The Talked-Down Economy circa 2005 – UPDATED

:::This is a repost of a piece from December of 2005, which I came across while researching this post. I reprint it here to give a little perspective on just how determinedly the press has been talking down the economy, and for how long. It’s really staggering to consider.:::


Joseph at Straight Shot of Politics has decided that he is a consumer of news and information, while I and others like me are not so much consumers of news and informations as philosophers about how news should be reported.

When I saw this, I thought to myself, “Now I know why most blogger critics of news coverage [whatever their political views] and I are simply not on the same page!” I am interested in news. They are interested in “news coverage”. I am interested in fact. They are interested in “media”. I am interested in information. They are interested in a Philosophy of Journalism.

Not quite right, I think. Is it not possible for me and others and even the much-maligned Pajamas Media to care both about news and information and also care about how that information is disseminated?

For example, take this story on housing. Check out this headline: There Go 800,000 Jobs Out the Door.

OMG! 800,000 people have lost their jobs? That’s awful! I saw that headline and my heart skipped a beat and I read it with a sense of panic.

Except…aside from the headline which most will see and digest without ever reading the storythe thing has not happened. And if you read the story the thing may NEVER happen. The whole thing is a big “maybe someday this might happen, and if it does, then maybe as many as 800,000 people will lose their jobs, and never ever have a means of replacing them…but…even with these awful possibilities…it STILL won’t put us into a recession.

Get this:

The expected downturn in the housing market could end up costing 800,000 construction and finance jobs, putting a big dent in economic growth over the next two years, a report from UCLA said.

Yes, the “expected downturn” could “put a dent in economic growth…” Because what’s more important these days but talking down the economy or at least the public’s perception of it?

But even with economic growth slowing as much as 1 or 2 percentage points, the nation should be able to avoid a recession, according to the widely watched report from UCLA Anderson Forecast.

See that? “…even with economic growth slowing as much as 1 or 2 percentage points…” what a nefarious little line that is! If you are not aware that the economy has been growing by 3-4 points each quarter, you could read that as “even AS economic growth slows…” If you are only casually reading this piece you’re thinking things are going to hell in a handbasket!

The authors of the report admitted that they had forecast earlier this year that the slowdown in the housing market was going to start in mid-2005, which now looks like it was a little premature. But they noted that recent reports from home builders, real estate agents and the government indicate the slowdown may have now begun.”

May! MAY. Except last month’s figures were record-breaking, and traditionally housing starts and resales now slumber a bit until February, but it MAY BE HAPPENING!

The report, released Wednesday, forecast a loss of 500,000 construction jobs and 300,000 jobs in the financial services sector from the housing slowdown, but noted that job losses would not spread across many industries, other than some limited pullbacks in manufacturing.

Unreal. The report, by people who haven’t gotten it right yet, is full of terrible news, but we still won’t be in a recession (dammit! And we’ve been trying so hard to talk America into one!). This is a big story full of nothing but supposition and guessing…but man, that headline -that’s a beaut, eh? And that story, real information, eh?

I crave news and information, too. That’s why I am so appreciative of sites like Gateway Pundit, and tons of blogs and some larger news outlets as well as some foreign news services.

But to suggest that how information is delivered is irrelevant is not quite playing the hand. That report could have been written in a very different way.

Dr. Sanity, Via Bizzyblog gives us another example of news and information that is disseminated – if at all – in rather questionable light:

BizzyBlog reports on some extremely good economic news for Americans (news that made it into a Chinese newspaper, but not into any American paper except the WSJ:
In a separate editorial later in the week (requires subscription), The Journal noted that household net worth has increased $10 trillion since the Bush tax cuts took effect in 2003. That’s a 24% increase in roughly 2-1/2 years. The negative financing gap means that companies were, on the whole, able to finance their capital expansions out of profits instead of borrowing money or selling stock.

Ask yourself – would you have to look to a Chinese newspaper to get this information if, say the president had a D after his name, or if the president’s name ended in Clinton?

Puh-leese! Before proclaiming that the “reading” of news is sublime while the examination of its deliverance is somehow vulgar, let’s at least acknowledge that all things are not equal. And uh, why isn’t this frontpage news, indeed?

I do agree with Betsy though, that the Bushies do a deplorable job of getting this news out.

:::UPDATE – 2008::: Here is a second and very succinct example of the talk-down:

Our pals over in the MSM certainly do know how to confuse an issue. Check out these two headlines from the SAME news service, and the SAME writer, one day apart:

Greenspan Gets High Marks Despite Economy

U.S. economy grows at strong 3.8% rate in third quarter, despite hurricanes

That second headline, of course, is from the Canadian press who I suppose have less invested in trying to continually portray the economy as “troubling.”

The Economy “slips” into a “sweet spot”
Times admits good economic news
The Rodney Dangerfield economy
“Despite?” Just Spite
Did you Know Bush is still in Africa?

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