"Now, to the economy," ABC "World News" anchor Charles Gibson said. "And a word not heard since the 1970s - stagflation. That occurs when prices go up just as the economy slows down - stagnation plus inflation. And the government that wholesale prices shot up 1 percent in January and are now up almost 7.5 percent in the past 12 months."
Fear not, ye economically downtrodden: Katie Couric is looking out for you.
The "CBS Evening News" broadcasts over the last few months have found a multitude of ways to frame the U.S. economy in the worst possible ways, so much so that Couric compared CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason to the grim reaper on a recent newscast.
Does Chelsea Clinton have the ears of three of "The View" co-hosts? According to Joy Behar’s, Whoopi Goldberg’s, and Sherri Shepherd’s accounts, Bill and Hillary Clinton’s daughter canvassed them for her mother’s vote. Unfortunately for Clinton campaign, it was too late as all three of them voted before the call. However, Whoopi Goldberg did say that she voted for Hillary Clinton and Joy Behar told Chelsea she has been a "big champion" for Hillary Clinton. The exchange from February 6 follows.
"According to the latest figures, America may no longer be the ‘fast food nation' that it once was," Golodryga said on the January 29 "Good Morning America." "And, it has nothing to do with going on a health diet, but everything to do with going on a spending diet."
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.
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)
"[W]ell, as you said the economy certainly is front and center," Bolton said. "And in fact in the latest survey of Bloomberg economists, economists putting the odds of developing a recession at about 40 percent. Jay Bryson - he's a global economist at Wachovia - he says we are skating on the edge of recession, but it's all going to come down to the consumer. Another economist that we spoke with said that consumers right now are really hanging on by their fingernails. And of course it's not really a surprise."
A January 4 Associated Press story by Jeannine Aversa pointed to the job data as one of the "problems in the economy" that has "elevated fears about a recession." But even with all these "problems" - housing woes, the credit crunch, high oil prices, weak job numbers - the criteria of the economy being in a recession still haven't been close to being met.
"As 2008 begins, house prices are still skidding, bank losses are still mounting, oil is again flirting with $100 a barrel and consumers are buying less as prices rise," the editorial said. "To many, the wheels appear to be coming off the economy. To others, including President Bush and his aides, the economy is fundamentally sound and resilient."
Well, the New York Times certainly can't be accused of excessive free market idolization. Peter Goodman breaks off from his gloomy economic assessments to cheer for regulation in Sunday's Week in Review story "The Free Market: A False Idol After All?"
In Goodman's telling, there is no question mark, stating the argument against the free market in simplistic liberal terms, right down to echoing the Reagan-era pejorative of "trickle down economics."
NewsBusters and affiliate The Business & Media Institute have been reporting for many months the continuous, bearish assessments of economic gloom and doom by America's press.
Of course, this all comes despite 24 straight quarters of Gross Domestic Product growth, 50 consecutive months of job gains, higher wages for virtually all Americans, and last month's consumer spending explosion.
Ignoring all this Sunday morning were panelists on "The Chris Matthews Show" who demonstrated such a deplorable lack of economic acumen that maybe they shouldn't be allowed to comment on such matters when cameras and microphones are on.
Between railroad tracks and beneath the roar of departing planes sits "tent city," a terminus for homeless people. It is not, as might be expected, in a blighted city center, but in the once-booming suburbia of Southern California.
The noisy, dusty camp sprang up in July with 20 residents and now numbers 200 people, including several children, growing as this region east of Los Angeles has been hit by the U.S. housing crisis.
The unraveling of the region known as the Inland Empire reads like a 21st century version of "The Grapes of Wrath," John Steinbeck's novel about families driven from their lands by the Great Depression.
Since the stock and credit market turbulence began in July, NewsBusters has been informing readers that media continually predict recessions that never happen.
On the sad flipside, bearishness in the press can become so pervasive that an economic downturn ends up being an unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy.
NewsBusters affiliate the Business and Media Institute made this very point in a late-November article by Amy Menefee entitled "Talking Ourselves Into Recession."
This concern is shared by business leaders like Craig Hester, CEO of Hester Capital Management, who during an interview with CNBC's Erin Burnett and James Cramer Friday spoke an inconvenient truth about media's impact on the economy that folks in the press sadly don't recognize as they disseminate pessimistic after pessimistic predictions often leading to people unnecessarily losing their jobs - or worse:
In an interview with New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez, Couric questioned his new record-setting contract. The deal includes $275 million over 10 years and another $30 million in incentives, according to ESPN.
"Your new contract is worth $300 million-plus," Couric told Rodriquez, asking, "Are you worth it? Is any player worth that kind of salary?"
A-Rod could have pointed out that Major League Baseball works like any other market - players' services are priced according to what the market will pay for their skills and experience. Someone in the Yankees organization felt $275 million over 10 years was a fair price to pay for Rodriguez.
Rodriguez could have pointed out that he's a two-time Gold Glove winner, a two-time Silver Slugger winner, and a three-time American League Most Valuable Player. He could have mentioned that last season he led the American League in runs, home runs and runs batted in - 143, 54 and 156 respectively.
Or he could have turned the question around on Couric by asking, "Well Katie, you're paid $15 million a year and have seen steady declines in your ratings on the ‘Evening News,' with some weeks reaching record lows. Are you worth it?"
Steve Fraser might look mild-mannered, but when it comes to economic doomsaying, he is the Rocky Marciano of recession, the Tiger Woods of turndown, the David Beckham of depression.
