October 31, 2009

USAT Headline Calls 3Q GDP Growth ‘Torrid,’ Ignoring Article Source’s Suggestion ‘Not to Get Carried Away’

usatodayDoes the self-described “Nation’s Newspaper” — er, make that the nation’s second newspaper — have a MoveOn mole as a headline writer?

The paper’s headline at its report on Thursday’s government announcement that the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) came in at an annualized 3.5% after four consecutive quarters of decline was not only over the top. Its message went directly against an admonishment by an economist quoted in Paul Davidson’s underlying report, which was to not “get carried away by the really strong number.”

Many commentators, while gratified that GDP growth occurred, have cautioned that the growth was influenced heavily by government programs that either have already run their course with debatable long-term impact (i.e., Cash for Clunkers), or are probably not going to last much longer even if extended (e.g., the first-time homebuyers’ credit), simply because the government is running trillion-dollar annual deficits and can’t afford them.

Get a load of the story’s headline, and how it contrasts with Davidson’s generally pretty good reporting (bold is mine):

Economy grew at torrid 3.5% rate in 3Q; stocks jump

News that the economy grew at a 3.5% pace in the third quarter, its best showing in two years, sent stocks soaring Thursday.

…. The growth in GDP, fueled by government-supported spending on cars and homes, was the strongest signal yet that the longest, deepest downturn since the Great Depression is ending.

But a second report out Thursday showed the number of people claiming jobless benefits for the first time dropped only slightly in the latest week, evidence that the labor market remains weak.

…. Many economists believe that while the recession that began in December 2007 is history, the third-quarter spurt was largely fueled by government incentives and industry trends that will fade, leaving a wobbly economy.

“Don’t get carried away by the really strong number,” says economist Patrick Newport of IHS Global Insight. “The economy is still losing jobs and it’s still fundamentally weak in a lot of places.”

…. Newport …. says (that) almost half the growth stemmed from a rise in consumer spending that was juiced by the government’s expired cash-for-clunkers program, which ended in August.

“Torrid” was not a word that was frequently applied to the U.S. economy during the Bush presidency, even though several quarters came in above 4% as originally reported (the government has since done a comprehensive adjustment that reduced some of them to below 4%). This Google News Archive search on ["torrid GDP "economic growth"] (typed exactly as indicated between brackets) covering 2007, a year when both second- and third-quarter growth came in above 4% before that comprehensive adjustment, returns 61 results, with very few of them directly relating to the U.S. economy.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Celebrating, and Capitalizing, on Our Misery

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:28 pm

ap_obama_pelosi_reid_090203_mnDemocrats are now admitting that they like their POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy.


Note: This column went up at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Thursday. Go here and here for BizzyBlog specifics on the third quarter GDP report.


The economy, as measured by growth in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), finally grew again in the third quarter. That bit of decent news only papers over an otherwise dreadful situation.

Of course, compared to the alternative, the positive GDP report is welcome. Barring drastic subsequent downward adjustments, it brings an end to the recession as normal people define it. Whether it concludes the recession as determined by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which was inexplicably allowed to hijack the dictionary and substitute their arbitrary judgment as to what an “official” recession is decades ago, is anyone’s guess.

NBER’s alleged experts “determined” that the current recession really began in December 2007, during a quarter when the economy grew at an annualized 2.7%. The NBER-defined recession somehow continued during the second quarter of 2008 while GDP was growing at an annualized 1.5%. If the group ultimately declares that the recession ended during the past quarter, it will be the first time it has done so while the economy was shedding so many seasonally adjusted jobs (768,000, or almost 0.6% of the workforce, pending possible adjustments).

While GDP is up, many economic metrics that matter more to the average person are down, so much so that it’s probably fair to say that the economy as most Americans experience it is still shrinking. This explains why, despite the “it’s not that bad” hymn the choir known as the nation’s establishment press continues to sing, the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index fell sharply in October, and is below where it was in September 2008.

The most obvious problems are soaring unemployment and growing underemployment.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in September was 9.8%. Even that horrid figure, which Christina Romer of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers expects not to change much between now and the end of 2010, masks how bad things really are. That’s because many potential workers are dropping out.

If you compare the sum of the civilian labor forces of all 50 states and the District of Columbia at this Bureau of Labor Statistics table as of September 2009 to a year earlier (separately calculated here), you’ll find that the workforce shrunk by almost 600,000. Take out Texas, and the shrinkage is almost 900,000. Perform the same operation on this seasonally adjusted table (again shown here), this time comparing September 2009 to July, and you’ll see a decline of 351,000 in just two months (almost 400,000 if you again take out Texas). Meanwhile, during the past year the nation’s 16-and-over population has increased by almost 2 million. It’s clear that a lot of people who would prefer to be working have taken themselves out of the job market, thus disappearing entirely from the government’s jobs analyses.

This trend has already twisted the impact of official state and local employment reports. In Ohio, for example, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped from 10.8% to 10.1% in September. Big deal; the change occurred not because more people found work, but because more people dropped out.

