiscal year on Monday January 28).
Their primary concerns are the payroll tax hike and delayed tax refunds, but they may also need to start worrying about higher gas prices (bolds are mine):
Following President Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum wage to $9/hour in Tuesday's State of the Union address, MSNBC has been eagerly pushing the president’s new-found support for the hike.
Speaking on February 14, host Thomas Roberts conducted a one-sided interview with liberal contributor Goldie Taylor on the supposed need to jack up the minimum wage. As most of Roberts’ segments are, not one guest was brought on to challenge Taylor’s liberal motives, with Roberts introducing the segment as such:
In a Friday editorial, Investor's Business Daily picked up a disturbing downside in the January 2013 jobs report released by the government's Bureau of Labor Statistics earlier that day: More people are working, but they're working fewer hours per week. In certain sectors, including retail, the industry's aggregate hours worked actually shrank compared to January 2012. Memo to Chris Rugaber at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press: That's another reason your description of Friday's report as "mostly encouraging" is rubbish.
IBD relied on seasonally adjusted data in arriving at its findings. The raw figures (i.e., not seasonally adjusted amounts), representing the government's best estimates of actual conditions during the month before seasonal smoothing, are even more disturbing -- and far more relevant. This is especially the case in retail, as January is a month when retailers retrench after the Christmas shopping season; whatever pullback takes place will mostly stick for the next several months. A few paragraphs from the paper's editorial, as well as a comparison of the raw and seasonally adjusted numbers in retail in January 2013 and 2012, follow the jump (HT frequent BizzyBlog commenter dscott):
Last week, President Obama blamed Republicans for the poor state of the economy.
On CNN's State of the Union Sunday, former Bush Labor Secretary Elaine Chao scoffed at this saying, "I don't know how he can say that when he had control of both the houses in the legislative branch. He had control over the White House."
While they told their readers of the number of jobs supposedly added in total (157,000) and in other sectors, the fact remains that in the real world, before seasonal adjustment, the government told us, as is the case every January, that employment declined steeply. In January 2013, the government estimates that 2.84 million jobs were lost.
Yesterday at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, Christopher Rugaber really wrote that the government's Employment Situation Summary released Friday was "mostly encouraging."
The Friday morning dispatch, still present at Yahoo News but which has understandably disappeared from the wire service's national site, stuck with his smiley-faced description even as he noted, "one negative sign: The unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent." If January's performance repeats itself for the rest of year, 1.9 million more people will have found work during 2013 and the unemployment rate will be 9 percent -- at which point it would appear that Chris will try to tell us that we've finally achieved heaven on earth. Excerpts from Rugaber's ridiculous rubbish, riddled as it is with errors, omissions, a blatant coverage inconsistency, and political hackery, follow the jump:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday reported upside revisions to the number of jobs that were created in last year's fourth quarter.
Appearing on CNBC's Squawk Box, Austan Goolsbee, the former Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under Barack Obama, joked, "It’s an elaborate left-wing plot to make the numbers much better several months after the election so that nobody thinks that there was a conspiracy just before the election."
Someone needs to tell Dylan Byers at the Politico that the 2012 presidential smear campaign is over, and their guy won.
Byers seems not to have gotten the memo, and is still engaged in associating Mitt Romney with the firm he left in 1999 any time it has involvement in decisions relating to layoffs. In the current instance, Bain was engaged as an advisor to a new CEO at Time Inc. -- meaning that management of the company involved could have ignored the firm's advice -- and not as an investor. It doesn't matter to Byers, who named Romney anyway, even though Ad Age, the underlying source, didn't (presented in full because of its brevity; bolds are mine):
In 2012, with a Democrat in the White House, union membership declined, not only as a percentage of the workforce, but in absolute numbers. Even though the related report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the number of employed wage and salaried workers increased by almost 2.4 million, union membership fell by just under 400,000. Union membership is down by over 1.7 million since 2008, and fell by 961,000 during the past three years of supposed economic recovery. These results aren't sitting well with Sam Hananel at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, whose reporters are represented by the Occupy movement-supporting News Media Guild. Excerpts from the AP reporter's Wednesday report follow the jump.
For the second week in a row, actual (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) unemployment claims as reported by the Department of Labor came in greater than the analogous week in 2012.
At the same time, and also for the second week in a row, the department's seasonally adjusted claims number -- the only one the business wire services ever specifically identify in their reports -- came in lower. In today's instance, raw year-over-year claims were almost 5 percent higher than the same week a year ago, but the year-over-year seasonally adjusted figure came in 11 percent lower. That's bad enough, but then the wires compounded the problem by running with indefensible conclusions based on DOL's contradictory data.
