Recession stories have a lot in common with global warming stories - there are a lot of them and you hear only one side. And like global warming, recession is the subject of a Newsweek cover story, appearing on the front of the magazine's February 4 issue.
"The Great Global Market Freak-Out of 2008 has everyone asking whether the United States - already on the road to recession - is entering into a protracted period of economic trouble where jobs will be slashed, prices will continue to rise and the dollar will keep falling; and if so, whether the declining U.S. economy will pull the rest of the world down with it," Gross wrote. "A recession is defined as a widespread contraction in economic activity lasting more than a few months, and because of the lag in financial data, recessions typically aren't officially declared until long after they start. In short, the United States could already be in one."
After the Fed made an "emergency" 75-basis-point rate cut this morning, CNBC's "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer, who has gone from bull market cheerleader to bear market doom and gloomer in the last six months, said it was too little too late.
"[T]his is obviously the kind of action I was most fearful of - which is that they would have to go panic and that they would get way behind the curve," Cramer said on CNBC's January 22 "Squawk Box." "But, you know but once they do it, I'm less ... I can't hammer them as much. This is the kind of action if they had done it three months ago, we would have been safe."
On MSNBC's January 18 "Hardball," Cramer predicted the Dow Jones Industrial Average would decline 2,000 points over the next couple of weeks. However, he was a little less pessimistic after this rate cut.
The headline "The Economy Sucks" might be something you'd expect to see in Rolling Stone or on Slate.com, but certainly not in a reputable news magazine, right?
Yet, the January 21 issue of Newsweek defied expectations by using that for part of a headline for a one-sided, pro-Bill Clinton view of the economy. The article recalled the 1992 "It's the economy, stupid!" campaign as it tore down the current economy.
So, why does the economy "suck" according to Newsweek? It isn't that there's a depression looming or that we're in recessionary times, we're just "perilously close to sliding into a recession."
"Today, the nation is perilously close to sliding into a recession; in '92, the economy had already started growing, though a jobless recovery doomed George H.W. Bush's re-election bid anyway," Gross wrote. "The lesson? Voters' perceptions matter more than whether the economy is technically expanding or contracting."
You might disagree with how he slashed the Fed funds rate during times of economic turmoil as Federal Reserve chairman.
You might have even disavowed him after showing his coziness with the Clinton administration throughout the 1990s. But after 18 years of public service, you can't deny that Alan Greenspan should have a shot in the private sector.
"No, I don't think we're going to hit recession, but it's going to feel like it," Welch said. "Things are slowing down dramatically, as everyone knows. But I think we'll weather this thing and the global economy will keep us alive. So, we will not have a technical recession, but it will sure as hell feel like one."
Though Uncle Sam did run a surplus last month, the year-to-date figures are alarming:
It should be pretty clear that the big news in the above figures is that federal spending during the first quarter of the fiscal year was almost 9% higher than during the first quarter a year ago. If the spending increase had been held to only 5%, this fiscal year's quarterly deficit would have come in virtually the same as last year's.
Yet it took these publications the following number of paragraphs to get to the year-to-date spending news:
"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."
The dispute over Indiana's voter ID law that is headed to the Supreme Court in January is as much a partisan political drama as a legal tussle.
On one side are mainly Republican backers of the law, including the Bush administration, who say state-produced photo identification is a prudent measure intended to cut down on vote fraud. Yet there have been no Indiana prosecutions of in-person voter fraud — the kind the law is supposed to prevent.
On the other side are mainly Democratic opponents who call voter ID a modern-day poll tax that will disproportionately affect poor, minority and elderly voters — who tend to back Democrats. Yet, a federal judge found that opponents of the law were unable to produce evidence of a single, individual Indiana resident who had been barred from voting because of the law.
A subscription-only editorial in the Wall Street Journal on Monday propagated a carefully-worded whopper, but at least made a small change to the paper's insufferable 23-year "There Shall Be Open Borders" mantra (bolds are mine):
A recent paper by the Immigration Policy Center, an advocacy group, notes that "Numerous studies by independent researchers and government commissions over the past 100 years repeatedly and consistently have found that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes or be behind bars than the native born." Today, immigrants on balance are five times less likely to be in prison than someone born here.
None of this is to argue that illegal immigration doesn't have costs, especially in border communities and states with large public benefits. In the post-9/11 environment, knowing who's in the country is more important than ever. That's an argument for better regulating cross-border labor flows, not ending them.
The Immigration Policy Center's use of 100 years averages things out quite a bit, doesn't it?
According to MasterCard SpendingPulse, retail sales were up 3.6 percent during the holiday season - 2.4 percent excluding gas prices. But because it's not as big an increase as recent years have produced, the media reported it as bad news.
On NBC's "Nightly News," reporter Savannah Guthrie announced a "dramatic" 2.4 percent decrease in women's clothing sales. She didn't think the same percentage increase was "dramatic," however. Instead, she referred to the overall sales increase as "disappointing."
Other media labeled the figures "dismal," "small," "weak," "bleak" and "a clear sign that the economy is slowing down." Most made sure to point out, like "Good Morning America's" Ryan Owens, that the increase is "the smallest in four years."
