Thursday, November 10, 2011

CNBC's GOP Event & Flaming Media Liberal Bias

I'm sorry to find out how right I was in my predictions in yesterday's post regarding last night's CNBC GOP presidential candidate roast...errr....event. Because it was on CNBC, and ostensibly about economics and business, I'm writing this review on this blog, rather than my political one.

Here are some of the passages from that post,

" can bet most of the two hours will consist of baiting the GOP candidates with questions designed to create convenient sound bites for the current president's re-election staff to use in subsequent campaign commercials.

This won't be anything remotely resembling an honest, non-partisan attempt to ascertain the candidates' views on the economy and business.

At present, I think it's fair and accurate to say that the truly conservative candidates would, ideally, say that the most they can do is to reduce growth-retarding uncertainty caused by the federal government. This would largely consist of reversing excessive energy- and finance-related regulations, a tax-code overhaul to reduce rates, remove preference items and simplify the code, and the exit of federal government from subsidizing any businesses, such as so-called 'green energy' investing and mortgage bond guarantees, to the detriment of private sector efforts to do the same things.

The problem, of course, is that these reasonable steps will sound insufficient, because they don't purport to immediately "create jobs."

Never mind that conservatives, and most of the GOP candidates, don't believe government should directly create jobs. They will be pummeled by most of the CNBC panel for being cold-hearted, uncaring and, in effect, promising a priori to do nothing to help millions of unemployed Americans."

There's actually quite a bit to cover, so let me highlight the four themes I'll discuss. The first three are the CNBC panel's:

1. Attempt to criticize GOP candidates for their conservative, non-Keynesian economic views.

2. Attempt to engage candidates on non-economic issues and invite mutual attacks.

3. Cluelessness on the publics' intolerance for liberal media attacks, via my second point, on the GOP candidates.

The fourth is the after-event panel's explicit liberal slant, used to lament how weak the GOP field was.

An example of the first point was the panel's question regarding three issues- student loan debt, housing and health care. The panel characterized the second as 'complex and large,' of which America's housing problem is really only the latter- large. Regarding student loan indebtedness, the panel was clearly looking to draw the candidates into competitive bids to please the student audience. But, in a larger sense, the questions were formed with a Keynesian, government-activist bias. It was a 'what would you do, as President,' not, 'is it appropriate for government to attempt to solve' sort of bias.

Regarding student loans, Gingrich fired back accurately, and quickly, given the usual inane sub-minute time limits. He concisely traced the history of the program, from LBJ onward, and dismissed it as having led to excessively-inflationary higher education costs. Summing up, he essentially pronounced the program a typical failure of government by causing unintended consequences. Newt slipped in a competing model, which was, I believe, College of the Ozarks, where students work while at school. They leave, on average, with no debt, except for students who purchased cars during their enrollment. Gingrich, as usual, had amazing facts at his command, ticking off the lengthier college careers of students borrowing money to attend.

When it came to housing, the CNBC panel focused on Romney, who is already on record, in Nevada, as having called for normal foreclosures and an end to the administration's many attempts to subsidize homeowners who are underwater on their mortgages, relying on market-clearing forces to eventually help the sector find its bottom.

For once, Romney didn't disappoint, reiterating, with vigor, his earlier comments. He chided the panel, asking if they thought the federal government should buy up every home in America to fuel economic growth?

The reactions of the panel members to these replies seemed muted, due in large part to the roars of approval by the audience in each instance.

On health care, Bartiromo asked Gingrich what he would do to solve America's health care mess. Newt grinned and baited his own trap, saying he'd been writing whole books on the topic, and did Maria really expect him to answer this complex question in less than a minute? The audience shouted its approval for his reply, and Bartiromo then said, 'take as much time as you need.'

Newt replied with another question, noting that his fellow candidates wouldn't like him taking up the remainder of the evening. Bartiromo tried to one-up him, arrogantly closing with, to paraphrase,

'Then you don't want to answer how you'd handle health care?'

On the second point, Maria Bartiromo asked Herman Cain if it was appropriate for Americans to elect him as CEO of the country, when he was being assailed for character flaws. Cain shot back fluidly and effectively, explaining that Americans don't want anonymous, unspecified character assassination to decide whom they will elect as president. Cain got cheers, and the audience was clearly cool to the panel.

Then Bartiromo unwisely followed up by asking Romney if he'd retain Cain in management if he were a private equity buyer of a firm including Cain, given the recent sexual harassment allegations.

Romney rose to the challenge and pointedly rejected Bartiromo's bait, while the audience, just after her question, but before Romney began to reply, loudly booed and jeered the CNBC reporter.

What Romney actually said was that he wasn't going to answer, that it was Cain's issue to handle with voters.

