It's amazing how Bernard Condon and Tim Paradis of the Associated Press managed to hang the same label on totally opposite political positions in their report on the situation in the stock market late this afternoon.
According to the AP pair, Scott Brown's U.S. Senate win in Massachusetts was due to a "wave of populism," at the same time as President Obama is supposedly planning to use "populist attacks" to save his party's congressional majority in the fall elections. One of those employments of "populism" has to be wrong.
Additionally, they write that it's Scott Brown's type of populism that caused investors to sell heavily in the middle of last week, but that it's Barack Obama's type of populism that caused it to plunge even further during its remainder.
Look at the bright side: As you'll see, the wire service at least got the headline right.
Here are the first five paragraphs of the AP pair's schizophrenic report, followed by a few later ones (bolds are mine):
Obama share scare: Market drop shows vulnerability
It was the fat cats' fault before. But now it's becoming Obama's.
With the unemployment rate stubbornly high, people were already shifting blame for their economic woes to President Barack Obama one year into his presidency. Last week, investors joined them.
For 10 months, the stock market climbed at breathtaking speed. But the Dow Jones industrial average suffered its worst week since dropping to a 12-year low in early March. It fell 552 points Wednesday through Friday, including 216 on Friday.
One big reason investors scrambled to sell: Fear over a wave of populism that swept a Republican to an upset victory in the Massachusetts Senate race on Tuesday. When Obama responded on Thursday with a broadside against big banks, the market plunged. On Friday, investors feared mounting opposition in the Senate could derail Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's reappointment. Disappointing corporate earnings and concern that China will slow its economy added to the jitters.
The question now: If the bad news continues, will Obama, who is trying to win votes in the fall elections with his populist attacks, end up losing them instead? Put another way, can Obama win over Main Street by vilifying Wall Street if people fear opening their 401(k) statements again?
Last Tuesday after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the indexes hit 18-month highs in anticipation of Republican Scott Brown's likely victory in the race to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts. Health insurance and pharmaceutical companies led the gains because a Brown victory endangers the massive health care bill favored by Obama and the Democratic majorities in Congress.
But stocks began falling fast on Wednesday when China announced plans to slow its economy. They fell again the next day after Obama's speech calling for limits on the size of banks and their risk taking.
The coup de grace for the market came Friday. In a nod to voter anger at Wall Street, a few Democrats said they wouldn't vote to reappoint Bernanke, whose term ends Jan. 31. But many investors have faith that Bernanke has the tools, the know-how and the political backbone to reel in the unprecedented amount of money pumped into the economy during the financial crisis and avoid a crushing round of inflation.
How Condon and Paradis can alternatively blame Brown for both the market's Tuesday rise and its fall during the remainder of the week (strongly implied in the fourth excerpted paragraph) is quite a mystery.
How the pair can call both the Brown campaign's positions (which included a ringing denunciation of the "Bank Responsibility Fee" the president proposed the previous week) and Obama's attacks on the banks "populist" at the same time. My suggestion: Brown reflects a genuine form of populism that wants the states and the people to have more control over their lives, and the federal government to have less, while Obama's "we want our money back" rhetoric and his desired limits on what banks can do and how big they can be -- limits that can't be imposed on the rest of the world and would likely make U.S. banks less competitive in the world marketplace -- is sheer demonization and demagoguery that has nothing to do with genuine populism.
The "blame Ben Bernanke" gambit being undertaken by some senators has little or nothing to do with "voter anger at Wall Street"; if there's major evidence of that, I haven't seen it. It is instead an attempt to distract the public from the truth about who is really responsible for the housing, mortgage-lending, and general financial services messes that came to a head in the summer and fall of 2008. That list of the blameworthy, not necessarily in order, would include Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Timmy Geithner, Henry Paulson, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, the Congressional and Senate majorities, and Democratic Party-inspired legislation going back decades such as the Community Reinvestment Act. If Big Ben even belongs on the list, he would be at or near its bottom.
Towards the end of their report, Condon and Paraidis threw out this howler:
The vote in Massachusetts scared all incumbents. It's now every man and woman for himself or herself in Washington.
Give, me, a, break. All incumbents? Who can possibly believe that sensible, principled conservatives like Jim DeMint or Tom Coburn have been quaking in their boots during the past week because of Scott Brown's win?
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.