Wednesday's online headline from CNBC's incessant Street cheerleader, Larry Kudlow:
"Recovery Indicators Are Being Ignored"
This afternoon's headline from WSJ.com:
"Recession Job Losses Top Four Million"
The Journal lead:
The U.S. economy continues to hemorrhage jobs at monthly rates not seen in six decades, a government report showed, signaling that there's still no end in sight to the severe recession that has already cost the U.S. over four million jobs.
But yes, by all means listen to Kudlow.
Specifically, for the team of top notch reporters who are trying to cover the most complex and challenging economic story of our lifetime. And by most accounts they're doing a good job staying on top of the constantly changing crisis.
The embarrassing part is when they open up the opinion pages of their own newspaper and see the editorials about the economy that read like they were penned by pledging members of the Young Republicans club.
Like the Journal's attempt to blame Obama for the downturn in the stock market. Only a fool would make that case. (i.e. Slumping housing prices in December and January were Obama's fault? Okay.....) But that's what the Journal proudly did this week:
As 2009 opened, three weeks before Barack Obama took office, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 9034 on January 2, its highest level since the autumn panic. Yesterday the Dow fell another 4.24% to 6763, for an overall decline of 25% in two months and to its lowest level since 1997. The dismaying message here is that President Obama's policies have become part of the economy's problem.
Over at NPR, Dick Meyer makes what should be this glaringly obvious point:
The idea of blaming one person for the downfall of the economy with a gross domestic product of about $14 trillion, powered by 300 million people and engaged in complex global commerce is nuts — whether that person is Bush, Obama, Alan Greenspan, Bernard Madoff, Osama bin Laden or the editors of opinions at The Wall Street Journal.
And if the Journal wants to toss around numbers to play the stock market blame game, Meyer notes [emphasis added]:
The rather more substantial fall came when the Dow was hovering around 14,000 in October 2007 and then tanked to 7552 on Nov. 20, 2008? That would mean, using the nastiest numbers, that the Dow fell about 46.5 percent on President Bush's watch. So far during the Obama administration, the Dow has dropped 15 percent.
Fox News' Glenn Beck claimed that Vice President Joe Biden met "in secret" with the AFL-CIO executive council, while Bret Baier asserted that Biden's appearance at the labor federation's meeting "was anything but transparent." In fact, the White House released a transcript of Biden's AFL-CIO speech and "a pool of print reporters" reportedly covered the speech at the request of the White House.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has a challenge for Bill O'Reilly:
This week Bill O'Reilly launched a baseless attack on members of the Service Employees International Union. O'Reilly smeared our 2 million hardworking men and women as "socialists" and "far-left extremists" trying to bring down "our capitalistic system."
Riiiight. SEIU members responded to O'Reilly by inviting the "news" man to walk a day in their shoes and find out what it's like to work in a real job.
Since Bill O'Reilly is so sure that SEIU is bent on destroying the very fabric of our society, it'd be nice for him to meet some of our members and see who makes up our union.
Do you think Bill O'Reilly could even last 10 minutes in the shoes of one of these hard-working Americans? Now is your chance to find out. Tell Bill O'Reilly to walk a day in the shoes of an SEIU member before he slams hardworking people.
Daniel Gross, business columnist for Newsweek and author of Slate.com's Moneybox column, debunks claims by Larry Kudlow, Michael Gerson (and countless others) that Barack Obama is waging class war on the rich:
It's hard to overstate how absurd these claims are. First, let's talk about the "massive increase in progressivity" that Gerson deplores. It consists largely (but not exclusively) of returning marginal tax rates to their levels of 2001, before Gerson and the epically incompetent Bush administration of which he was a part got their hands on the reins of power.
[W]e know from recent experience that marginal tax rates of 36 percent and 39 percent aren't wealth killers. I was around in the 1990s, when tax rates were at that level, and when capital gains and dividend taxes were significantly higher than they are today. And I seem to remember that we had a stock market boom, a broad rise in incomes (with the wealthy benefitting handily), and strong economic growth.
Finally, there has been a near total absence of discussion of what higher rates will mean in the real world. Say you're a CNBC anchor, or a Washington Post columnist with a seat at the Council on Foreign Relations, or a dentist, and you managed to cobble together $350,000 a year in income. You're doing quite well. If you subtract deductions for state and property taxes, mortgage interest and charitable deductions, and other deductions, the amount on which tax rates are calculated might total $300,000. What would happen if the marginal rate on the portion of your income above $250,000 were to rise from 33 percent to 36 percent? Under the old regime, you'd pay $16,500 in federal taxes on that amount. Under the new one, you'd pay $18,000. The difference is $1,500 per year, or $4.10 per day. Obviously, the numbers rise as you make more. But is $4.10 a day bleeding the rich, a war on the wealthy, a killer of innovation and enterprise? That dentist eager to slash her income from $320,000 to $250,000 would avoid the pain of paying an extra $2,100 in federal taxes. But she'd also deprive herself of an additional $70,000 in income!
Can she, or we, really be that stupid?
Gross also makes a point too often overlooked: "this return to 2001's tax rates was actually part of the Bush tax plan. The Republicans who controlled the White House and the Republicans who controlled the Congress earlier this decade decreed that all the tax cuts they passed would sunset in 2010."
