Whenever President Barack Obama defends what his presidency to date, specifically on economic issues, he'll speak of inheriting a bad economy from the previous administration, and then assures listeners of his intention to make the economy his top priority.
So why hasn't he done it? Why have there been other distractions like cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, bailouts, etc. and not a push for a real so-called infrastructure stimulus, like the president proposed publicly earlier this week. On CNBC's Sept. 10 "Squawk Box," host Joe Kernen asked NBC "Meet the Press" moderator why the support from the president's own party isn't enthusiastic about Obama's new stimulus proposal.
"I am trying to figure out, where is the Democratic leadership?" Kernen said. "Were you not surprised that after the speech and after the proposals, I don't know of a single person in a leadership position that said, ‘Yes Mr. President, that's a great idea.' All I saw was [Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael] Bennet using the s-word, which he isn't supposed to use and isn't that surreal? I mean it's like - the president almost seems like he's lonely at this point with some of this stuff?"
To many, it's hardly a revelation to most, but when someone keeps taking the same action over and over again, even to his detriment, it can reveal a lot about that individual's belief system.
This was an observation CNBC "Squawk Box" host Joe Kernen made about the Obama administration's willingness to embrace a populist "soak the rich" tactic against the wealthy in the United States, even though it isn't winning him favor with the American people, according to opinion polling. A new ABC News/Washington Post poll shows more people now think President Barack Obama's policies have hurt the economy than have helped. And Kernen called the unwillingness to change course evidence of the president's ideology - proof he does believe in the redistribution of wealth.
"When push comes to shove, the left wins out with this guy," Kernen said on the Sept. 8 broadcast of "Squawk Box." "Axelrod calls the shots when push comes to shove. And this will make the case for a populist argument that these rich people - soak the rich - they do not need this and we're going to cut for the middle class and we're going to pay for it by soaking the rich. And it's right down - but it also - he said it all along, but to his critics, those critics, it's more evidence of a redistribution that when it all comes down to it, the overriding mandate of this administration - it's a redistribution of wealth."
As the not-so "recovery summer" draws to an end, many are scratching heads, wondering what it will take for the economy to pull out of this recession.
According to Maria Bartiromo, host of CNBC's "Closing Bell," it will be political change in Washington, D.C. In an appearance on NBC's Sept. 7 "Today," she said the best stimulus would be a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
"This is probably the single most important catalyst for the stock market right now," Bartiromo said. "I think that the perception of confidence, the perception that perhaps we won't see tremendous change in terms of higher expenses in 2011 if we were to see the Republicans gain control of the House, it will probably be a positive for the stock market.
Erin Burnett, one of CNBC's famed "money honeys," exaggerated the relative strength of the economy Sunday in order to boost the success of President Obama's stimulus plan.
Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Burnett several times characterized this economic recovery as not only far stronger than any of the indicators suggest, but also "faster" than those in the recent past.
"Our recovery started more quickly than after any other recession in the past 25 years," the CNBCer told David Gregory and his panel.
Burnett later elaborated on this preposterous claim as fellow panelist Rich Lowry of the National Review shook his head on screen (video follows with transcript and commentary):
With a 9.6 percent unemployment rate overall in the United States and unemployment rates showing an uptick in states on the Gulf of Mexico that allow offshore oil drilling, one has to wonder what the Obama administration is thinking its Draconian wide-sweeping moratorium halting deepwater drilling in the Gulf after the BP oil spill.
While environmentalists are using today's explosion on a oil production platform in the Gulf to support a drilling moratorium, critics like CNBC's "Fast Money" panelist Jon Najarian have questioned the wisdom of the Obama administration's decision to put up to 75,000 in limbo.
"As far as what was going on in the Gulf, it shows a tone-deafness from this administration," Najarian said on the Sept. 2 broadcast of "Fast Money." "I mean, I'll pound the table for that because I'm not running for office. But I mean, this guy is tone deaf that 75,000 jobs in the Gulf of Mexico that have been idled for no good reason. It's costing all of us and it costs all the places where they would normally spend money as well."
It is a curious phenomenon - the way the media have handled the economy since President Barack Obama has taken office. Generally the coverage has been on the optimistic side over the last 18 months. But could this blind optimism come back to haunt people that trade on economic metrics?
According to CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer, it will and in a big way on Aug. 27, when the new gross domestic product numbers are released. On CNBC's Aug. 26 broadcast of "Street Signs," Cramer predicted dismal numbers during his "Stop Trading" segment, which has been contrary to the way the market reacted.
