Jewish World Review April 2, 2004 / 12 Nissan, 5764
Journo advocates for economic misery should get real
In his story March 26 on the likelihood that National Security Adviser
Condoleeza Rice would testify again before the commission investigating the
Sept. 11 attacks, Adam Nagourney of the New York Times wrote: "With the
economy faltering and Democrats so united, Mr. Bush's terrorism credentials
are portrayed by his supporters as the strongest assets he had going against
Even if it were true, it would have been of dubious relevance for Nagourney
to include the phrase "with the economy faltering" in a story on an
unrelated topic. But it isn't true. The Commerce Department reported March
25 that the economy grew at a 4.1 percent rate in the last quarter of 2003.
Coupled with the 8.2 percent growth rate for the third quarter of 2003, the
economy has experienced its fastest six months of growth since the period
And the economy should continue to grow at a greater than normal rate. The
AP reported that "economic growth in the January to March quarter is
expected to clock in at 4.5 percent, some analysts' forecasts say. Growth
in the April to June quarter should also be around that pace."
"I consider it a booming economy," Timothy Rogers, chief economist for a
Boston firm that provides data and analysis for investors, told USA Today.
Nearly all the 55 other prominent economists contacted by USA Today had the
Most economic indicators are strong. The unemployment rate (5.6 percent)
is the same as it was in January, 1996, when President Clinton was running
for re-election. Journalists described a 5.6 percent unemployment rate then
as "low," which it is in historical terms.
The "misery index," (the rates of inflation and unemployment added together,
a term invented by Jimmy Carter to bash President Ford in the 1976 campaign)
is lower than it was in aggregate for Clinton's first term. Home ownership
and corporate profits are at record highs.
The economic picture is not without smudges, most notably the sluggish growth in employment as measured by the employers' survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). (The household survey, also conducted by the BLS, which includes self employment and gives more weight to small business, indicates employment is at a record high.) It's reasonable to view the employment situation with concern. But to describe the economy as a whole as "faltering" is to take an unconscionable liberty with the truth.
But taking liberties with the truth is what the "mainstream" media (by this
I mean the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the news departments of
ABC, NBC and CBS, and to a lesser degree the Washington Post and the
Associated Press) are all about these days. They are functioning less as
journalists than as the propaganda arm of the Democratic National Committee.
Democrats and the news media have been talking down the economy for months,
and it has had an impact. A survey of consumer confidence March 16 by ABC
news and Money magazine indicated it had fallen for the 4th time in 5 weeks,
to a 10 month low. Consumer confidence usually does not decline in the
early stages of a boom.
The relentless emphasis on the negative in the news media's coverage of the
economy also could explain an anomaly in the consumer confidence survey. In
the ABC/Money poll, 53 percent of respondents said their own personal
finances are in excellent or in good shape. A majority of Americans think
they're doing all right. Their concern is for others, and that concern is
based on what they see on television, and read in the newspapers.
Democrats are fond of saying, and journalists are fond of repeating, that
two million jobs have been lost since Bush became president, implying that
Bush is somehow responsible for this. But the recession was caused by
bursting of the dot.com bubble in the Spring of 2000 (when Bill Clinton was
president), and was deepened by the Sept. 11 attacks. The recovery began
shortly after Bush's tax cuts went into effect, a fact which journalists are
less fond of pointing out.
It's understandable why Democrats wish to accentuate the negative. But it is the job of journalists to report all pertinent facts, not just those helpful to Democrats. It's time they did it.
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