Friday, April 21, 2006

Notional Politburo Radio Strikes Again

 
We report, you derideLast night I was listening to the 6:00 o’clock news on NPR and heard a report about the decline of leading economic indicators in March.

I can’t recall it verbatim, and NPR does not provide transcripts of its news reports, but this Marketwatch story says much the same thing:

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- A gauge of future economic activity declined for a second straight month in March, signaling a slowdown, economists said Thursday.

The Conference Board’s U.S. index of leading economic indicators fell 0.1% last month after a revised 0.5% drop in February, much larger than the 0.2% decline initially reported.

Five of the 10 leading indicators tracked by the Conference Board improved in March, while four declined and one remained unchanged.

After reporting the above information, the newsreader (probably Cory Flintoff) said something like this:

Analysts are concerned that the declining indicators may signal a coming slowdown, after several months of strong economic growth.

DISCLAIMER: I am not economically well-versed, so I don’t have any idea of the accuracy or the value of these ten indicators. Dymphna is the economist in the family, and she may well want to put in her two cents about this story.

But that’s not my point. My point is that, if you believe NPR, the “strong economic growth” of the past few months never happened.

If you’re a masochist, like me, and listen to NPR regularly, you know that every month when the economic reports come out, the results are an occasion for nothing but gloom and alarm. In fact, if your sole source of news is NPR, you’ll never even know about economic good times, presuming they occur during a Republican administration. There is simply no such thing as good economic news under the circumstances.

Housing starts up, durable goods orders up 8%?

Analysts fear that this may ignite a new round of inflation.

New jobless claims down for the third month in a row?

Economists worry that record high employment may bid up wage rates, igniting a new round of inflation.

Unemployment rate drops to 4.7%?

Critics point out that most new job formation occurred in the service sector, where wages and benefits are low, particularly for women and monorities.

Real wages on the rise?

Some economists report that consumer debt is rising faster than wages, cancelling the effect of the new wealth and dampening the national savings rate.

Month after month, year after year, that’s what you hear on NPR. Good ol’ NPR, our own Ministry of Information, paid for in part by your tax dollars! And the rest, of course, paid for by left-wing foundations whose agenda is indistinguishable from that of A.N.S.W.E.R.

Economic boom? There’s no economic boom! At least until it’s over, and then we can announce the news that the good times have come to an end, and now we’re in for some real suffering.

Nothing but doom on the horizon, as far as the eye can see.

But wait a minute! NPR’s resident economic soothsayer is here, wearing his embroidered robe and pointy hat with the occult symbols, and staring into his crystal ball.

I see bad times ahead… 2006… war, pestilence, famine… 2007… trouble, strife, suffering… 2008… 2009… January 21st, inauguration of Hillary Rodham… hmm… big changes coming after that! Forecast looks rosy! A tofu chicken in every pot and a Prius in every garage!

Let’s stick around and see if happens.

24 comments:

Fausta said...

You must start watching Larry Kudlow every afternoon at 5PM.

And start reading FT, too.

Baron Bodissey said...

Fausta --

Alas, we have no TV! But I listen to Kudlow on XM sometimes, and have been known to read his columns.

He's my favorite economist. And his predictions have an uncanny tendency to come true.

Baron Bodissey said...

Fausta--

I told him and I told him, "go read Larry Kudlow."

But he says that's not his point. He says his point is that many of the literati, who are ignorant re economics, listen to NPR pontificate in gloomy terms throughout Republican administrations.

Remember how the homeless slipped into the memory hole when Bush I went out of office? Clinton came on, and the homeless disappeared. Never did figure out why they weren't dug up again when Bush II came on the scene, though I must admit if I heard those dulcet tones on the radio, I run to turn it off. Creeeepy. Thank God for XM.

I wuv Larry Kudlow. He's on John Batchelor on Tuesdays,too.

jungle jim said...

Just a brief comment. Heard on radio that Salman Rushdie was invited to speak at Nova Southeastern University, but certain students afflicted with a specific mental disorder objected for the usual reasons. I am not aware of the outcome, but if 500,000 people can protest a certain political issue - immigration reform, why can't 5,000,000 band together to protest a constitutional issue - freedom of speech?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

jungle jim

Because we have jobs.

HitTheBid! said...

First of all Kudlow is not an economist...check his bio please.
But as an econmics person, perhaps I can shed some light on this very interesting and complicated topic.
Second..i think the larger issue you are trying to get at is this: It seems that the economy is doing great by all measures so why is the liberal media talking it down and thereby making Americans feel bad about the economy.

Apart from that being a slightly silly argument for a grownup, the reason for the lack of larger enthusiasm about the economy is that while non-supervisry wages have gone up close to 15% since 2001, inflation has gone up about 14%. so in real terms the majority of americans (about 80%) have not gotten a real raise in five odd years. How would that make you feel? All the while healthcare, housing and fuel costs have risen in the double digits.