"Look, I'm going to give you my forecast right now - I think we're going to get 0.5 percent GDP, OK?" Cramer said. "But, let's say we get 0.5 percent GDP. Everyone's going to say it's horrible. We're going to go track down economists, Nobel winners who think it's a double dip. And it'll be like shocker - 0.5 percent. And I'm telling you it's going to be 0.5 percent. It's like the housing number. On my show I said it's going to be declined 50 percent. We get 30 percent. It was like shocker. Whoever is making these estimates is just so wrong because you know, you piece these pieces together on a daily basis like I do and come up with something between zero and 1 percent growth."
We've heard the knocks on NBC and the institutional bias that exists in its network - from the subtle spin in its flagship network's news coverage at NBC to the over-the-top bias at its cable news channel MSNBC. So maybe the man behind the curtains at NBC Universal would like to be more overt with his opinions - as a politician?
On MSNBC's Aug. 25 "Morning Joe," Jeff Zucker, president and CEO of NBC Universal, addressed both his possible political aspirations and bringing back one of the network's former star personalities. Host Joe Scarborough asked Zucker where his political interests were at this stage.
"You know Joe - look, politics is something I've always had an interest in," Zucker said. "It is something I've always thought about. It is not something that is on my current radar. It's not something I'm thinking about in the next few years, but it is something that I would always consider. I think - I love politics. I would love to give back. I would love to serve. I would love to do something, but it is not imminent. It's nothing now."
February 2009 was a pretty dark time for the conservative movement. The arguably most liberal president in the history of the United States has been sworn in to office just weeks early. The Congress had solid Democratic majorities in both chambers. And there were overtures that only way to save the nation from suffering the worst of a downtrodden economy was through an avalanche of costly legislation that would create huge budget deficits and ever-expanding bureaucracy.
But in the midst of that dark spell, CNBC's Rick Santelli lit the spark that ignited the conservative pushback. On CNBC's Feb. 19, 2009 "Squawk Box," Santelli called for a "tea party" in Lake Michigan to protest the idea the Obama administration was preparing to enact a massive housing bailout to reward people who took part in risky behavior by purchasing a home they couldn't afford.
Paul Krugman and Larry Kudlow - not exactly two guys you would associate with one another. However, they are two media figures Washington Post columnist Frank Ahrens thinks should be candidates for the same job.
In his case for Krugman, Ahrens wondered that since Krugman can talk the talk, can he walk the walk as well.
"Outside the academic world, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is best known for his New York Times columns arguing that the $787 billion, debt-busting stimulus bill was not enough, so even moderate Democrats -- not to mention conservatives -- might lose their minds with this pick. But maybe it's time for Krugman to put his money where his mouth is," Ahrens wrote. "You think government needs to spend more to get us out of this funk? Okay, Paul. Here's the key to the car."
Earlier today, NB's Lachlan Markey covered Bill O'Reilly's interview with the Fox Business Channel's Charles Gasparino.
In that interview, Gasparino confirmed what the New York Post reported in April of last year, namely that "GE Execs Encouraged CNBC Staff to Go Easy on Obama."
The suits at GE, including Chairman Jeff Inmelt, had a clear motivation for encouraging their reporters to lighten up, namely that "General Electric at the time was hoping to profit handsomely from policies that would benefit a few companies, including GE, at the expense of the majority of the economy"-- specifically cap and trade.
But speaking of motivation: What about former CNBCer Gasparino's?
The easy answer would be that sometime in the past two years he has seen the light and realizes his past reporting at CNBC was lacking in fairness and balance. Despite his move to Fox, there's reason to doubt that.
On last night's 'O'Reilly Factor,' Fox Business Network reporter Charlie Gasparino claimed that during his time at CNBC, General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt suggested to senior CNBC staff that they were being too hard on President Obama.
Gasparino did not say that it became official CNBC policy to tone down criticism of the president. But he claimed that "the question of whether they were being fair to the president was brought up" and that he had "never heard that before." Keep in mind that at the time GE stood to make a whole lot of money from some of Obama's key policies. NBC and its affiliates have conspicuously shilled for such policies before.
Even absent an official NBC or CNBC policy on criticizing the president, the incident demonstrates a profound lack of journalistic neutrality. There has always been a looming conflict of interest at GE's television arm. The possibility that higher-ups suggested reporters go easy on the president raises all sorts of questions about the abilities of NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC to fairly and accurately report the news (video and transcript of Gasparino's statement below the fold).
OK - it's not really much of a surprise. However, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has responded to the slowing economic recovery with restraint, not tinkering with interest rates and showing a continued willingness to buy mortgage-backed securities and long-term Treasury bonds. And that was roundly applauded by the markets, and CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer.
"Here's what you need to know about the Fed," Cramer said. "They're not in the way. I'm a Fed-is-friend, Fed-is-foe guy."
On CNBC's Aug. 10 "Street Signs," during his "Stop Trading" segment, Cramer explained that the Fed is acting appropriately and noted it wasn't the Bernanke that was holding the economy back. Who is to blame? It's Congress, according to Cramer, with its complicated health care bill and even more indecipherable financial regulation bill.
It would appear that someone at CNBC listened to the Mark Levin Show on Thursday. Either that, or someone at the network paid attention to his or her e-mail alerts and read my post that went up in the wee hours Friday morning (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog). Likely in response to our criticisms, CNBC has revised and "clarified" a report by CNBC staff writer Jeffrey Cox.
The network's revised and "clarified" report still fails to sufficiently inform readers. In fact, the new version seems to be the result of a meeting where the topic of discussion was: "What are the least informative changes we can make while being technically correct?"
On his show Thursday night, Levin referred to Cox's probably original version (now Google cached; copy saved here at my web host for future reference) addressing Deutsche Bank analysts' fears that the expiration of the Bush tax cuts at the end of the year will have a sharply negative economic impact. (For what it's worth, I prefer to describe what's coming as a plain-and-simple tax increase, simply because after what will have been eight years -- 2003 through 2010 -- everyone has long since gotten used to the current income tax structure.)
Here are the first two paragraphs of Cox's report as found by Levin and yours truly (bold is mine):
Gold has been a highly valued commodity going at least as far back as the ancient Egyptian culture in 2600 BC. But now, with economic instability and uncertainty over the health of major global currencies, the demand for gold has risen as a store of value and a hedge against inflation.
Over the past 12 months, the price of gold has gone up dramatically - up 25 percent from July 2009 (from $929 per ounce to $1,163 per ounce, after reaching a high of $1,250 per ounce). That has outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) on a percentage basis.
Like a dog chasing its tail, the left has spent a great amount of time trying to determine who the leader of the Tea Party movement is. And often, there are accusations of prevalent racism among its members. But according to CNBC's Rick Santelli, the Tea Party is more of a philosophy than a group, which has nothing to do with racism.
"First of all, we should have zero tolerance for racial discrimination, period," Santelli said. "Beyond that, if the indirect question is, ‘Is the Tea Party racist?' I think the real question is, ‘Are there racists in the Tea Party?' And I would contend that statistically there's going to be racists in any group."
There's something very tortuous about watching some of the talking heads assembled on NBC's "The Chris Matthews Show," especially when they try to dissect former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin like she is some alien life form.
On the July 11 broadcast of his weekend show, Matthews and his panel analyzed Palin's "Mama Grizzlies" ad spot and attempted to determine what Palin's end goal was with the ad. And Time magazine's Joe Klein attributed credit to Palin's charismatic ability.
"The most important thing about Sarah Palin is that she's a great stand-up politician," Klein said. "I mean, when you hear her talk - this is not a woman who has sat in a room with a political consultant telling her how to pronounce words. It's just her voice."
"There's something in the inflection which is provocative," Matthews replied.
While some on the left side of the aisle in Congress are getting all starry-eyed about prospects of more federal stimulus spending, the first round of stimulus under President Barack Obama may have done even less to help the ailing economy than supporters claim.
On MSNBC's July 9 broadcast of "The Daily Rundown," co-hosts Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie interviewed CNBC "Closing Bell" anchor Maria Bartiromo from the Aspen Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colo. And Bartiromo offered her views why the economy didn't spiral out of control any more than it did. She said according to some on Wall Street, it wasn't Obama's $787-billion "stimulus" that included a huge bulk of state government bailout spending, but instead action by the Federal Reserve to put more liquidity in the economy.
"Look, there's no doubt about it - we were close to going off a cliff the weekend at Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, Merrill [Lynch] was sold and AIG acquired by government," Bartiromo said. "You know, I mean I think we were very close and the economy needed stimulus in a big way. It's arguable whether that stimulus that helped the economy was really because of the stimulus plan or really because of the Federal Reserve. I think most people on Wall Street will believe and will tell you that it was really the Fed action in terms of giving greater access to the banks to overnight lending that really, really got us out."
The Twitter "Fail Whale": An irritating part of anyone's day that regularly uses social networking in their day-to-day activities. But could this endanger the viability of Twitter as long-term business?
A couple of analysts say think so. Both CNET.com senior editor Natali Del Conte and Herb Greenburg of CNBC Business News suggested Twitter's infrastructure problems could pose issues for Twitter's survival on CNBC's July 2 "Power Lunch."
"Twitter's down all the time," Greenburg said. "I love using Twitter. I will say it here and now - if Twitter were a business, it would be broke. Wait! Twitter is a business, but it's a private business. Maybe it's the type of business that should go public in this environment because those are the kind of companies that go public.
On CNBC's June 29 broadcast "Power Lunch," Rep. Paul Kajorski, D-Pa. made a pretty prediction about the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) should Congress be unable to pass financial regulation legislation. [Video Available Here]
"You know, I wish every one of them would ask the question and also the industry and media, what happens in this country if this bill fails?" Kanjorski said. "Do you think 236 points down on the Dow is surprising? Check 1,000 or 2,000 points if we fail to change the ways that caused this problem."
That caught the attention of CNBC's Erin Burnett, who played the clip for "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer. Cramer blasted Kanjorski and the entire institution of the federal government for being a drag on the markets for a myriad of reasons on his June 29 "Stop Trading" segment of CNBC's "Street Signs."
It's hard to imagine an economist being provocative, but Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize winner, has managed to do so.
In his June 28 New York Times op-ed, Krugman argued that since governments around the world aren't willing to double-down on Keynesian policies meant to stimulate the global economy, the United States and the rest of the world are facing a third depression. But on CNBC's June 28 "The Kudlow Report," host Larry Kudlow asked if Krugman's premise were true, how come none of the measures being applied, which Krugman advocates more of, have failed to have any effect on the current economy.
"Steve Forbes, I want to focus this, coming out of G-20," Kudlow said. "Paul Krugman's remarkable op-ed today in The New York Times - he says, we are already in the early stages of a depression. He calls it the third depression in U.S. history. He says that it's primarily a failure of policy. But, Steve, the so-called spending cuts or tax increases or deficit reduction hasn't happened yet. In the last two years, we've had gargantuan spending and ultra-easy money which is what Professor Krugman has been advocating the whole time. And he still thinks we're in a depression. So I need to ask you, maybe his policies are what threaten the depression."
If it were only that simple - that is the way CNBC's Rick Santelli would have it.
On CNBC's June 28 "Squawk Box," CNBC's senior economics reporter Steve Liesman vigorously defended the need for higher tax rates as a measure to cut federal deficits. Others argued that government revenues would increase if tax rates were lower because it would stimulate growth. (h/t Real Clear Politics Video)
"Let me get this straight - all you guys want to cut taxes en route to bringing down the deficit?" Liesman asked.
But according to Santelli, it has nothing to do with taxes, but the role of government in the economy.
"Well, you know, it's all about, in my opinion, definition and choice," Santelli said. "Definition, I don't disagree with our guest, Richard [DeKaser, president of Woodley Park Research], about stimulus, but I haven't seen any stimulus. I've seen a lot of spending. And in terms of choice, austerity isn't something people are going to volunteer for. The creditors are going to force it on them. I think these issues are much different than we're selling them. You know, we don't have a new Hoover Dam. We don't have a new electric grid. We paid a bunch of salaries and benefits and extension benefits, unemployment with a lot of that money that you save jobs because you paid teachers because states couldn't afford it I don't think any of that really falls under a definition of stimulus."
Fresh off his Tea Party cover storyin the June 24 Weekly Standard, CNBC's Rick Santelli foresees what could be classified as an economic black hole for the United States of America.
On the network's June 24 broadcast of "Strategy Session," the CME Group reporter explained how the country could be headed down the same path and face the economic calamity the Japanese faced in what is known asthe "lost decade."That period, from 1991-2000, was one which the Asian nation failed to grow economically despite countless efforts by the government to intervene. But as Santelli explained - the U.S. version of Japanese economic policies could result in Greek-style austerity measures.
"The notion that we are turning into Japan has been something talked about on this floor for probably a year and a half," Santelli said. "What changes though, is that it is now a toss up between Japan and Greece and trust me the eventual solutions or recommendations for avoiding the pitfalls of either are completely different strategies. A lot of Japanese say, ‘More Keynesian, more stimulus, spend, spend, spend, spend, spend.' And the other side of the equation says, ‘Well then, you are going turn into Greece.' Where does the truth lie? One thing I can tell you is, is that demographics are a big issue in this story as well. The Japanese have a demographic time bomb similar to the U.S. in terms of underfunded pensions and liabilities."
Wow, just wow. Never would have seen this one coming, but is one of the standard-bearers of the media elite recognizing the Obama administration's anti-business populist tone is inhibiting the U.S. economy?
"It is, certainly beyond Washington," Gregory explained. "You all know it talking to business leaders every day and I do speak to business leaders quite often as well and I hear it time and time again that what you got at the administration are two problems. One, you've got nobody in the inner sanctum of the President's advisers who has ever run a business - who have never run a business. And that's a real problem. I think there's a level of recognition about that being a problem in the West Wing as well. But the rhetoric and the policy substantively, a lot of people feel, is anti-business and getting to a point where it could really discourage businesses in the United States and certainly the multinationals working here as well. That's a problem and I think that element of criticism from Joe Barton, while off the reservation substantively, got to that larger point, which is this populist string."
With the federal government - both on Capitol Hill and in the White House - beginning to take investigative and punitive action against BP (NYSE:BP), the future of the company, at least in the United States, is in peril.
On CNBC's June 14 "The Kudlow Report," John Kilduff, a CNBC contributor and the vice president of MF Global was asked by host Larry Kudlow about a potential debarment from eligibility to be awarded government contracts, which have been very lucrative for the embattled oil giant.
"John, this would effectively be debarment," Kudlow said. "This is something we talked about a week ago, and the prevailing attitude was there would not be debarment because that hardly ever happens in American commercial history. Is President Obama having this as a Sword of Damocles over BP?"
"Rep. Ron Paul is captivated by gold," O'Hara and Keating wrote. "Over the past two decades, he has written books about the virtues of gold-backed currency. He has made uncounted speeches about the precious metal. He even took a leadership post on the House subcommittee that oversees the nation's monetary policy, mints and gold medals."
Reports are surfacing that BP is finally considering a suspension of its shareholder's dividend, but what could have been done differently to avert the public relations nightmare BP is facing? Two CNBC hosts had some ideas about that, and about what could have happened if BP chose not to play ball.
Jim Cramer and Erin Burnett shared their thoughts on the "Stop Trading" segment of "Street Signs" June 11. According to the "Mad Money" host, Obama could have set a foul precedent for multi-national businesses if BP (NYSE:BP) didn't agree to make some concessions on how it is handling its day-to-day operations in the wake of this ecological crisis.
"I think that this is a, a stock that represents great value but you're dealing with the government," Cramer said. "I saw that Nancy Pelosi, she's the second most powerful person in our country, saying that they shouldn't be paying a dividend. I mean, this is one of those situations where I know, the president's approval ratings are down and what you got to do is you got to go after BP if you're the president. I'm not saying I would do it but I'm saying if I were the president of the United States, BP is public enemy number one and you're not even going to listen to what the British say. You just gotta say, ‘Guys, here's the deal, we're not, we're not going to have any dividends here. And just you know, take it or leave it, partner, because this is a company that needs U.S. ball play."
On February 19, 2009, Rick Santelli helped create a movement whose political impact has not yet been fully realized. The "Rant Heard 'Round the World," as it has become known, was a profound, if hardly isolated example of the power of conservative pundits to enact political change.
That power has grown as Americans have become more sympathetic to the economic conservative argument--both the moral/spiritual element of it, and the strictly economic one. The American people have by and large come full circle in a short time, and the pundits that retain the most influence in our society have changed accordingly.
Santelli is the perfect example, as he was certainly not the prominent name he is now before he let loose on the floor of the Chicago exchange. Michael Barone explains the essential appeal of the rant. He wrote Wednesday that it "was both an economic and a moral argument."
When a protectionist law is enacted and nearly a century later it is inhibiting a recovery from major ecological catastrophe, it's probably time to scrap it or at least temporarily waive it.
But instead a nearly century old provision known as the Jones Act of 1920 is wielding the wrath of unintended consequences. According to the Heritage Foundation, this protectionist measure was put in place to defend the American maritime industry, but is endangering far more jobs than it is protecting.
"The Jones Act, which is supposedly about protecting jobs, is actually killing jobs," Heritage co-authors James Dean and Claude Berube wrote in a June 8 The Foundry post. "The jobs of fishermen, people working in tourism and others who live along the Gulf Coast and earn a living there are being severely impacted. There are also additional private sector jobs which are NOT being created in the United States since the Jones Act effectively prices U.S. based companies out of the ability to be competitive on the competitive global market. As we strive to develop new technologies for a cleaner environment at sea, the Jones Act continues to hobble our own capabilities, sometimes with devastating results."