WSJ headline today: "Merrill Gave $1 Million Each to 700 of Its Staff"
According to the newspaper:
Merrill Lynch & Co. "secretly" moved up the date it awarded bonuses for 2008 and richly rewarded its executives despite billions of dollars in losses, giving bonuses of $1 million or more apiece to nearly 700 employees, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said.
Sorta makes you wonder about that media microscope that was used late last year to scrutinize the pay of middle class autoworkers, doesn't it?
Fox News' James Rosen took a quote he attributed to Rep. David Obey out of context to advance the falsehood that provisions in the bill would permit the federal government to control health care. In fact, the bill contains no such provisions.
Washingtonpost.com blogger Ed O'Keefe uncritically quoted Betsy McCaughey's false claim from her Bloomberg op-ed that provisions in the House-passed recovery bill would permit the government to "monitor [health] treatments" and restrict what "your doctor is doing" with regard to patient care. In fact, the provisions McCaughey referred to address establishing an electronic records system such that doctors would have complete, accurate information about their patients "to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care."
Bloomberg uncritically quoted Sen. Mitch McConnell criticizing the economic recovery plan as being neither "timely, targeted nor temporary," but did not point out that McConnell voted in support of a proposed amendment by Sen. Jim DeMint that would replace the recovery bill entirely with permanent tax cuts, some of which DeMint has called "broad based."
The Politico uncritically reported Rep. Darrell Issa's charge that Rep. David Obey "failed to divulge that his son Craig," a senior vice president of the National Parks Conservation Association, "was lobbying him on the economic recovery package." The Politico did not note that Obey's office has denied that his son lobbied his committee or that the funding for parks was reportedly included by Rep. Norm Dicks.
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In the wake of the stimulus bill agreemenet in Congress, the New York Times leans heavily on the yes/but angle regarding what it means politicially for the new president [emphasis added]:
It is a quick, sweet victory for the new president, and potentially a historic one. The question now is whether the $789 billion economic stimulus plan agreed to by Congressional leaders on Wednesday is the opening act for a more ambitious domestic agenda from President Obama or a harbinger of reduced expectations. Both the substance of his first big legislative accomplishment and the way he achieved it underscored the scale of the challenges facing the nation and how different a political climate this is from the early stages of recent administrations.
As we recently noted, the way the Beltway press has traditionally judged a new president was, could he get his legislative initiatves passed? But with Obama, that's morphed into, can he get his initiatives passed in a certain way? i.e. Could he pass his plan and make Republicans happy. Because if Republicans are not happy with the stimulus plan, than Obama has failed. Again, this is a press standard that's been created for Obama, and Obama only.
The Times stresses, "His inability to win over more than a handful of Republicans amounted to a loss of innocence...So this was hardly a moment for cigars."
This was all telegraphed weeks ago. For instance, The Hill had already announced, "If the bill is approved by Congress with minimal GOP support, the partisan nature of how the legislation got to his desk will be a key storyline when Obama signs the measure."
Who will determine that "key storyline"? The Beltway press corps, of course.
UPDATE: Leave it to ABC's The Note to succinctly capture the prevailing Betlway inanities. In this case, the yes/but talking point:
Few presidents have been able to claim a victory of this magnitude, in scope and sweep, this early in a presidency...But this is a victory that's stocked with the possibility of losses.
Do you follow? By any historical marker the bill is a victory. But there's the possibility it might not be.
Fox News' Bill O'Reilly falsely claimed that Rep. Barney Frank, "who was supposed to be in charge of oversight, running the House Finance Committee, he didn't do his job because he was ideologically blinded. He wanted to give mortgages to everybody." In fact, Frank has advocated for policies that emphasize low-income home rentals as opposed to homeownership.
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One of the Luskin columns Gavin links to was Luskin's arguement in August 2008 that the economy was not in a recession. Here's Luskin's explanation:
[W]e are not in a recession.
The word "recession" has a specific meaning to economists who study the business cycle. Whether we are in a recession or not is therefore an objective matter of science, not opinion.
The official determination of recessions is made by a committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research. They have latitude to use their judgment in making the determination — it's not exactly a formula — but they are clear about what factors they consider, and how those factors have to behave to result in a determination.
Note that Luskin writes that whether we are in a recession is "an objective matter of science, not opinion" -- then, just a few sentances later, writes that NBER has "latitude to use their judgment ... it's not exactly a formula."
Anyway, that's not my point. That's just amusing.
My point is this: Last August, Luskin argued that the US was not in a recession because, basically, NBER hadn't declared the economy to be in a recession. And yet, just a few years ago, Luskin took the opposite view -- and both times, Luskin's assertions just happened to make George W. Bush look good.
See, one of the very first things Media Matters posted when we launched back in the Spring of 2004 was a report I wrote demonstrating that the news media (particularly Sean Hannity) kept insisting that Bush had "inherited a recession" from Bill Clinton, despite the fact that according to NBER, the recession in question didn't begin until March of 2001 -- after Bush took office.
Well, Don Luskin didn't like that very much. He took to National Review's web page to declare "So far the work from Media Matters isn't very impressive." Luskin went on to explain:
The first major article posted on the Media Matters website is an attempted exposé of the often-heard conservative claim that the last economic recession began during the Clinton administration — or, in other words, that it was already underway when George W. Bush took office in 2001.
The claim that the last recession started under Clinton is absolutely true.
Now, before we go any further, keep in mind what Luskin wrote last August, when he was desperate to argue that we weren't in a recession: "The official determination of recessions is made by a committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research." Those are Don Luskin's words in August of 2008. And here are Don Luskin's words back in May of 2004:
The one and only piece of evidence offered by Media Matters that's to the contrary is that fact that the National Bureau of Economic Research set the beginning of the last recession at March 2001 — two months into the Bush administration. ... according to Media Matters, this single authority determines truth, and everyone else is a liar. The article declares that "if NBER says the recession began in March 2001, the recession began in March 2001."
The reality is that NBER is just like any other group of economists, struggling with partial and imperfect information to characterize phenomena that don't have any hard-and-fast definitions.
So, in 2004, Luskin argued that NBER should not be considered the final word on recessions. Interesting.
But wait! There's more.
Luskin went on to claim that NBER was "on the verge of changing the recession's start date" to sometime before Bush took office. To support his claim that a change would come any day, Luskin quoted a four-month-old Washington Post article in which NBER president Martin Feldstein -- a Bush campaign advisor -- claimed the March 2001 start date was too late. Luskin then chided us: "Media Matters chooses not to mention" that NBER was "on the verge" of changing the recession's start date.
As I pointed out at the time, of course we didn't mention that. Why would we? NBER hadn't changed the date. Not to mention that there was a much more recent Washington Post article in which an NBER spokesperson quoted saying no such change was imminent.
Anyway, that was nearly five years ago. And NBER -- which, according to Don Luskin, was "on the verge of changing the recession's start date" -- still says the recession begain March 2001.
Whenever Luskin wants to retract his nonsensical criticisms of Media Matters, I'd be happy to post the retraction.
Oh, and by the way: NBER says we've been in a recession since December 2007. In his August 2008 column, Luskin touted a formula that "shows with absolute clarity that we are not in a recession now. In fact, we're not even close."
In short: Do not listen to Don Luskin.
NBC News' John Yang baselessly suggested that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is rushing an agreement on the economic recovery bill because she "has a congressional delegation trip to Italy scheduled to leave on Friday, and of course, the speaker's maiden name is D'Alesandro, and she would dearly love not to miss that trip." In fact, Pelosi has said, "If we don't have [a bill] by the time of the Presidents recess, there will be no recess."
Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that a homeless woman at President Obama's Fort Myers town hall event asked Obama for a "car" and "a new kitchen." In fact, Henrietta Hughes was simply saying that she needs housing. She stated: "[W]e need something more than a vehicle and parks to go to. We need our own kitchen and our own bathroom. Please help."
Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh have repeatedly claimed that President Reagan's tax cuts were responsible for ending the recession in the early 1980s, suggesting that tax cuts, and not government spending, would be the best solution to the end the current recession. However, several economists have stated that while fiscal policy had some impact during that period, "[l]ower interest rates after mid-1982 permitted the recovery to begin," according to a 1983 CBO report. By contrast, a reduction in the federal funds interest rate is not available to the Federal Reserve today because the current rate is essentially zero.
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