When Larry Summers suggested in early 2005 that, as paraphrased by Slate's William Saletan, "innate differences between the sexes might help explain why relatively few women become professional scientists or engineers," the outcry was immediate, furious, and went to saturation level virtually overnight. The controversy ultimately led to his resignation a year later as Harvard President.
On Wednesday, Mr. Summers, a Democrat who was once Treasury Secretary under Bill Clinton, made a recommendation in his area of expertise -- that is, that a tax cut would be a good idea to protect against a possible recession. (Yours truly doesn't believe that a recession is anywhere near occurring. But hey, I've said since May, and several times since [here, here, and here, among others] that a tax cut is needed anyway to keep the economy chugging along at a good rate. So if panicked pols want to enact a tax cut for the wrong reason, I'll take it.)
Old Media reaction to Summers has been virtual silence.
Yes, the viciousness is being directed at Democrats for not being spendthrift enough.
It's too early to tell whether President Bush and congressional Republicans have outmaneuvered the Democratic congressional majority, but it's looking that way. Old Media doesn't like it, and their inability to successfully buck up their side, one bit.
In the Washington Post's "Dems Blaming Each Other For Failures," Jonathan Weisman and Paul Kane are clearly critical:
Capitalist democracies around the world should be very concerned about the level of socialism being discussed at the United Nations' climate change meeting in Bali.
Not only are international hands being extended to collect funds from countries like the United States in order to help poorer nations deal with a problem that might actually be disappearing since global temperatures peaked in 1998, but climate change is also being used as a means of stripping intellectual property rights from companies that have created new more eco-friendly energy technologies.
If such a power-grab for the so-called benefit of the downtrodden actually comes to pass, capitalism as we know it will cease to exist.
Think that might be a little alarmist? Feast your eyes on the following report from Bali by the Associated Press Wednesday under the headline "Poor Nations Demand Climate Technology" (emphasis added throughout):
How often in the past couple of years have you heard a climate alarmist refer to a so-called scientific consensus concerning man's role in global warming?
Almost any time you see a report on the subject, correct?
Have you ever considered how this belief that a consensus exists came to be, and if it actually means anything?
Answering such questions is the Wall Street Journal's Holman W. Jenkins Jr, whose op-ed Wednesday should be must reading for citizens, media representatives, and especially politicians that actually believe an overwhelming majority of scientists around the world are drinking Al Gore's Kool-Aid (h/t NBer dscott, emphasis added throughout):
I'll be live-blogging the press conference (mostly just the questions from the journalists as we're focused on the bias) and if a video update is warranted, we'll post one shortly after the conference concludes:
10:44 closes press conference, leaves podium.
10:41: Mark Silva, Chicago Tribune, says reading Bush's body language he can tell he's "somewhat dispirited." Then he says "the facts have failed you" on things he's telling the American people. Quotes Harry Reid. "Are you feeling troubled... credibility gap?"
10:37: unid'd reporter "Wolf" asks about if Bush's personal relationship with the Democrats in Congress is affecting getting legislation through.
10:35: another unid'd reporter named "Wolf" asks Bush to react to 2008 U.S. presidential race
10:35: reporter asks if he discussed Russian elections with Putin
10:33: unidentified reporter asks Bush if in his conversation with Putin if he asked him to not sell uranium to Iran.
10:30: Baier, Fox News: "What does the vote in Venezuela mean for the U.S.? .... What's your reaction to Chavez opponents winning?"
Journalism's defenders often describe it as a profession or craft unto itself, and minimize the importance, or even sometimes the relevance, of subject matter expertise.
That lack of subject matter expertise, and the apparent unwillingness to seek out a source of that expertise when necessary, probably explain how a Hillary Clinton whopper has survived on the campaign trail for so long.
Of course, the expectations game can be frustrating, and we won't know for sure until the actual report is released Thursday at 8:30 a.m. But there appears to be remarkably good economic news ahead. Naturally, it is getting the barest of coverage from an Old Media business press corps that seems intent on talking the economy down.
First, a week ago Monday, MarketWatch's Greg Robb, in an article entitled "Economists think U.S. can dodge recession," said the following (bolds are mine throughout this post): "The economy grew at a 3.9% rate in the third quarter, and many economists expect an upward revision above 4.5% when the government revises the data on Nov. 29."
Then, at MarketWatch.com yesterday, ("Dollar under pressure as credit fears loom"; link requires free registration), reporter Lisa Twaronite got this quote from an industry expert:
As NewsBusters readers are well aware, we have for months been chronicling Nobel Laureate Al Gore's profit motive concerning the advancement of climate change hysteria.
Last Monday, it was announced that the Global Warmingist-in-Chief had been hired by Silicon Valley's most prestigious venture capital firm.
At the time, the implication was that Gore would assist Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in finding new, unknown eco-friendly companies to invest in.
