By Dave Lindorff
It's no surprise that the Obama administration and the Democrats in Congress are trying to claim that the recession (which they blame on Bush and Cheney) is over and that the economy is slowly returning to health thanks to their efforts at economic stimulus. At least those highly dubious claims get challenged by Republicans, who can be relied on to counter with evidence to the contrary, and to claim that the economy is in a slump thanks to Democratic policies.
The problem comes when the media, which are supposed to be skeptics, start playing economic cheerleaders, and providing the public with false information and false hopes.
This has come to be pretty much the norm these days. Those who warn that the underpinnings of the US economy are eroded, and that there is really nothing left to drive a recovery, or who warn that there is a serious danger of a slide into an even deeper recession or even a depression, are written off as "doomsayers," and given little credence or ink, while the slightest sign of something positive gets hailed as evidence that things are on the mend.
Take the news of the past two weeks, where we had first a report from an obscure private trade group that its manufacturing index had for the first time in ages shown a slight uptic. This was hailed in the financial and general media as almost the Second Coming, with nobody mentioning that manufacturing these days represents only a tiny part of the US economy, down to just 12%. Furthermore, it went largely unreported that at the same time that the index rose a bit, employment in the manufacturing sector actually fell by close to 30,000 jobs--not an indication that any improvement in sales of manufactured goods was going to do much to improve the rest of the economy.
Later, we had back-to-back government reports that the number of weekly new unemployment claims had fallen from the prior several months' level and that the nation's trade deficit had improved slightly, to "just" negative $43 billion. The problem with this supposedly good information was that the "lower" new unemployment claim filing figure 451,000 is still a hell of a big number, and that the deficit had fallen from a record level set in June of $49 billion . Again, a negative trade figure of $43 billion is a whopping monthly deficit, especially when you consider that strapped Americans are not buying much these days (multiplied by 12 it would be more than half a trillion dollars for the year!).
But here's what the Associated Press (the news outfit that is now the main purveyor of such news to the American people via their reporter-depleted local papers and TV news programs) had to say, in its September 9 report (by economics writers Martin Crutsinger and Jeannine Aversa) on the new numbers:
"No, the economy isn't roaring ahead. And no, companies aren't making lots of job offers. But a fresh batch of economic data Thursday at least eased summertime fears that the economy might be on the brink of another recession."...