Pain at the Pump

Pain at the Pump
Schizophrenic media offer full-service bias on the economy.

By Charles Simpson
August 12, 2005

     The networks cant make up their minds about whether the economy is strong or on the brink of disaster. Just days after NBCs Katie Couric wondered why President Bush isnt drawing support from good economic news, NBCs Brian Williams wondered, when do we all start feeling the real damage? Trying to put a damper on the publics perception of economic growth, the Aug. 11 round of network evening news programs featured record oil prices, greedy oil executives and anti-free market shills.

     With a large graphic and the bold red words Record High, ABCs World News Tonight continued the misinformation about gas prices. This cant be stated any more plainly: the price of a barrel of oil and a gallon of gas is nowhere near the record highs from 1981. Adjusted for inflation, prices would have to reach $90 a barrel to be a record.

     While gas prices are rising, the economy is absorbing the increase. Inflation is in check, jobs are being created in earnest, and, most importantly, consumers are still lining up at the pump. But ABCs Betsy Stark wasnt convinced. Just days after many of her colleagues wondered why Americans arent confident about the economy, Stark warned, For some Americans, the tipping point may come this winter, when they have to start paying record prices to heat their homes. If that comes, on top of record gas prices, there will be lots of consumers with nothing left to spend after theyve paid all the energy bills.

     Trish Regan wasnt sold on the strength of the economy, either. The CBS Evening News reporter called recent strides in consumer spending an addiction and claimed it was being fueled by easy money, credit cards, home equity loans, analysts say the danger is that interest rates are going up and consumers and economy will be squeezed by a potential credit crunch. Regan didnt bother to mention the 207,000 people who found jobs in July and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growing paychecks that supplement their easy money.

     Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer agreed with Regans shortsighted assessment: You are making a very interesting point here. That is when the Fed raised interest rates, credit card companies raised their interest rates but they don't tell the consumers, so people may be facing higher bills than they realize. Contrary to what he said, credit card companies are bound by law to disclose rates to their customers.

     ABC even used an anti-corporate shill to criticize those greedy oil companies and their soaring profits. Consumer Advocate Joan Claybrook of Public Citizen claimed, These profits are enormous because the public is drastically overpaying compared to what the oil costs to produce. Public Citizen was founded by Ralph Nader and often misrepresents the facts when campaigning against corporations. Claybrooks statements were no exception.

     According to a recent study by the American Petroleum Institute, oil companies make an estimated 7.3 cents on each gallon sold. These profits are used to pay shareholder dividends and to search for more energy sources. So, if oil companies were to slash their profit margin, not only would shareholders lose money, but new energy sources would go undiscovered so consumers could save 7 cents per gallon. Unfortunately, no oil company representative was given the opportunity to explain the business or counter criticism from anti-corporatists like Joan Claybrook.

     Still, ABC waited until the end of the bias-riddled piece to acknowledge the free market. The closing quote in the piece on oil company profits: Ultimately, will consumers have the final word? If so, they havent spoken yet. Theyre buying more gas now than they were this time last year. Perhaps these consumers know something about the economy that journalists dont.