Thursday, January 17, 2008

Economedia or Ecomedia?

I wish the comedy writer’s strike would end so someone would get this story correct: A survey by the Business and Media Institute shows the major Networks are overwhelmingly predicting recession this year, but are ignoring surveys of economists showing most do not expect recession.

Nathan Burchfield writes that recent polls of economists “by leading financial publications have predicted a less than 50-percent chance that the U.S. economy will enter a recession in 2008. But the media’s coverage of 'recession' makes it seem inevitable.”

How much is there to the power of suggestion?

The Institute survey revealed the broadcast media mentioned the economy or a recession in 54 stories during the first two weeks of 2008, predicting a recession, or reporting fears of a looming recession, four times as often as they reported optimism about the New Year. What they missed was a raft of recent surveys of economists puting the chance of recession at around 40%.

According to the report, “ABC, CBS and NBC reported “more signs of a looming recession,” “deepening troubles,” “new fuel for recession fears,” “rattled consumers,” “an economy on edge” and “bracing for recession,” or some scary variation a total of 32 times. They mentioned positive predictions in only eight stories.”

Meanwhile, a survey of 62 economists conducted and released by Bloomberg this month showed those economists predicting 1.5-% growth in the first half of 2008. While that rate of expansion would be the weakest since the last nine months of 2001, it would still be growth. The economists also put the chances of recession in 2008 at 40%.

Here’s something really interesting: Both sides of Congress are in a huddle to try to figure out how to keep the economy from sliding into the abyss of a recession, real or imagined. What is the first thing they think of doing to provide financial stimulus?
Tax Rebates.
Giving us our money back.

The Associated Press reports this morning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio emerged from a rare meeting yesterday, promising to "craft legislation to energize the weakening economy."
Ooh, I can hardly wait.

Quoth the AP: "Although Republicans and Democrats differ over what provisions should be part of any such package, there's widespread agreement that tax rebates along the lines of the $300-$600 checks provided in 2001 are likely to part of the measure. The country last suffered a recession in 2001."

Two thoughts: do you really think a one-time shot in the arm of $600 is going to instantly jolt our economy back to life (by the way, it’s not dead, just running sluggishly)?

Secondly—if a one time give-back of your money is enough to jumpstart the economic engines of the country, just imagine how smoothly that machine would purr if less money was withheld from your pay each month?

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Congress accidentally proved to itself that a lower tax burden on the public would result in a stronger economy and higher tax revenues in the final analysis?

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