April 25, 2010

Absolutely Pathetic: AP Report Says GM, Chrysler Lost 400,000 Jobs in 2008

APabsolutelyPathetic0109In his weekly address today (video only at link; transcript was not present when this post was prepared), President Obama opened with these three sentences:

It was a little more than one year ago that our country faced a potentially devastating crisis in our auto industry.

Over the course of 2008, the industry shed 400,000 jobs. In the midst of a financial crisis and deep recession, both General Motors and Chrysler, two companies that for generations were a symbol of America’s manufacturing might, were on the brink of collapse.

Look at what Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville did to those first three sentences in the third paragraph of her report on Obama’s presentation:

AP042410onObamaAddressAutoInd

The only possible interpretation of what Superville wrote is that she believes, or simply mis-wrote, that Government/General Motors and Chrysler alone — the only two “bailed-out automakers” — shed 400,000 jobs in 2008.

For the record, total U.S. employment at General Motors at the end of 2007 was about 110,000, according to this early February 2008 item. This November 2007 link indicates that Chrysler at that point had 71,000 employees worldwide (59,000 expected to remain plus 12,000 jobs expected to be eliminated). The two entities combined obviously did not have 400,000 U.S. jobs to shed at the beginning of 2008. Whether they are even legitimately “rebounding” is also more than a little questionable, but will be left alone for now.

Superville’s stunner makes it clear that, in journalism and so many other endeavors, the problem isn’t only that basic math skills have fallen so steeply (which they have). It’s that people who one would expect to be able to detect self-evidently out of line or misplaced numbers like the one above, i.e., journalists like the AP’s Superville reviewing her own work, as well as the layers of alleged editors at the self-described “Essential Global News Network,” clearly can’t or won’t do it.

At the risk of sounding like a nagging father, I would humbly suggest that Ms. Superville spend a little less time on Facebook, expend just a bit less energy on the National Association of Black Journalists (or find better mentors there, or elsewhere), and instead devote a bit more time to her craft. From here, ma’am, your evaluation is clearly a “needs improvement.”

The President’s claim that the auto industry as a whole shed 400,000 jobs “over the course of 2008″ does stand up. The tables at the Bureau of Labor Statistics for “The Automotive Industry” for that period show the following changes from December 2007 through December 2008 (SA – Seasonally Adjusted; NSA – Not Seasonally Adjusted):

  • Manufacturing — SA, -175,800; NSA, -174,400
  • Retail — SA, -189,900; NSA, -190,700
  • Wholesale — SA, not available; NSA, -24,100
  • Other Services — SA, not available; NSA, -55,600

Assuming that the unavailable SA numbers were the same as the NSAs, total industry job losses were over 440,000 on both measurements.

What the president didn’t tell his audience is that well over 75% of those job losses occurred during the final six months of 2008, after the prospect of his election, full Democratic control of the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, and promised tax hikes, energy starvation, and statist heath care became all too real.

As to the last excerpted paragraph from Superville, see previous posts (here and here at NewsBusters; here, here, and here at BizzyBlog) about the press’s failure to cover, or perhaps even to understand, the deceptive nature of GM’s claim to have repaid its bailout loans. For the purposes of this post, I’ll just note that the assertion at the president’s weekly address web page that “the government’s emergency interventions (in Chrysler and GM) are now winding down” is patently false, and will remain patently false until the government unloads its $40 billion-plus stock investment in GM and its smaller investment in Chrysler.

Good luck getting Darlene Superville or anyone else at the Associated Press to report that.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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BIZZYBLOG UPDATE, 9:00 a.m. — Readers can go to this dynamic link from time to time for about the next week to see if the Associated Press ever bothers to correct its ignorant sloppiness.

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3 Comments

  1. Not to say your article does not make good points, but I think Obamas statements themselves are very risible and deserve more scrutiny.

    First of all, I’m just really tired of his intellectual dishonesty of linking everything he supports with being able to solve other problems, now matter how tenuous the connection. First it was cap-and-trade supposedly stimulating the economy and then it was health care ‘reform’ supposedly “stimulating” the economy, and now his financial ‘reform’ boondoggle will fix the auto industries problems. Crikey, enough is enough. Next he’ll be telling us passing immigration reform will halt inflation.

    And second, what does financial ‘reform’ have to do with what happened to the Big Three? They got where they are through bad decisions and a seriously flawed and unsustainable pay structure. It was not through fraud or shady financial doings ala Enron. So what is Obama talking about when says financial ‘reform’ would stop similar situations from happening? My three guesses are:

    1. He’s outright lying. (Would not be the first time.)

    2. He genuinely does not know what he is talking about. (Also would not be the first time.)

    3. This financial “reform” package will actually also target whatever the government deems bad business decisions. Not only would that be a gross abridgment of freedom but what the heck makes the government think they are both competent and deserving to make those kind of calls?

    Comment by zf — April 25, 2010 @ 3:27 am

  2. #1, absolutely agree. NB posts are supposed to concentrate on bias and sloppiness, so that’s what this one did.

    The linkage between the two “crises” is obviously weak. Both car companies (and Ford, until it shook itself to its senses in early 2008) were on a serious downhill slide before the recession as normal people define it began. Any kind of recession, no matter what the cause, would have done the same thing. The fact that it originated in housing/finance doesn’t create linkage. Coincidence doesn’t equal causation.

    Comment by TBlumer — April 25, 2010 @ 8:52 am

  3. #3, Absolutely. Last time I checked auto companies don’t rent out or sell homes to people. And as I noted, the Big Three decline had nothing to do with any kind of lack of financial regulation.

    It seems Obamas strategy is to link everything together, hysterically shriek about all the horrible bad things that will happen if all his crap does not pass, and then when his critics point out the huge negatives that his polices will create he brazenly accuses them of scare tactics. I’m really getting sick of this guy. If he wants to fix the problem that caused the financial issue, then he needs to abolish Fannie and Freddie. They were the biggest factor. Sure, there were individuals (such as the Sandlers) and companies (such as Countrywide) that seemed motivated enough by themselves to engage in risky loans and a subprime market would have existed, but without the two F’s (and lawsuits and the government in general) encouraging it, buying the loans and lying about the risk factor, it would have been much smaller and when it imploded its effects would have been nowhere near what they were and far, far short of being able to cause a recession. The big problem is that people now see any type of risk at all as being bad, which ignores the fact that a certain amount of risk by big and small companies and people in general, calculated and otherwise, are what bring forth innovations and growth, and so the big financial regulation bill very dangerously targets risk in general. As the Dick Morris column pointed out, this attitude and the bill it spawned could really spell tragic consequences for our country’s future well-being.

    And speaking of causation and correlation, it also annoys the heck out of me when Obama supporters makes it sound like that whenever a terrorist is killed (especially higher ups) it’s somehow vindication of his terror appeasement strategy. No, it’s a testament to our intelligence forces being able to track down these guys and our special forces ability to take them out. His appeasement (especially toward Iran) has zip to do with it.

    Comment by zf — April 25, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

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