Speaking of bending one, Fraser's LA Times column of today, "Symptoms of an Economic Depression," twists U.S. economic data into a harbinger of impending doom. Fraser begins by falsely claiming that "no one wants to utter the word 'depression.'" In fact, Fraser himself, a left-wing labor historian, wants not merely to utter it, but to bellow the word with a 10,000 megawatt bullhorn. Why? Because, as he gleefully predicts in that same column:
This perfect storm [of a bad economy] will be upon us just as the election season heats up, and it will inevitably hasten the already well-advanced implosion of the Republican Party.
As the 2008 election approaches, the New York Times uses the image of a sinking red "RECE$$ION" to communicate a fear that is so far only a phantom menace. Peter Goodman's Sunday Week in Review cover story, "Trying to Guess What Happens Next," displayed plenty of pessimism about the U.S. economy after years of foreign-financed easy money.
But the accompanying graphic communicated even more starkly the feeling the Times no doubt wanted to convey -- a fearful, sinking feeling among U.S. consumers (and November voters). The top half of the page was dominated by white space, with the big red word "RECE$$ION" sinking below the horizon.
Is there a single economist who thinks the U.S. economy, with inflation tamed for now and a low unemployment rate, is currently in recession? Not even Goodman himself goes that far, though his pessimism seems pretty overblown.
*****Update at end of post includes detailed response to unhappy e-mail messages concerning this subject.
As someone that has done a lot of economic writing and financial media analysis, I'm used to gloom and doom from journalists.
However, Saturday's Associated Press article concerning the credit crunch and how it's impacting the mortgage market could be the worst example of economic and financial misreporting and exaggeration I've seen since the press universally forecast an economic downturn after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.
Entitled "Have We Seen the Worst of the Mortgage Crisis," Joe Bel Bruno's piece actually suggested that a depression could be looming, and that housing prices in some areas could decline by 40 percent (emphasis added):
Storm gave her best shot at making an emotional plea for Hannah Montana concert tickets because the $200 price tag is just too high, although Storm has had a lengthy career in major network TV journalism, dating back to 1989 when she anchored "CNN Sports Tonight."
"[O]ne of the last parts of our travel survival guide, our Thanksgiving survival guide, of course, is the rising cost of the Thanksgiving dinner," "GMA" host Diane Sawyer said on the November 20 "GMA.". "As we said, the average price of a Thanksgiving dinner is up 11 percent from last year. So are there some ways to stretch the dollars and have no one know."
Also included in the segment was a story meant to tug at your heartstrings - a grandmother being forced to cut corners to make enough for her family's Thanksgiving feast.
After Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) reported higher third-quarter earnings and predictions of a "strong" holiday shopping season, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) surged 320 points after taking a battering over the previous week.
In an Andy Rooneyesque rant about how his latest movie-going experience "left much to be desired," CBS White House correspondent Mark Knoller hinted he wouldn't mind seeing liberal consumers groups tackle hefty snack prices at the nation's movie theaters. He even suggested the short titles for two bills Congress could draft on that front.
From Knoller's November 12 Couric & Co. blog post (emphasis mine):
The fact is, most movie theaters are glorified snack bars. On average, they keep only 50% or less of the ticket price, far less for blockbusters in their opening weeks. Much of a theater’s profit comes from the concession stand.
Regal, one of the nation’s largest multiplex chains, reported the 3rd quarter profit margin at its snack bars exceeded 86%.
And the markup – especially on popcorn – is eye-popping. The Los Angeles Times last year calculated that just $30 of raw popcorn can translate into as much as $3,000 in sales at the snack bar.
That sounds like a markup that would make the oil industry blush.
It's hard to overstate the importance of the study released today by the Treasury Department ("Income Mobility in the U.S. from 1996 to 2005"; press release; full study PDF).
That's because it provides documented evidence of more, not less, economic mobility than in previous eras. Beyond that, taken in combination with an independent report I covered last week, it demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that the first four-plus years of the Bush economy were exceptional.
Tuesday's read-the-whole-thing feature editorial at OpinionJournal.com provides a great overview (bolds are mine), plus some tantalizing details:
With all due respect to the chairman (Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke), he would see the recession that so many others are feeling if he would only open his eyes. While Mr. Bernanke and others are waiting for the official diagnosis (a decline in the gross domestic product for two successive quarters), the disease is spreading and has been spreading for some time.
As NewsBusters reported, ABC's John Stossel bravely presented a skeptical view of manmade global warming on the October 19 installment of "20/20."
As a follow-up, Stossel published an op-ed at Townhall Tuesday that should be must-reading for alarmist media members and policy makers around the country.
Marvelously titled "Don't Look to Government to Cool Down the Planet," the article summarized much of what Stossel presented weeks prior on "20/20," while challenging the closed-minded to allow for greater scientific discussion and debate before hasty and capricious policy decisions are enacted that will harm the economy as they do nothing to solve the so-called problem (emphasis added throughout):
“It’s almost embarrassing. I talk a lot to political scientists, and you go through the numbers and the polls. And it all boils down – almost everything else goes away, except for five words: ‘Southern whites started voting Republican.’ The backlash against the civil rights movement explains almost everything that’s happened in this country for the past 45 years,” Krugman said in an interview promoting his book on the left-wing Democracy Now! newscast on October 17 .
I have to figure, after looking at the results of this Google News search on "real earnings" (in quotes), that Old Media business reporters found what came out in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Real Earnings Report too difficult to understand. The search shows that only the Providence Journal among Old Media outlets mentioned the report, which was released Wednesday.
So in the interest of education, I'll break down the BLS report into simpler terms: