Dean Baker: Reporters with pom-poms

Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy & Research
Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy & Research

In a short, punchy essay at Counterpunch, Dean Baker reviews the economic statistics and the financial pages and finds a yawning gap:

“For example, National Public Radio told listeners that the new home sales figure reported for April was up from the March level. While this was true, the April figure was only 1,000 higher than a March level that had just been revised down by 5,000. April new home sales were 4,000 below the sales level that had originally been reported for March. USA Today touted a ‘surge’ in durable goods orders, which was also based on a sharp downward revision to the prior month’s data.

“The media have obviously abandoned economic reporting and instead have adopted the role of cheerleader, touting whatever good news it can find and inventing good news when none can be found. This leaves the responsibility of reporting on the economy to others.”

My question is, who thought it could be otherwise? Frankly I’m surprised that the mainstream coverage of the economy has been as strong at times as it has. The press’s troubles in reporting on the economy are just a specialized variant of the press’s troubles in reporting on politics and business. They rely entirely too much on top-down institutional sources, and wind up carrying their water. Nothing exactly revelatory about that.

What’s worn on me since the bear market rally and the green shoots blather is the short shrift given to the street-level impact of the lousy economy and the even worse employment picture. Now that the whiff of recovery is in the air, illusory as it may be, that coverage seems to have fallen off dramatically.

So I want to call out a couple of couple of worthy studies about public impact that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve: a David Himmelstein study published in the American Journal of Medicine that found 2/3 of U.S. personal bankruptcies in 2007 were caused by medical expenses, and the Economic Policy Institute’s preview of its Jobs Picture report, which contains interesting and to-the-point comparisons of this recession’s employment profile compared to previous downturns.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 06/05/2009 - 08:24 am.

    Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke this week addressed the House Budget Committee and urged fiscal restraint. Imagine that! Bail-out Ben, whose Fed has spent, lent, and guaranteed trillions of dollars to zombie banks to delay them from suffering the inevitable consequences of the most monumental financial stupidity in history, actually has the nerve to lecture others on fiscal responsibility!

    “Either cuts in spending or increases in taxes will be necessary to stabilize the fiscal situation,” Bernanke said. “The Federal Reserve will not monetize the debt.”

    Too bad he doesn’t have the same position on the bail-out!

    Bernanke also thoroughly debunked his own claim that “green shoots” of recovery had begun to appear. “The pace of economic contraction may be slowing” and the housing market has “shown some signs of bottoming,” he said, adding that businesses “continue to reduce their workforces and capital investments,” and that consumer spending, after plunging last year, “has been roughly flat since the turn of the year.” In other words, the economy is still falling. Perhaps you have to be an economist to see the “growth.”

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