December 22, 2006

Top 10 Media Economic Myths of 2006

The Business & Media Institute has a list Here it is (Go to their site for the Institute’s reasoning; my comments follow each item; HT Pundit Review).

10. American Manufacturing Is Obsolete.

In addition to the overemphasis on the misfortunes of the Big 3, the fact that the manufacturing sector expanded in every month from January through October, before contracting very slightly in November, never got out of the business pages (print or web). The 41 consecutive months of expansion in manufacturing that just ended is the longest streak since the 1970s.

9. The American Dream Has Become a Nightmare.

There are a lot of arguments here, but the best one is that real incomes have gone up in the past 10 and 20 years, contrary to what Paul Krugman told Neil Cavuto earlier this month.

8. You Can’t Be Trusted with a Fork and Spoon.

So, for example, trans fats have to be banned, because you’re too dumb to stop consuming them. Never mind, as the Wall Street Journal reported, that the science on the hazards of trans fats is dubious, and that some of the same consumer nannies who liked them 20 years ago are railing against them now.

7. Wages are stagnant.

This mostly covered in Number 9, but I’ll borrow from the BM&I a bit here for more support:

Hourly compensation in non-farm businesses increased 7.7 percent from last year, according to a September 6 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

….. Compensation includes benefits, which have been a huge growth area. Workers are paying a lower share of their health benefits than they did in the past – something journalists didn’t factor into the overall earnings picture.

6. Global Warming Doom Grows Ever Nearer.

Where do you begin? Oh, just read this post on a “contrarian” story about carbon dioxide levels that the New York Times decided to published it on Election Day in November, perhaps so no one would notice it.

5. Increasing the minimum wage will help the millions of poor workers.

A little BM&I borrowing here will do the trick:

In fact, the percentage of hourly paid workers at or below the minimum wage is at its lowest point since data were first collected in 1979. In 1980, 15.1 percent of those workers were minimum wage or below – compared to 2.5 percent in 2005. More than 20 states already mandate wages higher than the federal minimum.

Several economists have pointed out that the majority of workers move on from entry-level minimum wage positions relatively quickly. The BLS reported that “about half of workers earning $5.15 or less were under age 25, and about one-fourth of workers earning at or below the minimum wage were age 16-19.”

So the “obvious” answer is to take the bottom rung or two off of the ladder so young people can’t get their working careers started. Zheesh.

4. The housing bubble has burst.

See the post “More Fun and Tom and Rex,” where yours truly responds to an exaggerated set of claims by MarketWatch reporter Rex Nutting. It’s not too late for disaster to strike, but so far, the housing story is “Bubble, Schmubble.”

3. Bird flu is going to kill us all.

Since I’ve done nothing with this (mostly non-) topic, I’ll let BM&I take this one:

Out of the world population of 6.5 billion, 258 people have caught the virus and 154 have died, according to the World Health Organization as of Nov. 29, 2006. The death toll thus far is fewer than the number of people who die on U.S. roads in a two-day period. The total was 38,253 for the year in 2004, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

2. Gasoline Is a Conspiracy – Going Up or Coming Down

First noticed here (5th item at link), Jack Cafferty at CNN was the primary purveyor of the irresponsible fiction that prices were coming down to make people feel better before the November elections. Because the lie was repeated often enough, it gained some traction with the public, even though there was no supporting evidence of any kind, and even though prices spiked UP a bit in the final week before Election Day.

1. The U.S. economy is hopeless – again.

Garbage — As Larry Kudlow has said time and again, this economy is the “Greatest Story (thanks to our adversary media) Never Told.”

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I would add one item to the list, namely that the Bush Administration’s halving of the budget deficit three years ahead of when it was promised went virtually unnoticed. If I had to throw one out, it would be the bird-flu situation, only because I think it’s relatively inconsequential and hasn’t been that successful at falsely scaring people — (UPDATE, Dec. 23: so far).

Regardless, as you can see, not a lot has changed from this post in May of last year, where I identified the origins of business media bias, which is what gave me much of the impetus to start blogging in the first place. If anything, it’s gotten worse.

It will be quite interesting to see how the change in congressional control with the White House in the same hands will affect the reporting on the economy in the coming two years. It would be hard to make the same news good for one party and bad for the other, but I’m sure we’ll see plenty of attempts at just that.

Public Retiree Health Care: The ‘Surprise’ That Never Should Have Been One

Filed under: Soc. Sec. & Retirement,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:18 am

States have been all too quiet for all too long about this:

State and local governments are starting to take aggressive steps to reduce the enormous cost of providing health care benefits to retired teachers, police officers, firefighters and other public workers.

