CNN Keeps Fighting War on Economy

     The latest “In the Money” was just another skirmish in CNN’s pre-election war on the U.S. economy – supplying an almost exclusively negative take on economic, health care, wages and education issues.

     Firing the first shot, host Jack Cafferty said on October 28, “The Gross Domestic Product was a little on the gross side when it came out on Friday morning, disappointing to say the least.”

     Andy Serwer, editor-at-large of Fortune magazine, and a show regular, responded with a voice of reason to Cafferty’s attack.

     “See, I think we gotta take a step back here and tell ourselves that as far as the economy goes, it doesn’t get any better than this. I mean, think about it, the Federal Reserve didn’t touch interest rates. That means it thinks the economy is neither too hot, nor too cold. The stock market’s going up, energy prices are down, what more do you want?” asked Serwer.

     But CNN business anchor Jennifer Westhoven disagreed with Serwer and said “the housing market looks pretty bad and you know heating costs are gonna be really tough this winter.”

     After Energy Department data was released, the Associated Press reported on September 14 that “Residential and industrial consumers of natural gas will no doubt appreciate natural gas prices that are more than 50 percent lower than a year ago.”

     Westhoven’s gloomy outlook was the “In the Money” theme. But in addition to good news about heating costs, The Wall Street Journal reported on October 30 that Alan Greenspan sees “early signs of stabilization” for the housing market.

     In the same article “Pain from U.S. Housing Slump Is Likely to Linger, but Some Say Worst May Be Past,” the Journal mentioned positive signs that offset housing problems: “Gasoline prices and mortgage interest rates have fallen in recent months.”

      Despite such signals of a strong economy, “In the Money” kept focusing on the negative. Host Jack Cafferty credited the “overriding concern for a war” for Republicans being unable to gain any traction by talking about the strong U.S. economy.

     Cafferty didn’t point to an obvious candidate – himself. And Lou Dobbs. And the overall CNN coverage that screams “the American Dream is impossible.” He could have even pointed to a recent Business & Media Institute study, Bad News Bears, that showed how negatively the economy has been covered.

     During the entire October 28 “In the Money” Serwer’s comment was the only substantive positive economic comment in the hour-long show which featured CNN’s standard fare: the housing market is a disaster, raise the minimum wage, and college costs are too high.

      “Overworked and underpaid. It’s our new national motto it seems, for a lot of us anyways,” said Serwer introducing the segment on minimum wage. That featured an advocate for raising the minimum wage, but no opposing view.

     That advocate was Beth Shulman, the author of “Betrayal of Work: How Low-Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans.” While it was mentioned that Shulman co-chairs the Fairness Initiative, it was left out that she writes for “The Nation” or that she is the former Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

      “We have business interests who have always opposed a hike in the minimum wage and we have ideologues who just oppose it, just on the basis of ideology,” said Shulman.

     Serwer did ask her about the possibility of increased inflation and layoffs with a rise in the minimum wage, but said he was only “playing devil’s advocate.” That might be because on the June 24 show, Serwer said claims that an increase were “inflationary” and “will cause layoffs” were “a lot of bull.”

     Shulman agreed with that position. “The reality is all the studies show that in fact there is not more unemployment after hikes in the minimum wage at the state levels, even at the federal level when we hiked it 10 years ago, there was no increase in unemployment,” said Shulman who advocated raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour.

     In fact there are studies that suggest raising the minimum wage costs jobs. One such study is from the National Center for Policy Analysis and there are multiple economists who would agree.