Networks Barely Report 'Stealth' Push for 'Second Stimulus'

Unemployment stands just short of 10 percent and could be revised higher. No, this isn’t the unemployment rate without a stimulus package, it is the rate even after President Obama pushed through the massive $787 billion stimulus package, which he said was desperately necessary.

“For every day we wait or point fingers or drag our feet, more Americans will lose their jobs,” Obama said on Jan. 8 when unemployment stood at 7.2 percent.

Now there is a quiet move to pass even more stimulus because job losses have been so severe. In the past month, the networks have covered the first stimulus package 6 times as much as the prospect of a second stimulus. At the very same time the media allowed the Obama administration to take credit for saving and creating jobs and touted a recovering economy.

Michelle Gielan of CBS “Morning News, said Oct. 16 “there is new evidence this morning that President Obama’s stimulus program is working. Federal contractors say it helped or create–to create or save 30,000 jobs, mainly in construction.”

CBS also highlighted an Obama stimulus proposal to provide a $250 “emergency payment to seniors and veterans” but without labeling it as a form of a new stimulus, perhaps because the term has become “toxic.”

On “Good Morning America” Oct. 15, Chris Cuomo announced that the “economy appears to be rebounding,” before telling viewers the bad news about the housing market.

NBC celebrated money from the first stimulus being put to good use retrieving fishing nets from the bottom of the Puget Sound on Oct. 2 and 3.

If Associated Press, Time magazine and other print outlets are correct, stimulus 2.0 is coming – but in stealth mode. Time reported Oct. 19 that “at the White House, there is no confusion. More stimulus is coming, but it just won't be called stimulus. Economic advisers, in concert with senior Democrats in the House and Senate, are planning additional piecemeal benefit extensions, tax breaks and other spending that could eventually add up to as much as $100 billion, say some outside experts.”

Why won’t they be calling it stimulus? Two words: public opinion.

Time answered that question with a Gallup Poll that “found that 65% of Americans opposed a ‘second stimulus’ and 51% thought that the Federal Government ‘should spend less’ than it is currently spending on stimulus.”

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was even more frank on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Oct. 4. “When E.J. [Dionne] says they may not call it a second stimulus, I think you’re right, because I think stimulus has been turned into a toxic term,” Maddow said.

Despite plenty of political discussion about more stimulus coming down the pike, in the past month the network news programs (excluding Sunday talk shows) have continued to mention the initial Obama stimulus. That $787 billion package was talked about six times as often as a second stimulus (18 to 3). One additional mention announced a proposed Obama giveaway to seniors, but without calling it a “stimulus.”

Ignoring Failure of Stimulus 1.0


The Obama administration sold its initial stimulus package claiming it would turn the economy around. They even released a report estimating that unemployment wouldn’t rise above 8 percent with a stimulus package.

But they were wrong. The $787 billion of taxpayer money that would be doled out by the government failed to prevent unemployment from rising to nearly 10 percent. In fact, a Bloomberg report out Oct. 2 indicated that even the 9.8 percent unemployment rate may be “optimistic.”

“About 824,000 more jobs may be subtracted from the payroll count for the 12 months through last March when the figures are officially revised early next year,” Bloomberg said citing a Labor Department report. If accurate, that would boost the unemployment rate even higher.

It also expanded the federal deficit. The announcement of a $1.4 trillion deficit for the 2009 budget year prompted Fed chairman Ben Bernanke to warn this week that the U.S. must get its deficit under control.

But mentions of the obvious failure of the stimulus package were few and far between on the networks. In the past month, only three mentions of the stimulus package indicated it was not as successful as the administration claimed it would be.

And the only network reference to Obama’s own claims about the stimulus package and its inability to fulfill them came from New York Times columnist and Weekly Standard senior editor David Brooks on “Meet the Press” Oct. 4.

“You know, when the stimulus package passed, the White House put out a chart of what it – what the country would look like if it passed. And the unemployment rate peaks at around 7– at about 9 and then it comes down to – at this point we should be around 7. We’re not around 7, we’re at 9.8. Now they say, ‘Well, it would have been worse without us.’ A lot of people say this shows it didn’t work.”

The networks’ unwillingness to attack the stimulus package comes as no surprise, given that the media helped sell it in the first place. The Business & Media Institute found that ABC, CBS and NBC spun the huge growth of government by including pro-stimulus voices in stories more than twice as often as opposing voices. The networks also refused to explain how the package would be paid for in most stories.

Reporters like Scott Cohn of NBC promoted it as essential saying, “Economic stimulus isn’t just a political debate around here. It could be a matter of survival.”