Beyond that, those who are still working are on average working less and taking home less. The average work week, at 33 hours, is at a record low. The government’s September index of real average weekly earnings was down 1.9% from December.

One quarter of positive GDP growth hardly makes up for all of this. That there is a palpable sense of misery permeating this economy, and that it is not dissipating, is undeniable.

Now that this malaise has arrived and appears likely to remain in place for a while, many members of the Democratic Party are glad it’s here. That’s because they believe that the currently awful economy will help them pass government-controlled health care and other elements of their statist agenda.

I’m not saying it, they are, up to and including the President himself:

The bad economy is good for President Obama and Democrats as they try to reinvent the health care system with scant Republican support.

Congressional Democrats …. say that economic insecurity and high unemployment stoke public support for their proposals to guarantee insurance for millions of Americans.

….. “(Washington Congressman James McDermott said that) in 1993, we were talking about the uninsured as ‘them.’ Now it turns out this is for us. When a bank like Washington Mutual in Seattle lays off 3,000 people, they lose health insurance. Millions of people with insurance are asking, ‘What if I lose my job?’ ”

Mr. Obama is doing everything he can to highlight this sense of insecurity as he tries to persuade people with insurance that his proposals would help them. Worries about insurance are “keeping more and more Americans awake at night,” he said last month.

The fate of health legislation may hinge on whether those anxieties trump concerns about the effects of the Democratic proposals.

Barney Frank, sensing a historic power-enhancing opportunity, is doing his part to capitalize on the widespread economic stress. Recently on MSNBC, the Massachusetts congressman said that in regards to the nation’s financial system, “…. we are trying on every front to increase the role of government in the regulatory area.” This comes from a guy who for the past year has stood idly by while the Federal Housing Administration has proactively (I would argue deliberately) repeated the mistakes that sent Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over the cliff to the tune of what will ultimately be hundreds of billions of bailout dollars.

Thus, the very people who over a year ago brought about what I have since July 2008 been calling the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy now want to capitalize on it to enact their power-hungry, commerce-crippling agenda.

Beltway Democrats’ detestable, ghoulishly opportunistic and barely disguised euphoria over how bad it is for so many of us is enough to make you wonder if they set out to create this mess in the first place. The way they are now attempting to take advantage of it lends strong credence to that belief, almost to the point where you don’t really need to wonder any more. After all, if taking down the economy wasn’t their original goal, you would expect that they’d be reacting very differently now — and they’re not. Our national nightmare is Rahm Emanuel’s and his party’s dream come true.

NYT’s Zeleny Again Involved in Obama Story Scrub

NYTlogoWithPaper2009Bloggers and their readers have “joked” about the New York Times being the official house organ of the Obama White House. Maybe it’s not a joke.

Earlier this month (as seen at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), several bloggers caught the Times making significant changes to its initial coverage of Chicago’s humiliating loss of its bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics, and of President Obama’s involvement in that loss. The first Times report by Peter Baker was fairly harsh, questioning the President’s judgment in getting involved, while citing his slipping poll ratings.

After Times organ grinder — er, reporter — Jeff Zeleny got a hold of the story, most of the harshness went away, as did Baker’s original story. All of a sudden, at the same URL, there was no reference to tarnished presidential prestige. A dismissive assertion that the embarrassment “would fade in a news cycle or two” appeared. There was also a mention of Obama’s 25-minute meeting with Afghanistan General Stanley McChrystal that was not in the original. The reference to falling poll numbers also disappeared.

Well, the Times has just pulled a similar stunt in its coverage of President Obama’s Wednesday night/Thursday morning visit to Dover Air Force Base. Once again, Jeff Zeleny is involved. Here’s a screen grab from Ed Morrissey’s 10:12 a.m. yesterday post that described the details (top portion of NYT’s search result page originally shown at Hot Air was omitted to conserve space; the Times’s revisions were originally noticed by Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette and NiceDeb at her place):


Actually, Morrissey caught the Times in mid-scrub. A search on the same words (in quotes, to filter out articles containing some of the words) now comes up empty. How convenient.

For those who think the title of Morrissey’s post is unfair, I would suggest that the more important matters to pursue are, first, why the Times seems to be making a habit of scrubbing instead of preserving original on-the-scene reports, and second, why it appears to feel compelled to clean them up, almost invariably to make Obama and his administration look better.

In a real sense, it matters little whether the ultimate cause of these memory-hole treatments is actual White House pressure, a perceived need to stay on the administration’s good side to retain access, or simply a bunch of apparatchiks like Jeff Zeleny voluntarily carrying out what they think is their duty to present Dear Leader in the best possible light. The result is the same: slanted, biased, prettified pseudo-journalism.

If the Times is concerned about why its daily circulation is over 7% below that of a year ago and has dropped to 923,000 from 1.038 million just two years ago, it could start by asking itself how throwing away first drafts of history can possibly be considered legitimate.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.