[Washington Babylon ]Media Filters: For Washington Post, Krugman not a reliable source but Wall Street analyst totally impartial | Harper's Magazine

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[Washington Babylon]

Media Filters: For Washington Post, Krugman not a reliable source but Wall Street analyst totally impartial


One of the more revealing examples of the mainstream media’s laughable claims of “objectivity” came in a Sunday Washington Post story about what lies ahead for the U.S. economy.

Written by Frank Ahrens, the story cited Paul Krugman saying, as paraphrased by Ahrens, that “we’re in for a long period of high unemployment and deflationary contraction, with wages falling and businesses failing. Krugman draws comparisons to the Great Depression, to be sure, but also sends us to our history books to remember the Long Depression that began with the Panic of 1873, saying the coming depression will be more like that one.”

But Ahrens felt it necessary to offer two disclosures about Krugman, including this:

When you read Krugman on economics, you need to read him through a filter. He believes that the $787 billion government stimulus approved last year was not enough to really kick-start the economy and that much more is needed. You can correctly read many of his columns — including this one — as arguments for more taxpayer-funded stimulus. So just know that.

Oddly, Ahrens didn’t feel any sort of “disclosure” was necessary when quoting Peter Boockvar, an equity strategist at Miller Tabak whose remarks were far more political than anything Krugman offered. Read this section of Ahrens’ story:

My e-mail [to Boockvar] was short: “Double-dip or slowdown?”

His response was equally abrupt: “Depends on who wins Nov. elections and what taxes get hiked in 2011.”

The tax cuts enacted by President George W. Bush expire at the end of this year. President Obama has proposed extending those cuts — except for families that make more than $250,000 a year. If Republicans win Congress in November, it’s a good bet that the wealthiest Americans will keep their tax cuts. If the Democrats hold the Hill, it’s unlikely.

“Our fragile economy CANNOT handle any tax hikes whatsoever, particularly on capital and the income of those who invest, save and spend the most,” Boockvar wrote, meaning those American families that make more than $250,000 a year. The all-caps are his, but the feeling is shared by many.

Gee, I wonder if Boockvar may have a personal and political and professional stake here. Hey Ahrens, next time you cite him how about running this disclosure:

“Peter Boockvar’s economic well-being is tied to rich people having a lot of money to invest in stocks and other equities. He himself is rich and doesn’t really give a shit about poor people. Like others on Wall Street, he profited handsomely from de-regulatory policies that led to the financial collapse that has beggared millions of Americans. Many people share the view that he is essentially a blood-sucking leech. So just know that.”

Incidentally, I don’t know where the economy is headed but I do know that you’d be better off asking a monkey about that matter than relying on the advice of Boockvar. Back in the fall of 2008 he was predicting that the Dow would fall to 5,000 and that Chinese stocks — which just hit a 15-month low after rising on the same sort of speculative fever that led to the U.S. stock run-up — were set to climb through the roof.

And back on September 19th, 2008, a newspaper story had this paragraph: “Unless the central bank stops interfering with market discipline, Wall Street’s problems will continue, he said. ‘The market can get to the right price on its own,’ Boockvar said. ‘Anything that prevents it from happening is just prolonging the inevitable’.”

Note to Ahrens and the Post: Everyone has a point-of-view — sources, readers and even, heaven help us, reporters. Everyone but you seems to get that so spare us the charade of your virginal “objectivity.”

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