ABC's Gibson, Stephanopoulos repeated GOP spin on "pretty good" economy, ignoring that wages are barely keeping pace with inflation
On ABC's World News Tonight, anchor Charles Gibson cited a poll showing that 60 percent of Americans disapprove of President Bush's handling of the economy and asked chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos to explain the "disconnect" between this disapproval rating and the fact that that "economic numbers are pretty good." Stephanopoulos responded by quoting unnamed "Republican strategists" who attributed the low poll numbers solely to high gas prices. No perspective was offered from Democrats, who might have noted that wage increases are barely keeping pace with inflation.
During the May 30 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight, anchor Charles Gibson cited a May 16 ABC News/Washington Post poll  showing that 60 percent of Americans disapprove of President Bush's handling of the economy and asked chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos to explain the "disconnect" between this disapproval rating and the fact that "economic numbers are pretty good." Stephanopoulos responded by quoting unnamed "Republican strategists" who attributed the low poll numbers solely to high gas prices. Gibson and Stephanopoulos reported no perspectives from Democrats, however, who might have noted that the "economic numbers" aren't "pretty good" for many Americans and might have offered an alternative explanation for the 60 percent disapproval rating.
The New York Times reported  on May 7, for example, that Democrats point out that "wage increases for most workers have barely matched inflation over the last few years," despite the fact that "statistics on economic growth look good." The paper quoted Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, who said, "Until people get a raise, [Bush is] not going to get [more credit for the economy]." Indeed, as the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute (EPI) noted  in January, an analysis of economic data for 2005 shows that during that year, despite the fact that the economy expanded for the fourth consecutive year, wages for low- and middle-income workers fell relative to inflation, while still increasing for top earners.
As Media Matters for America previously noted , Stephanopoulos said during the May 16 broadcast of World News Tonight that "a president just shouldn't be at 33 percent when you've got 89 percent of the country optimistic about their future." Stephanopoulos was discussing the president's overall approval rating from the same poll with former co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas, who, like Gibson, had asked him to explain the fact that "polls show this remarkable disconnect" because "[p]eople are very unhappy about the president and his administration but are very happy with their personal lives." Stephanopoulos's only explanation for this "disconnect" was the administration's handling of Iraq, asserting that the disconnect "is a challenge and an opportunity for the president. The opportunity is, if things can turn around in Iraq ... everything else should turn around as well." He did not mention gas prices during that report.
From the May 30 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight:
GIBSON: We're gonna turn next to ABC's chief Washington correspondent, George Stephanopoulos, joining us from Washington. George, our poll indicates that 60 percent of this country disapproves of the way the president is handling the economy. And yet, the administration is frustrated because, basically, the economic numbers are pretty good. So, why the disconnect?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the disconnect is from two words, Charlie: gas prices. And as I was talking to Republican strategists on Capitol Hill today, they said that [treasury secretary nominee] Hank Paulson, unless he can magically bring those gas prices down, isn't gonna make all that much of a difference in moving the public on the economy or the midterm elections. That said, he is very well respected on Capitol Hill. And all the soundings I got today is that he should sail through to confirmation.
GIBSON: In addition to the hopes on the part of the administration that he can sell the president's economic policies on Wall Street and to the public, what other reasons are behind the Paulson choice?
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think the biggest one, Charlie, is his ability to handle a global financial crisis. So far, President Bush hasn't had to deal with that. Unlike President Reagan who had James Baker deal with one in 1985 or President Clinton, who had Bob Ruben deal with one a decade later. In that kind of a crisis, Hank Paulson is well respected on Wall Street. As Betsy pointed out, he's well known at the highest levels in big countries, like China. And he's proven in high-pressure situations. Exactly the kind of man you'd need.
GIBSON: All right. George Stephanopoulos from Washington.
From the May 7 edition of The New York Times :
So six months before the midterm elections, both parties have come to mirror-image conclusions: the economy, say Democrats and Republicans alike, will help our cause.
To Democrats, it is part of a three-legged strategy, along with Iraq and Washington scandals, to nationalize the election by making it a referendum on Mr. Bush. They are emphasizing that even though the statistics on economic growth look good, wage increases for most workers have barely matched inflation over the last few years. ''George Bush doesn't understand why he doesn't get more credit for the economy,'' said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. ''Until people get a raise, he's not going to get it.''