Read the whole thing; it -- along with this column from Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times -- is a rare sensible and factual take on Obama's budget proposals in the midst of a lot of media hyperventilation about "class war."
Media figures have advanced the false claim that President Obama promised during his campaign to stop earmark spending and is breaking that promise by signing the omnibus spending bill currently being considered in the Senate. In fact, Obama promised to reform the earmark process and cut wasteful spending.
CNN's Jessica Yellin identified Conservatives for Patients' Rights chairman Richard Scott as someone who "runs urgent-care clinics" and the leader of "a media campaign to limit government's role in the health-care system." But Yellin did not note that Scott resigned as chairman of the nation's largest for-profit health-care company in 1997 amid a federal investigation into the company's Medicare billing, physician recruiting, and home-care practices.
In a January promotion for his then-upcoming Fox News program, Glenn Beck denounced those who accuse Democrats of leading America toward communism: "I'm tired of the politics of left and right. It's about right and wrong. We argue back and forth -- 'If you haven't voted for the donkey, you're just a hatemonger.' The other side -- 'Oh, those donkeys trying to turn us into communist Russia.' Stop!" But since his show premiered, Beck has repeatedly used his program to smear President Obama, Democrats, and their policies as communist -- and Marxist, socialist, and fascist.
At a March 5 health-care forum, President Obama said, "The cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds." On Special Report, Major Garrett reported that when asked to support that statistic, the White House cited a 2005 op-ed by Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren in which she referred to a Harvard study that supports the statistic. But Garrett did not note this. Instead, he referred to Treasury Department statistics from 2000 and pronounced Obama's assertion "[n]ot even close."
Lou Dobbs claimed that "President Obama's honeymoon with Americans on the economy appears to be at an end," asserting that the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed that "only 54 percent of Americans say the president has the right goals and policies for this country." However, the survey results for the same question from the previous two months' polls are nearly identical.
Discussing President Obama's health-care plan on MSNBC Live, The Washington Post's Ceci Connolly baselessly asserted that "estimates" for the plan put the cost at "$1 trillion each year." However, Connolly wrote in a Post article on the plan that its estimated total -- not yearly -- cost is at least $1 trillion, while other outlets have reported that the plan is expected to cost more than $1 trillion "over 10 years."
The hapless, and now worthless, newspaper chain which is in the process of going belly-up, really ought to serve as a case study some day regarding what went terribly wrong with the American newspaper industry. And how, during the last couple decades, greedy outsiders without the slightest commitment to journalism or communities, were able to drag some worthy newspapers into the abyss.
At the top of that list is the mid-sized Journal Register Co., which, I'm guessing, will soon shutter its 'flagship' daily, the New Haven Register in Connecticut, in part because the Journal Register Co. doesn't have the slightest idea of how to operate a newspaper, let alone turn a profit.
The destruction that the Journal Register has done to the Register, and to Connecticut journalism in general, over the years is almost beyond description. The company took a community-minded newspaper that enjoyed a monopoly and beefy subscribers rates, and gutted the operation through mindless cost cutting, and that was during the economic boom times.
Anyway, here's the latest:
The Connecticut attorney general's office objected Wednesday to a plan by Journal Register Co. to pay its top executives up to $1.7 million in bonuses even as the newspaper publisher seeks Chapter 11 protection from creditors.
What are the bonuses for? For gutting the company's newspapers, of course:
The bonus plan would apply to 31 "key employees" who could receive an average of $15,700 each if 450 positions are cut by March 31, according to the company's motion for "incentive pay" filed with the court. Further bonuses totaling about $1.2 million would be available if the employees met other goals including eliminating publications and reaching certain financial targets.
On Fox & Friends, Brian Kilmeade falsely asserted that President Obama has proposed eliminating the ability of taxpayers to take income tax deductions for their charitable contributions. In fact, Obama has not proposed eliminating the charitable donation income tax deduction for any taxpayers. Rather, a provision in Obama's budget proposal would, beginning in fiscal year 2011, reduce the tax rate at which families earning more than $250,000 per year can take itemized deductions to 28 percent.
Bill O'Reilly aired a clip of President Obama stating, "We are going to ban all earmarks, the process by which individual members insert pet projects without review," which he falsely characterized as "President Obama pledging last January to end earmarks in federal spending." In fact, Obama was referring to his desire to "ban all earmarks" from his "recovery and reinvestment plan," which he specifically distinguished from "the overall budget process."
Not a word Wednesday night from ABC, CBS or NBC about the Journal's big A1 story yesterday:
As bad as 2008 was for Merrill Lynch & Co., it was very good for Andrea Orcel, the firm's top investment banker. Although Merrill's net loss ballooned to $27.6 billion last year, Mr. Orcel, 45 years old, was paid $33.8 million in cash and stock, just shy of his pay in 2007.
The networks have all recently reported on the pay of middle class autoworkers while the Big Three looked for a government bailout. But the nets didn't care about the fact that Merrill Lynch, which has benefited from taxpayer support (indirectly via TARP funds), lost $27 billion last year yet nearly 150 employees were paid more than $3 million. Or that:
Thomas Montag, the head of global sales and trading at Merrill, made $39.4 million in 2008, even though his first day on the job was in August.
Nope, nothing to see here, folks.