The reason is quite clear, and its non-partisan...it just is. I wouldn't advise watching Kudlow, his economics are very idelogical and he has virtually no respect with any academics.

PS...please don't edit my comments further, I used no profanity nor was disrespectful to any poster. (although Islam and Christianity and Judaism are all three Yahweh based religions).

thanks,

Hit The Bid

hank_F_M said...

Discovered in a trash can outside and NPR station



Script for reporting economic news

The ______________ report was released to day

(Pick one)
Despite President Bush’s economic policies the __________ index was up.

Because of President Bush’s economic policies the __________ index was down.

Cato said...

After pronouncing your arguments "silly for a grownup" (which is a rather silly tactic for a grownup to employ), Hitthebid announces that "The reason [for non-enthusiasm? for flat increase in real wages?] is quite clear, and its non-partisan...it just is"

If the baron were talking about general lack of enthusiasm about the economy (as measured say, by opinion polls), this point might make sense. But he was talking about the practice, palpable to anyone with ears to hear, of qualifying every single piece of economic good news with a counter. It's not so much a journalistic practice as a reflex.

Actually, anybody without a liberal blinker on knows that when reporting any good economic news duirng the Reagan and Bush I presidency, the media invariably practiced "yes, but" journalism. That scrupulous attitude melted away during the Clinton interregnum.

I'm sure we all appreciated the tip about "Yahweh-based religions", though. Very enlightening.

Cato said...

Is "hitthe bid" really an economist or just a poseur? I'm no economist, but I find this statement puzzling:

[snip]
while non-supervisry wages have gone up close to 15% since 2001, inflation has gone up about 14%. so in real terms the majority of americans (about 80%) have not gotten a real raise in five odd years.
[snip]

That isn't even logical. It assumess no-one is entering the work force. Don't people get raises by getting seniority, replacing people who have retired, getting promoted? If people were entering the work force at the same rate they were leaving it, every single indidual in the economy could "get a real raise" while the total amount payed in wages stayed the same. If more people were entering the economy than leaving (which must happen in a growing economy) almost all the entrants would be at low levels, which would skew the average lower, even if every single individual "got a raise".


Is this the kind of resoning that avoids Kudlow's fate? ie "he has virtually no respect with any academics" (sic)

Archonix said...

Yahwe based religions? What rubbish! Allah was the moon god Al Ilah, who was the high god of arabic ploytheism and who's statue used to sit atop the Kabbah in Mecca - which is why the crescent moon still appears atop every islamic minaret. Compare Mohammed with Pharoah Akhenaten.

This lie that Judaism and Christianity share anything more than a superficial commonality with Islam is one of the bigger causes of deception in the world. They say "our god is the same god", and then use that to sneak in to our lives.

Sorry for the outburst. It just really gets to me when I hear this repeated...

Dymphna said...

Hitthebid:

Are you an "ecomics person" like Paul "Always Wrong" Krugman is an economics person? Or maybe Dave Barry?

Krugman is a riot. If I can find the piece he wrote about Europe being in much better shape than we are, I'll link to it. Suuuure they are. Everyone knows that statist, centrally controlled economies are the way to go.

If academics don't like Kudlow, that's an imprimatur in my book. Never have so many wrongheaded, small-hearted, concrete thinking mediorcrities gathered in one place as have those huddled under the umbrella of academia.

Go read Starling David Hunter if you must refer to academic economists. At least he pays attention to the real world, and actutally teaches where it's most needed.

The Business of America is Business

Fausta said...

First of all Kudlow is not an economist...check his bio please.
Indeed:
"For many years Mr. Kudlow served as chief economist for a number of Wall Street firms. Recently, Mr. Kudlow was a member of the Bush-Cheney Transition Advisory Committee. During President Reagan's first term, Mr. Kudlow was the associate director for economics and planning, Office of Management and Budget, Executive Office of the President, where he was engaged in the development of the administration's economic and budget policy.
. . .
"Mr. Kudlow began his career as a staff economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, working in the areas of domestic open market operations and bank supervision."

Might not be an economist in your book, but qualifies as such in mine!

Dymphna,
Krugman is a riot. If I can find the piece he wrote about Europe being in much better shape than we are, I'll link to it.
I'm not sure if this will do, and with apologies for the shameless self-promotion, but I did a post on a speech he gave saying "the French got it right - at least when it comes to healthcare". Boy, is he wrong.

Cato said...