Jay Leno went counter to the rest of the media's gushing over the Obama Inauguration Tuesday by actually taking some shots at the current White House resident.
Early in his opening monologue, the NBC Tonight Show host said, "There were twice as many people at his first inauguration...because four years ago, twice as many people could afford to stay in hotels” (video follows with transcribed highlights and commentary):
Native and long-time Washingtonians see presidential inaugurations every four years, and, for them, they're pretty run-of-the-mill, regardless of one's party affiliation. This is especially true when they're the second go-around for a given president. Washington proper is heavily liberal Democrat, and the outlying suburbs are so too, to a lesser degree, but still, enthusiasm for a presidential inauguration in the nation's capital region is bound to be less intense for natives and long-time residents than visiting out-of-towners.
So in 2005, the Washington Post devoted 1,345 words to this phenomenon in a January 21 page A29 story headlined, "Away From Capitol, It's Just Another Day; Many Locals Choose Routine Over Ritual." Staff writers Paul Schwartzman and Karin Brulliard dutifully worked their way around the capital region talking to area residents who were not too thrilled about all the fuss and bother, some of whom hinting Bush was to blame for their unemployment. No similar article appeared in the paper's pages eight years later with Obama's second inaugural (emphases in article mine):
None of the three major wire services covering today's report from the Department of Labor on initial unemployment claims is reporting the major news: For the first time in a long while, actual claims filed during the most recent week ended January 12 were almost 6 percent higher than the number filed during last year's comparable week, an indication that the current employment market may be worse than it was a year ago. Instead, all three are headlining how today's questionably created seasonally adjusted claims number is the lowest in five years.
Both weeks had five business days. Both weeks represented the first such week in the new year. So how did higher raw claims result in the lowest seasonally adjusted claims number in five years, a number which is 8 percent lower than last year's comparable week? The answer, as will be seen after the jump, is that the seasonal adjustment factor used this year is sharply higher than the one used last year.
A week ago, Associated Press reporters and their articles' headlines described the nation's job market in positive terms. An early a.m. report on Janaury carried this headline: "U.S. job market resilient despite budget fight." Later that same morning, just before the government's release of that day's employment report, there was this: "Jobs report expected to show underlying economic strength." Late that afternoon, reacting to the news that the economy had a December unemployment rate of 7.8 percent while adding 155,000 seasonally adjusted jobs, AP reporters Paul Wiseman and Christopher Rugaber described the performance as "matching the solid but unspectacular monthly pace of the past two years."
Reports from wire services other than the AP, which might as well stand for the Administration's Press, weren't as rosy. At Reuters ("Mediocre job growth points to slow grind for U.S. economy"), Jason Lange observed that December's hiring pace was "short of the levels needed to bring down a still lofty unemployment rate." Fair enough, but what the press continues to virtually ignore -- while obsessing over the same problem early last decade when the problem was nowhere near as severe -- is the plight of the long-term unemployed.
On Wednesday's CBS This Morning, Nancy Cordes trumpeted the passage of Senate Democrats' temporary fiscal cliff fix by the House as a "big bipartisan victory", immediately after pointing out that "the votes were about two-to-one Democratic in favor of the bill." Cordes also hyped how the bill is "a milestone, finally settling a decade-long debate over the Bush-era tax cuts," despite the fact the bill raises tax rates on top earners.
The correspondent also likened Congress to a teenaged student: "Well, if this was high school, you'd say they turned in the assignment a little bit late. It was kind of a rush job, but at least they got it done."
This is the eighth year I have done shopping and layoff-related searches on how often the words "Christmas" and "holiday" are used.
As has been the case since the enterprise began in 2005, news reports are far more likely to refer to the commercial time frame between Thanksgiving and Christmas as the "holiday shopping season." Meanwhile, compared to shopping references, news reports are several times more likely to refer to Christmas in connection with layoffs. This years raw results -- originally gathered here, here, and here at my home blog, along with comparisons to previous years -- follow the jump:
Former Newsweek editor Evan Thomas made a bizarre statement on PBS's Inside Washington Friday.
"Unexplored story of the year: white men dropping out - dropping out of the workforce, dropping out of elections, just plain dropping out, getting social security, not doing anything, going hunting, fishing, just not in the game" (video follows with transcript and commentary, file photo):
Here’s something I bet you thought you’d never see at the perilously liberal Huffington Post.
In a Dean Baker article published Tuesday with the astonishing title “There Is No Santa Claus and Bill Clinton Was Not an Economic Savior,” the second sentence read, “Just as little kids have to come to grips with the fact that there is no Santa Claus, it is necessary for millions of liberals, including many who think of themselves as highly knowledgeable about economic matters, to realize that President Clinton's policies sent the economy seriously off course.”