As 43 state legislatures prepare to convene next month, governments are cutting benefits, setting aside money to cover future costs and shifting expenses to the federal Medicare program. The efforts are the first to address a liability of more than $1 trillion for providing medical care promised to about 25 million current and future retired state and local civil servants.

The changes are being driven by a new accounting rule, which took effect Friday (last week — Ed.) and forces states and large local governments to report how much they owe for medical benefits promised to retirees.

It’s ridiculous that it took the implementation of an accounting rule to force states to face up to a problem that has been building for decades. By inference, I guess we can assume that if the rule hadn’t been imposed that it would have just been business as usual for a decade or so, until one day they would just say, “Sorry, there’s no money.” Zheesh.

I’m Back

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:10 am

I had an accidental encounter with some disagreeable food. Recovering from that took a bit, so I was away from the blog from early yesterday evening until minutes ago. Sorry for the delays in getting to comments, etc. This is why posting ahead can be a very good thing.

If This Doesn’t Call for a Presidential Pardon…..

Filed under: Immigration,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:15 am

….. I don’t know what does (HT Conservative Culture).

If you read the WashTimes story, you may wonder first why anyone would want to be in the Border Patrol any more, and second, why we don’t have a more significant military presence there. Like it or not, we ARE being invaded, and when that occurs, a sane country defends itself with soldiers.

This is what happens when the elites of both parties refuse to carry out their most basic duties.

Muni WiFi: Dangerous Stuff

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:10 am

Scott Pullins links to a study by the Reason Foundation about the advisability of cities taking on their own WiFi networks.

There are seven considerations involved, which in my opinion make it not practical (Reason sticks with “daunting”), and in fact dangerous in all but the most unique of circumstances:

  1. Competition — Most place have plenty of players already.
  2. Performance Competition — ISPs are providing ever-faster services.
  3. Continuous Improvements — ISP are always improving their services and have capital spending budgets for doing so. Muni WiFis often blithely assume they can put up the infrastructure once and forget about it.
  4. Technological Change and “Lock-in” — Happens because of #3.
  5. Obsolescence — Again, happens because of #3.
  6. Risk — Should taxpayers be assuming a business risk, especially in such a volatile industry?
  7. Uncertainty — Same question as #6.

Unless a city totally outsources the project, including the risks, and has an ironclad way of making sure that the technology stays current, I don’t see how it works. That’s why Google’s Mountain View, CA setup (with plans, last time I checked, to envelop the San Francisco Bay Area) probably will work. Because the company’s reputation is at stake if the setup starts being seen as substandard, they simply won’t let it happen, and will spend whatever it takes to make it happen.

There may be other successful examples, but I expect they are few and far between. And even if they are working out for the time being, I have to think it’s only a matter of time before any number of the seven items identified above bite most muni WiFis in the rear.

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Previous Posts:
June 9, 2006– What Makes Local Governments Think They Can Run Their Own Broadband Business?
Oct. 5, 2005 — Free WiFi for Frisco: Google’s Idea is Spiffy, But the Mayor’s Mind Is Iffy

An Advantage of NOT Being Mr. Big in Your Market

Filed under: Business Moves,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 6:05 am

You can put out a security-related release that generates yawns instead of saturation coverage:

Mozilla Corp. will update the Firefox browser Tuesday to patch an unknown number of security vulnerabilities in the 1.5 and 2.0 versions.

Microsoft security issues aren’t covered with such a lack of curiosity.

Positivity: Soldier Dad Surprises Kindergartener

Filed under: Positivity,US & Allied Military — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Greater Cincinnati (HT Porkopolis):

MOUNT HEALTHY — The presents under the tree on Christmas morning will no doubt surprise and delight 6-year-old Steffan Treadwell.

But nothing will surprise him more than the present that came wrapped in a soldier’s uniform to his kindergarten class at Duvall school in Mount Healthy this morning.

Steffan’s father, Army Spc. Steffan Treadwell Sr., came to the school right after getting off a flight from Fort Bragg, N.C., so he could surprise his son, who believed that his father would not be home for Christmas.

The boy, who had been complaining earlier of a tummy ache, was coaxed by principal Eugene Blalock to come back to teacher Helen Gunden’s classroom, where his father and 14 classmates waited.

As he walked into the classroom, he saw his father and ran to him. The soldier, who is scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan next month, picked him up and held his son’s head in his hand.

“You didn’t think you” see me, did you?” the soldier said. “Well, here I am.”