I doubt anyone is still reading this thread, but if so, I have a possibly interesting discovery. I wondered how a semil-literate phony managed to come up with the phrase "non-supervisory wages" [spelling corrected] for his argument. A little Googling reveals that this phrase pops up a lot - it's the left and leftblog's current cherry-picked economic statistic which "proves" that the Bush economy is terrible. It ignores the beneficial effects of the tax cuts, and ignores the difficulty we had in recovering the economy after 9/11. It never considers "non-supervisory" wage performance during the Clinton economic "miracle", since that would be apples and apples.

Cato said...

Bingo - I have a smoking gun (or more dead-horse-beating, anyway).

This site uses very similar wording as did our "ecnomics person", and it, or some derivative, was undoubtedly his source (this is apparently what non-ideological economic analysis looks like):

NB - he faked the rounding [13.47% becomes 14%] to make the argument seem stronger.

That's the basic problem with non-supervisory wages, which represent the pay for about 80% of the workforce. Non-supervisory wages were $14.28/hour in January 2001 and $16.47% in February 2006 for an increase of 15.33%. Over the same period, the national inflation index increased from 175.1 to 198.7 for an increase of 13.47%. This makes the total, inflation-adjusted increase in wages for the Bush administration 1.86%, or a compound annual growth rate of .36%. So, currently about 80% of employed people are making about what they made when Bush took office. Would this make you happy?


On the other (left) hand, this analysis comes from a hard-left anti-dem-centrist website and tends to confirm (if you accept that their conclusions are based on evidence) that the leftbloggers are indeed ignoring non-supervisory wage performance under Clinton while attacking it under Bush2.


"Both the average wages for non-supervisory workers and the earnings of those in the lowest 10 percent of wage earners," notes Robert Pollin, "not only remained well below those of the Nixon/Ford and Carter administrations, but were actually lower than that even than those of the Reagan/Bush years. Moreover, wage inequality -- as measured by the ratio of the 90th to the 10th wage decile -- increased sharply during Clinton's tenure in office, even relative to the Republican heyday of the 1980s."

Dymphna said...

Fausta, thanks for the link. I think I read that post of yours because I remember there wer a lot links. I haven't posted on Krugman per se, but the die-off of the elderly that summer in France I *did* cover.

The infrastructure in France, and probably other statist economic systems, is such that you could have a national catastrophe of 15,000 dead from a heat wave and still get up in the morning and complain about the eeevil US.

Can you imagine the blowback in the US in a similar situation? We'd still be having investigations. Man, we investigate acts of God, never mind system failures, just to keep all those pols employed in DC.

Can't think of anything much more evil than letting so many people die of heat and neglect and not having a major overhaul of the system as a humane response to the obvious problems.

cato: you my fave googler. Nobody does it better. In addition, you were kind to refer to the troll as a "poseur." That would not have been my choice of appellation. Obviously you were Raised Right.

Starling David Hunter said...

Dymphna,

thanks for the link. It is funny that you mention my name in the same sentence as Paul Krugman's. I never met Paul while during my time on the faculty at MIT, he was in the Econ department and I in the business school. I did however meet his wife. We had lunch once and she is a very delightful woman and treated me very nicely. I realized that though Paul's politics are clearly not my own, I realized that anyone with a wife that nice couldn't be all bad- a partisan hack? perhaps- but certainly not all bad.

Now as for the substance of the NPR commentary. Although my research involve the economics of technological innovation, my training is not as an economist. That having been said, I do recognize that economics statistics not placed in a context can be very misleading. Anyone, whether on the left or right can create misleading impressions by what economic indicators they mention and how, as well as by which ones they leave out. What is important to keep in mind is that just as there is no single measure of physical health, there is not single measure of economic health either. The social sciences simply don't have that degree of precision. Econometric models don't always do that good of a job predicting and describing the phenomena they consider.

Now as for NPR's bias, there is not doubt that they do lean left. I'm 42 and have been listening to them reguarly since I was 19 and for me their bias is a settled question. Hank noted that NPR appears to work from a script. This they indeed do. Here are some of the ideals that motivate their partisan perspectives:

1) Capitalism is unjust. It creates winners and losers as evidenced by the unequal distribution of income that it produces.

2) Business is not, by definition, socially responsible. That is to say, running a business is not in and of itself a responsible thing to do. Providing goods and services that people, keeping people gasinfully employed, and paying taxes is not inherently virtuous. It only becomes that when business leaders sign on to various notions of corporate social responsibility.

3) Private enterprise should exist to serve the needs of the "workers" not the owners and only secondarily customers. That is to say, the profit motive is unseemly and the desire to maximize profits instead of developing people is the closest thing these folks recognize as "sin". Besides, workers, not managers and "money men" and owners, create all the value.

A few posts from my archives that relate to these topics include: The Road (that ought to be) Less Traveled series about a fawning NYT article on Hugo Chavez' "21st century Socialism" and Dispatch from a Parallel Universe about the NYT's coverage of Wal-mart.

