Two important economic reports came out today at 10 a.m. One had relatively good news, while the other was a definite downer.
At 2:43 p.m., the good-news item was still listed second at the Associated Press's list of Top 10 business stories, while the bad-news item was gone. That's all in a day's work of news manipulation at what should be called the Administration's Press. (UPDATE: At 9:12 p.m., apparently lacking for any other genuinely positive stories and despite no story updates, the AP moved its dispatch on existing-home sales UP to first on the list.)
The Federal Reserve, Fed Chair Janet Yellen, and the ever-cooperative Associated Press have a message for America: "If there's an economic downturn, even one that turns into a recession, it's going to be the rest of the world's fault. The U.S. economy is fine, and it will stay fine if everybody else doesn't ruin it."
As the AP's Martin Crutsinger reported today ("YELLEN: TOO EARLY TO DETERMINE IMPACT OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS"), Yellen told members of the Senate Banking Committee that, in Crutsinger's words, "that global economic pressures pose risks to the U.S. economy," and that the Fed will wait until its next meeting to see "how much economic weakness and falling markets around the world have hamstrung U.S. growth." Folks, to "hamstring" growth, you've got to have growth, and the best estimates at the moment are telling us that at the end of last year there either wasn't any, or that it barely existed.
As has been its habit during the Obama administration when the economy turns in a poor performance, the press's coverage of yesterday's report on U.S. economic growth focused on how much better next quarter's news will supposedly be. Especially in this instance, the beat reporters and pundits should have looked at whether or not yesterday's initial result will hold up, or whether it's likely to be revised downward.
The government's Bureau of Economic Analysis reported yesterday that the economy grew at an annualized rate of 0.7 percent in last year's fourth quarter. That's bad enough, but statements published by a leading GDP prognosticator before the BEA's release, once applied to yesterday's data, foreshadow a distinct possilbity that February's or March's revision will come in with a minus sign preceding it.
Friday morning, the government reported that the economy grew at a pathetic annual rate of 0.7 percent in last year's final quarter.
As it did in covering the disappointing Christmas shopping season, the business press partially blamed yesterday's awful result on the weather, i.e., warm weather.
The Associated Press may be down to one person in the whole wide world who will tell its economics reporters what they want to hear when the federal government releases economic data. That's what you almost have to conclude after reading the wire service's reports on two of Thursday's major releases, namely last week's initial unemployment claims and December's durable goods orders and shipments.
The only outside source AP reporters Christopher Rugaber and Martin Crutsinger consulted in their respective reports about initial claims and durables was one Ian Shepherdson, chief economist with Pantheon Macroeconomics. Naturally, Sheperdson was sunnyside-up despite relatively troubling news in each area.
Over the past several months, economics reporters at the Associated Press have told us time and time and time again that the U.S. economy is "largely insulated" from adverse economic developments overseas.
So why is the AP's Martin Crutsinger going along with the now-shifting conventional "wisdom" that Janet Yellen's Federal Reserve may have to defer implementing additional interest-rate increases for quite some time because of what the wire service headlined as a "darker global economy"? The obvious answer is that the U.S. economy is also weak, and the business press simply won't admit it.
Yesterday at NewsBusters, Ken Shepherd noted how quickly and gleefully the New York Times jumped ("an impressive sprint capping off a year of solid job growth") on December's relatively strong jobs report.
The Associated Press joined the parade — "US EMPLOYERS HIRE AT BLISTERING PACE, DEFYING GLOBAL TRENDS" – and kept its story as its lead in its Business "Top Stories" until late afternoon. While that treatment was defensible, the absence of the wire service's terse coverage of the government's disturbing wholesale sales and inventories report from the "Top 10" roster wasn't. Clearly, the good news stays, while the bad news gets memory-holed at the Administration's Press.
Today was a fairly brisk day for economic data, as four noteworthy reports were released. One of them contained good news, but with a heavy asterisk. The other three were either not good, period, or came in below expectations.
Readers here probably know which one the Associated Press was still carrying at its Top Business Stories page as of 2:39 p.m. Of course, it was the one with good news.
Today's release from the government on economic growth estimated that the nation's Gross Domestic Product grew at an annual rate of 2.0 percent in the third quarter, a slight downward revision from November's estimate of 2.1 percent. This continues the economy's dismal, worst-since-World War II growth performance since the recession officially ended over six years ago.
But never fear. According to the Associated Press's headline writers early this afternoon, there is going to be a growth "pickup." Not to be outdone, AP economics writer Martin Crutsinger regaled readers with how the economy will have "stronger growth." Wait til you see what they're talking about. Seldom, if ever, has so much been made of so little (bolds are mine):
Crutsinger managed to note how auto-pilot entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare are bankrupting the country (not in those words, of course). That said, he somehow thought that highlighting a rare and small increase in year-over-year defense spending was worthwhile, while ignoring several other larger percentage increases in other areas. Most importantly, he failed to note that the national debt has increased by far more than Uncle Sam's reported deficits. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
Ever since the White House changed hands almost seven years ago, press reports on the U.S. economy have annoyingly overaccentuated whatever positives reporters might find (or think they have found), while ignoring glaring negatives and omitting key items.
One example of such biased reporting came from the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger on Wednesday. In covering the Census Bureau's October Durable Goods report, Crutsinger praised its one-month seasonally adjusted increases in new orders and shipments. While that news was welcome, the AP reporter ignored the ugly fact that October's actual (i.e., not seasonally adjusted) year-over-year figure was lower than October 2014, marking the seventh straight month of year-over-year declines. He also didn't address shipments, which have been flat compared to to the same month last year for the past four months, at all.
Economic news on Wednesday's pre-Thanksgiving "Getaway Day" was largely dismal. The government's report on October's personal income and outlays headed up the disappointing news. While incomes increased nicely — at a rate which needs to be repeated about two dozen more times before it can be seen as genuinely impressive — spending only rose by 0.1 percent, while prior months were revised significantly downward.
Perhaps because they were all in a pre-holiday hurry, the headline writers at the Associated Press and AP economics writer Martin Crutsinger had fundamentally different takes on the news. Additionally, Crutsinger was apparently in such a rush that he didn't worry about the fact that his first two paragraphs' characterizations of the result disagreed. Finally, the AP reporter failed to note that total consumer spending in October was lower than what was originally reported in September after the previously mentioned downard revisions.