On Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull, Campbell Brown and Ali Velshi repeatedly claimed that provisions in the economic recovery bill that extend food stamps and unemployment insurance payments are, in Velshi's words, "not stimulus." But the same day, the Congressional Budget Office director stated in congressional testimony: "Transfers to persons (for example, unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance) would also have a significant impact on GDP. Because a large amount of such spending can occur quickly, transfers would have a significant impact on GDP by early 2010."
In the course of an otherwise useful article about FDR's approach to the great depression, the New York Times offers a misleading assessment of the unemployment rate under Roosevelt:
During the 1930s, the unemployment rate fell somewhat under Roosevelt, but remained stubbornly high, averaging more than 17 percent for the decade.
There are a few problems with this.
First, the Times doesn't provide a starting point - what was the unemployment rate before Roosevelt took office? 17 percent sounds awfully high, but it could actually be an impressively low figure if the starting point was much higher. Which it was - 25 percent in 1933, Roosevelt's first year in office; 24 percent the year before. (The Times does note the 25 percent starting point later in the article, too late for it to provide effective context for the 17 percent figure.)
Second, in assessing the efficacy of a program begun in 1933, it is basically meaningless to use average unemployment rate for the entire decade. We can hardly credit or blame the New Deal for the unemployment situation in place before the New Deal began. What matters isn't the average unemployment for the entire decade, which includes several years before Roosevelt even took office - what matters is the trend line. Did unemployment go up or down? How much? That's what matters; raw numbers - particularly raw numbers averaged over the entire decade - are badly misleading.
For an example of how misleading it is to use average unemployment numbers to assess the effectiveness of a president in combating unemployment, we need only look to the conservative talking point that average unemployment under George W. Bush was lower than average unemployment under Bill Clinton.
Maybe true, but meaningless - that measure credits Bush for Clinton's success, and penalizes Clinton for the failures of Bush's father.
See, the average unemployment rate under Clinton is artificially high due to the high unemployment rate when he took office; Bush's is artificially low due to the low rate when he took office. If you look instead at trend lines, you see that unemployment went down under Clinton and up under Bush. That's far more useful in assessing the two presidents effectiveness in fighting unemployment than average numbers that paint a misleading picture.
Sean Hannity asserted that the economic stimulus bill would amount to spending at least $217,000 for every job created, echoing a false calculation from a press release issued by the Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee and repeated by numerous media figures. In fact, by calculating the per-job cost by dividing the estimated total cost of the stimulus package by the estimated number of jobs created -- and thus suggesting that the sole purpose of that package is to create jobs -- these media figures ignored other tangible benefits stemming from the package, such as infrastructure improvements and education, health, and public safety investments.
Michelle Malkin, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity have falsely asserted or suggested that Robert Reich, speaking at a congressional forum, proposed that jobs created by the economic stimulus package should exclude white males. In fact, Reich has repeatedly stated that he favors a stimulus plan that "includ[es] women and minorities, and the long-term unemployed" in addition to skilled professionals and white male construction workers, not one that is solely limited to them.
On NBC's Nightly News, Chuck Todd reported that President Obama "drew more criticism from Republicans [...] thanks to a new report claiming the stimulus will take years, not months, to improve the economy" and aired a clip of House Minority Leader John Boehner criticizing the stimulus plan. However, Todd did not mention the Democratic leadership's response: that the Congressional Budget Office report ignored faster-moving provisions in the stimulus, creating a "false impression" of the plan's effects.
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During a Fox News discussion about stimulus spending and the role New Deal programs and World War II played in ending the Great Depression, Chris Wallace falsely claimed that "unemployment in 1937, 1938 was higher than it was in 1933." In fact, even without including "emergency" public employment under the New Deal, the unemployment rate in 1937 and 1938 did not surpass the 1933 unemployment rate.
Committed to the belief that bigger government is always better, Media Matters and Campaign for America's Future are pushing back data showing that the New Deal never solved unemployment. Cutting through their rhetoric, both leftist organizations make the same narrow objection: that the data we use does not count make work government programs like the Civil Conservation Corps as employed.
Now we will always maintain that not counting government work programs as employment is the more accurate measure.
But for the sake of argument, lets cede the point that anyone receiving government employment assistance is 'employed'. Does that end up changing the the impact of New Deal spending on unemployment? No. As the chart above shows, even when using the numbers preferred by the leftist proponents of big government, the story is still the same: Unemployment never made it near the 1970-2008 5.5% normal unemployment rate until well after the U.S. entered World War II.
Got that? Heritage sniffs that the New Deal "never solved unemployment" because it did not bring unemployment from 25 percent all the way down to 5.5 percent.
If the worst the far-right Heritage Foundation can say about the New Deal is that it failed to cut the unemployment rate by 80 percent, that sounds like a pretty solid, if accidental, endorsement to me.
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Summary: On Special Report, Major Garrett falsely accused President-elect Obama of making an untrue assertion when Obama said that the 2.589 million jobs lost in 2008 were "the most since World War II." In fact, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been no greater net job decline in any calendar year since the end of World War II than occurred in 2008.
Summary: A Wall Street Journal editorial opposing legislation to overturn the Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber ignored the effect of the Ledbetter decision on employees who were unaware for long periods of time that they had received lower pay due to discrimination. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated in her dissent in Ledbetter, a plaintiff's longtime lack of knowledge that discrimination has occurred is not unusual in pay discrimination cases, pointing out that in the case at hand, Goodyear "kept salaries confidential; [and] employees had only limited access to information regarding their colleagues' earnings."
From Nicholas Kristof's column:
As my Times colleague David Leonhardt has noted, the reported $73-an-hour wage in Detroit is a fiction.
On the one hand, it's good to see Kristof, and Leonhardt last week, trying to dismantle the $73-an-hour misinformation. The thick irony, of course, is that it was the New York Times that gave the phony meme life nearly a month ago. Neither Kristof or Leonhardt mentioned that embarrassing fact. (Or that MMFA called the paper out on the matter.)
Meanwhile, lots of readers praised Leonhardt's effort last week to set the record straight about autoworkers. But the Daily Howler thought Leonhardt did a dreadful job sorting out the facts.
On-screen text at MSNBC and a Washington Times article and headline echoed the Republican accusation that the United Auto Workers union killed the $14 billion bailout for General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler. In fact, Senate Republicans refused to support legislation endorsed by the White House, a majority of members of the House and Senate, and the UAW.
Media echoed the Republican accusation that the United Auto Workers union killed the $14 billion bailout for GM, Ford, and Chrysler. But The New York Times stated that it was Senate Republicans who "refused to support a bill endorsed by the White House and Congressional Democrats."
Even though the crises facing the financial and automotive industries were born primarily of the actions (or inaction) of those in positions of power in private industry and in government, many conservative media figures have assigned blame to specific groups of less wealthy or less influential people -- the poor, minorities, undocumented immigrants, and union members, among others -- disregarding the facts that belie such assignments of blame.