NYT's Jackie Calmes Asks Obama Softballs, But Q&A Left Out of the Paper

New York Times reporter Jackie Calmes asked President Obama a softball at Thursday’s press conference about what he would like to say to win over the “Occupy Wall Street” protesters, and then followed up: Jackie Calmes follow up question was: "Do you think Occupy Wall Street has the potential to be a tea party movement in 2012?"

Oddly enough, Calmes didn’t use Obama’s answers in her front-page story, headlined “Obama Describes Economy as Dire: Citing Europe, He Urges Passage of Jobs Bill.” Calmes did line up economists to support Obama’s push for passage.Obama said Republican proposals “would not help the economy in the short term. Economists at private-sector forecasting firms agreed,” wrote Calmes.

While economic forecasts are not definitive, in that they are predictions, Macroeconomic Advisers, a St. Louis-based firm that the Federal Reserve often uses, has projected that the Obama jobs plan could increase economic growth by 1.25 percentage points and add 1.3 million jobs in 2012. Moody’s Analytics, another firm, has estimated it would add two percentage points and up to 1.9 million jobs.

Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, said Republicans had “reasonable ideas” but not ones that could be measured by the firm’s forecasting model. He said he believed the proposals “would have little immediate effect relative to a plan that stimulates aggregate demand” — that is, a plan like Mr. Obama’s, with tax cuts and spending programs.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, similarly said the Republican proposals “are generally good longer-term economic policy, but they won’t mean much for the economy and job market in the next year.” He continued: “Given the high odds of another recession in the next few months, it is vital for Congress and the administration to provide some near-term support to the economy.”

The Times offered one Republican quote in the piece, from House Speaker John Boehner:

Even as Mr. Obama took reporters’ questions, Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, rebuked him for his more confrontational tack. “Nothing has disappointed me more than what’s happened over the last five weeks, to watch the president of the United States give up on governing, give up on leading and spend full-time campaigning,” Mr. Boehner said during a public forum in Washington.

Here are the Calmes questions to Obama, the answers to which were widely circulated in other media outlets, if not the Times:

CALMES: Thank you, Mr. President. As you travel the country, you also take credit for tightening regulations on Wall Street through the Dodd-Frank law, and about your efforts to combat income inequality. There’s this movement -- Occupy Wall Street -- which has spread from Wall Street to other cities. They clearly don’t think that you or Republicans have done enough, that you’re in fact part of the problem. Are you following this movement, and what would you say to its -- people that are attracted to it?

OBAMA: Obviously I’ve heard of it. I’ve seen it on television. I think it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel -- that we had the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, huge collateral damage all throughout the country, all across Main Street, and yet you’re still seeing some of the same folks who acted irresponsibly trying to fight efforts to crack down on abusive practices that got us into this problem in the first place. So, yes, I think people are frustrated, and the protestors are giving voice to a more broad-based frustration about how our financial system works....

The phrase that stuck out there was “huge collateral damage.” If the Bush “folks” or Wall Street were responsible for the metaphorical bombing the streets in 2008, shouldn’t Obama have a better statistical record than he does? Or is the devastation still happening during his administration? Calmes followed up:

CALMES: Do you think Occupy Wall Street has the potential to be a tea party movement in 2012?

OBAMA: What I think is that the American people understand that not everybody has been following the rules; that Wall Street is an example of that; that folks who are working hard every single day, getting up, going to the job, loyal to their companies, that that used to be the essence of the American Dream. That’s how you got ahead -- the old-fashioned way. And these days, a lot of folks who are doing the right thing aren’t rewarded, and a lot of folks who aren’t doing the right thing are rewarded.

And that’s going to express itself politically in 2012 and beyond until people feel like once again we’re getting back to some old-fashioned American values in which, if you’re a banker, then you are making your money by making prudent loans to businesses and individuals to build plants and equipment and hire workers that are creating goods and products that are building the economy and benefitting everybody.

Jackie Calmes
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