Regarding my third point, the CNBC panel seemed really tin-eared and ham-handed in how the audience and general public would react to its attempts to rough up and bait the GOP candidates. The audience reacted quite angrily to Bartiromo's questions regarding Cain and the alleged harassment charges. On Fox News just minutes later, Sean Hannity actually covered that segment, castigating CNBC for trying to manipulate the candidates into non-economic issues during an event ostensibly about economics and business, then bait Romney into criticizing Cain.

Later, in their own after-event program, Carl whathisname congratulated himself, Harwood and Bartiromo, smugly, on their performances in bringing the enemy, i.e., the GOP candidate field, to account, completely ignoring the audience's reaction to their attempted baiting of the candidates. Wildman Jim Cramer went so far as to criticize Romney and Gingrich for daring to take on the panel, rebuking them for pushing back against the media.

Cramer then went on a rant, claiming that voters didn't want candidates reacting to the media, only to answer questions about the economy. Totally off base and, as usual, wrong.

It was, however, quite surreal to see the action on CNBC, then see it covered live on Fox News only minutes later.

Finally, in the CNBC spin zone, two rather bizarre scenes occurred.

One was Larry Kudlow being seated with three prominent former Democratic administration officials to critique the event. All three of course lambasted the performances, trying to essentially close the door on all but Romney. Kudlow didn't look all that comfortable, but it was clear that CNBC's liberal producers and management wanted to give a final, anti-GOP spin to the event with an all-Democratic review of the two hour program.

Separately, minutes prior to that panel, Carl whathisname gave Cramer the stage to spin some false history of his own, while extensively criticizing all the GOP candidates, and the whole party, for good measure.

One has to have some perspective on Cramer's career journey to understand his views and actions. Harvard-educated, he began as a wannabe reporter, eventually realizing a desire to run money, working as a broker at Goldman Sachs along the way. He's not an experienced business person, nor economist. He's politically very liberal.

During his hedge fund running days, he engaged in explicit manipulation of media, including an admission of using CNBC floor reporter Bob Pisani, to spread rumors allowing Cramer to finish the second half of 'pump and dump' schemes. If Cramer were remembered for his hedge fund antics, he'd probably be under indictment, rather than on CNBC.

Thus, he's tickled pink to have exited that earlier career, and been refurbished and rehabbed as a cable business news anchor. To be seen on the panel of a presidential candidate debate is extremely tall cotton indeed for the hotheaded, big-mouthed former hedge fund manager of questionable practices.

In response to GOP calls for the repeal of excessive and ineffectual regulation, Cramer assailed them all as wrong-headed and small-minded. He cited Eisenhower's highway-building program to claim that Republicans needed to act like that again, spending hundreds of billions for public works to employ, well, construction workers.

Never mind that the current administration chose to ignore a key highway bill several years ago, and now has let much nearly-automatic road building lapse. Or that, per this recent post of mine, anything economically worthwhile will be done anyway, and needn't require government funding.

The GOP and its candidates don't believe we should let US highways disintegrate. Simply that, to refurbish them, after decades of excessive social welfare spending instead, other cuts have to be made to do so within balanced federal budgets.

Then Cramer engaged in his personal, wrong history of the recent financial crisis. He began by erroneously contending that the US has to bail out Europe, or the contagion will spread here. That may well occur, but even the US, borrowing, as it does, 40 cents of every dollar it prints/spends from China, doesn't have enough wealth to fix Europe's over-indebted social welfare spending mess.

Cramer routinely, and wrongly, calls the European crisis a banking crisis, when it's a social spending and governmental crisis. US funding won't fix that.

Then Cramer rolled on unabated to charge that the recent US financial crisis was all about criminal capitalistic behavior. Somehow, Jimbo overlooked, and never mentioned, Barney Frank, Kent Conrad, Chris Dodd, Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Or how Countrywide's ex-CEO, Angelo Mozillo, is alleged, on pretty good evidence so far, to have bribed Frank, Dodd and Conrad, and maybe more, to mandate Fannie and Freddie to accept Countrywide's low-quality mortgages for securitization.

In short, the Fed's low-rate policies and Congress' mandates of expanded GSE activity set the table for private finance's participation in the crisis. Moreover, there were sufficient agencies and regulations in existence to have stopped wrongful behavior.

The problem is, the regulations don't work. The people aren't adequately skilled, motivated, compensated and/or enabled to ever catch such activity. In fact, the very existence of the regulatory framework fools investors into a false sense of security. Something Cramer will never acknowledge.

Too bad Cramer won't let facts get in the way of his anti-GOP view of the nation's financial and economic history.

That's my current take on last night's GOP event. More to come....

1 comment:

rico said...

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Liberal Bias