PS: Baron, NPR transcripts are available for a fee. Most academic institutions have subscriptions to the Lexis-Nexis or other databases that have NPR transcripts and can access them free. If you ever need one, let me know. I'd be happy to grab it for you. It only takes a minute.

westbankmama said...

archo:
This lie that Judaism and Christianity share anything more than a superficial commonality with Islam is one of the bigger causes of deception in the world. They say "our god is the same god", and then use that to sneak in to our lives.
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Ummmmmmmm..... don't know how to break this to you, but you're ALL heathens.

Christianity's core belief is that G-d took human form. Not to offend, but the story of his life directly parallels the Jupiter-knocking-up-a-nymph-produces-superhero storyline featured prominently in most ancient pagan cultures.

ALL of this is a very, VERY big no-no by the standards of the Mother Religion - Judaism.

I have heard the "crescent moon" bit from numerous Christians - it's ludicrous from the Jewish perspective. Islam strongly forbids any sculptural presentation of ANY earthly form inside the mosque - much more in concert with Jewish law.

And Muslims don't worship Muhammad - like Moses, he is viewed as a holy human who lived, and died. No deification.

You are invited to visit some of the more ornate churches of Christendom, and compare the artistic representations of "G-d" and the holy family.

... and we haven't even touched on the Trinity or the Catholic practice of directly addressing petitions to patron saints...

... something about removing a beam from one's own eyes....

Cato said...

wlAs a happy unbeliever, I am content to say the heck with all three of you (in the nicest possible way). I lean toward a non-religious form of Buddhism lite myself (like you should care).

I am however, struck by how many non-Islamic experts on Islam there seem to be out there. Their pronouncements are always definitive and magisterial (not to say rabbinical) How much legitimate material and actual research is out there and how much info is just talking points being recirculated through blogs just like our friend's economic statistics? Not carping, just wondering.

Cato said...

Just to whack a dead horse a little more (one of my favorie occupations)

The Muslims may indeed have inherited the crescent moon from earlier forms of their religion - it may not even be a crescent moon at all - Joseph Campbell thought it was survival of a bull's-horns symbol from early cattle-oriented pagan cults. However, that doesn't really asy anything about Muslim belief. Judaism and Christinaity (especailly Christianity) seem to contain many vestiges of pre-monotheistic beliefs as well.

It seems strange to say that Allah is not based on the biblical God. I'd like some footnotes on that assertion. Mohammed certainly said that his newly revealed religion was based on the Hebrews' book - he just had a new edition - kind of like the Mormons.

Dymphna said...

Gee, I haven't been called a heathen since the last Jehovah's Witness came to call.

A delicious waft of sulfur and brimstone...

Dymphna the heathen, that's me. Much cooler than Saint Dymphna...good thing Moses was born way back when or the RC's would've made him a saint, too.

I'll bet he moons (excuse the pun) around heaven humming "Born Too Soon"....

hank_F_M said...

Dymphna

Even though not usually referenced that way the RC lists the OT patriarchs as Saints.

Dymphna said...

Hank--

Where does it reference Moses, etc., as saints? I've never seen that.

westbankmama said...

Cato, here it is in a, uhhhh, nutshell:

We Jews adhere philosophically to the true monotheism of Abraham. And in earthly morality, to the true law of Moses.

The Christians largely uphold the moral law of Moses - but they tacked on a philosphical front-end drawn from Roman, gnostic pagan sources.

The Moslems descend from Abraham, and adhere to his code of monotheism - but their moral and social codes diverge from and often contradict Mosaic teaching, even though there are some surface similarities.

To sum up:

Jews do the RIGHT thing for the RIGHT reason.

Christians do the RIGHT thing, for the WRONG reason.

Muslims do the WRONG thing, for the RIGHT reason.

... now let's all try to live together in peace and harmony...

Archonix said...

Ok, I could argue about this one until we're all blue in the face (beating a dead horse some more?). Hell I took a theological course precisely for that reason, but by the end of it I'd found out something; it's pointless arguing about the philosophical nuances of who or what Jesus is if you lose his message in the process. And for that I'd recommend a book called The Lost Message of Jesus by steve chalke.

I'll stick by my comments abotu Islam, though. It isn't descended from jewish monotheism and it bears much closer rleationship with arab paganism, zorastorianism, hinduism (yep! shocked me too when I heard about it, but hindu philopshy made quite an impact on Mohammed) and various christian sects than judaism.

Anyway, I'd contend that they don't even do the wrong thing for the right reason. They do what they do because otherwise God will zap them. And he might zap them anyway depending on how he felt when they were born. To christians and jews god is love (and don't argue with me on that one, it's stated quite often in the torah in many ways). To a muslim god is master, and nothing more.