ABC Certifies Obama's Claim His Policies Inducing Economic Progress

Just under 90 minutes before President Barack Obama's Tuesday night news conference, ABC's World News set out to support his contention that his policies have already led to economic improvement. Picking up on how Obama planned to announce at the start of the session that thanks to his economic policies “we are beginning to see signs of progress,” anchor Charles Gibson asked: “Well, is the President right? And are things turning around? We asked David Muir to look at two key sectors of the economy, jobs and housing.”

Muir decided in Obama's favor: “The report card on the economy does show glimmers of hope.” He pointed to how “last month, 651,000 more jobs were lost, a lot of workers. But just two months earlier, that number was 681,000.” Muir proceeded to highlight how because of the “stimulus,” there “are now signs that money is trickling down.” (I thought the media line was that “trickle down” doesn't work?) Specifically, “the U.S. Forest Service is among the first government agencies to hire. Melina Vasquez is among the 1500 people who will now be restoring the parks.” Plus, “outside Portland, Oregon, one contractor fixing U.S. Highway 26 is bringing back 30 laid off workers and hiring ten more.”

Streaming out all the good news, Muir continued: “Then, there's housing and good news in hard-hit Miami, for instance, where sales have jumped a whopping 68 percent from just a year ago. And this week the numbers are encouraging nationwide.” Muir turned to an economist who “is looking forward with some lesser known indicators.” The economist pointed to “housing permits, which foreshadows future construction, that, too, for single family homes, up 11 percent, the best in ten months.”

From the Tuesday, March 24 World News (6:30 PM EDT edition), following a press conference preview by Jake Tapper:
CHARLES GIBSON, IN HOUSTON: Well, is the President right? And are things turning around? We asked David Muir to look at two key sectors of the economy, jobs and housing. And bring us up to date.

DAVID MUIR: The report card on the economy does show glimmers of hope. First, jobs. On the surface, the unemployment picture still appears poor. But some economists say, look more closely at the numbers. Last month, 651,000 more jobs were lost, a lot of workers. But just two months earlier, that number was 681,000.

MUIR TO ROBERT BRUSCA: We still see job loss out there, but in that, you see a glimmer of hope?

ROBERT BRUSCA, CHIEF ECONOMIST, FACT & OPINION ECONOMISTS: The good news is, in the last three months, the declines have gotten marginally smaller. Before the economy improves, it usually stabilizes.

MUIR: And what about creating jobs, with all of that stimulus money from Washington? There are now signs that money is trickling down. The U.S. Forest Service is among the first government agencies to hire. Melina Vasquez is among the 1500 people who will now be restoring the parks.

MELINA VASQUEZ: It's a great opportunity for me, you know, to be out here and to have this job.

MUIR: And outside Portland, Oregon, one contractor fixing U.S. Highway 26 is bringing back 30 laid off workers and hiring ten more. Then, there's housing and good news in hard-hit Miami, for instance, where sales have jumped a whopping 68 percent from just a year ago. And this week the numbers are encouraging nationwide. Sales of pre-owned homes jumped more than five percent last month, but analysts caution it's the sellers who are taking a hit.. The median price of a home dropped 15 percent. Still, economist Bernard Baumohl is looking forward with some lesser known indicators. For one, the number of new permits sought by home builders.

BERNARD BAUMOHL, GLOBAL ECONOMIST, ECONOMIC OUTLOOK GROUP: Housing permits, which foreshadows future construction, that, too, for single family homes, up 11 percent, the best in ten months.

MUIR: And he says that's a small, but solid predictor of the future. But perhaps the biggest hurdle remains the mood of the consumer right now. After all, spending does count for 70 percent of this economy.

In fact, just tonight, that new ABC News survey shows a glass hall full/half empty scenario for the consumer. They tell us they're pessimistic when asked about their situation right now, but when asked about their futures, consumers indicate that they're starting to feel a little bit better, which mirrors what we heard from economists all day today, Charlie.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center