According to Fox News's "The Journal Editorial Report," Gore's position with Kleiner Perkins may be to get a currently stalled energy bill through Congress that would end up helping companies the VC group has already invested in (video available here, h/t Tim Graham):
The Anchoress, a three-time Weblog Awards finalist and 2007 Catholic Blog Awards Winner (congratulations!) in the Best Political/Social Commentary category (scroll down at link to see it), delivered a cold but necessary shower earlier this evening to those of us who are tempted to exaggerate or overstate the impact New Media is having on most Americans.
I'll bet that a lot of us can relay similar stories to the ones she referred to in her very perceptive post ("Good news leaks past the embargo on good news…"; links that contradict the Old Media-driven beliefs described and bolds/italics were included in her original):
Unfortunately, it is still true that until a new president is installed in the WH, preferably one with a D after the name, only the downsides are newsworthy, and that holds true in every subject. Every subject. My elderly family members are convinced that everything, everywhere, is going to hell, and they are fretful and terrified. They think everyone is out of work, the economy is in a recession, the war in Iraq is lost and there are no real terrorist threats - that’s just made-up stuff. They’re sure America is dying. They are sure the world is headed for famine. They are depressed and do not want to send out Christmas cards, because how can you do that when so much is bad in the world?
A very interesting article appeared in yesterday's Wall Street Journal titled, "The Insanity of Bush Hatred." Author Peter Berkowitz stated that even many normally rational members of the left are completely overcome by their absolute hatred of Bush to such an extent that it borders on insanity:
...But Bush hatred is different. It's not that this time members of the intellectual class have been swept away by passion and become votaries of anger and loathing. Alas, intellectuals have always been prone to employ their learning and fine words to whip up resentment and demonize the competition. Bush hatred, however, is distinguished by the pride intellectuals have taken in their hatred, openly endorsing it as a virtue and enthusiastically proclaiming that their hatred is not only a rational response to the president and his administration but a mark of good moral hygiene.
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.
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:
In a move that must be causing Excedrin headaches at the New York Times and other Old Media outlets, USA Today reports that the Wall Street Journal's new owner expects to tear down its subscription wall:
News Corp. (NWS) Chairman Rupert Murdoch said Tuesday he intends to make access to The Wall Street Journal's website free, trading subscription fees for anticipated ad revenue.
"We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having 1 million (subscribers), having at least 10 million-15 million in every corner of the earth," Murdoch said.
News Corp. has signed an agreement to acquire Dow Jones (DJ), and the deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter. A special shareholders meeting is scheduled for Dec. 13 in New York.
Murdoch said he believes that a free model, with increased readership for wsj.com, will attract "large numbers" of big-spending advertisers.
Wealthy Americans are becoming increasingly interested in donating to global causes. Since 1997, the rate of global giving has increased steadily at an average of 12.5 percent each year. According to a recent Financial Times story, JPMorgan Private Bank has “noted a rise of about 20 percent over the last year in client interest in overseas donations, with high-net-worth individuals looking to support education, health and economic expansion projects in developing countries.”
And they aren’t alone. Financial planners and international banks have seen similar upswings. It all begs the question—why?
What does this increased giving tells us about Americans?
That's Bill Lerach. Yes, THAT Bill Lerach. The self-styled, one-time "King of Torts," and former partner at the once-untouchable Milberg Weiss law firm. The now criminally convicted Bill Lerach.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story of Bill Lerach and Milberg Weiss, here's a relatively quick synopsis, courtesy of a subscription-only editorial at the Wall Street Journal excerpted by yours truly in May 2006, when Milberg Weiss and two of its partners were indicted:
CBS Correspondent Anthony Mason would probably call it the not-so-almighty dollar, and he’d be correct if U.S. economic health was viewed only through the narrow lens of currency exchanges.
“[T]he weak dollar is really wreaking havoc on investor confidence and in many ways, the impact is just beginning to be felt,” Mason said on CBS’s November 12 “The Early Show.” “The dollar, once the gold standard of currencies, is falling hard and fast around the world. At $1.46, the euro is up nearly 12 percent against the greenback. The yen traded at 110.38 per dollar, an 18-month high. And for the first time since 1976, the Canadian dollar has risen over 20 percent in value against the U.S. dollar at $1.06.” (Click here to see video.)
But while the dollar is lagging, some experts think the dollar is undervalued.
It is understandable, but not forgivable, that business reporters at Old Media newspapers might think that the economy is in bad shape. They first have to get past how poorly most of their employers are doing. The industry as a whole has not been doing well, and it's been that way for quite some time.
This table illustrates that point (September 30, 2007 figures are at this post, which originally came from this Editor & Publisher article, which will soon disappear behind its firewall; March 31, 2005 figures were estimated in reverse using annual percentage changes reported as of March 31, 2006, because older data I thought would remain available no longer is):
The fact has been out there for some time, but never garnered much media attention. Now, in the context of the current debate over the granting of driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, will there be renewed focus on this chilling reality? Could this be the factoid that changes a presidential election? As John Fund wrote in his Wall Street Journal column today and discussed during his "Morning Joe" appearance:
After 9/11, the Justice Department found that eight of the 19 hijackers were registered to vote.
View video of Fund's "Morning Joe" appearance here.
And what made it so simple for them to register? As Fund explains: