December 11, 2009

MSM Mythbusting (2 of 10) Media Ignore Failure of Stimulus Package to Stop Job Loss.

Media myth: Obama administration claimed spending would keep unemployment from rising about 8 percent, but as losses climbed news outlets spun the numbers.

"For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs," Obama said on Jan. 8 at a speech in Fairfax, Va. At that time the unemployment rate was 7.2 percent.-

Obama also claimed that the country would face double-digit unemployment without the stimulus package while the Congressional Budget Office forecast was slightly lower: 9 percent unemployment by 2010.

To boost support for his stimulus, Obama's economic team released a report that estimated unemployment wouldn't rise above 8 percent with a stimulus package, according to Associated Press. Even without a stimulus, Obama's team echoed the CBO claim that the economy would shed 3-4 million more jobs, reaching 9 percent unemployment by 2010.

By April 2009, the claim was null and void as unemployment soared to 8.9 percent (it would later climb as high as 10.2 percent). But rather than report those failed jobs numbers the media found the "silver lining."

On June 1, The Washington Post spun the projected loss of a half million jobs, saying, "Economists forecast that employers will have shed another 530,000 jobs and that the jobless rate will rise to 9.2 percent [in May], from 8.9 percent. Although those numbers are steep, they would provide ammunition for the glimmers-of-hope crowd."

Similarly, when April data was released the first week of May, The New York Times, Washington Post, CBS "Early Show," and NBC "Today Show" found the good news in the bad - the exact opposite of how they treated economic news under Bush.

None of those reports mentioned that Obama's stimulus package was supposed to prevent unemployment from rising so high.

Many in the media also accepted the administration's claim that the stimulus would "create or save" 3 million new jobs - the phrase "create or save" became an easy out as unemployment skyrocketed to 10.2 percent in October. A convenient line for the White House since it cannot be proven or disproved.

Yet, journalists reported the claims uncritically, like Charles Gibson did on May 11 and 13, saying the stimulus would "save or create one-and-a-half million jobs this year."