Twenty-three million people unemployed or underemployed, a $16-trillion debt and repeated trillion-dollar deficits.
The scariest thing this Halloween has nothing to do with witches and goblins or even the Munsters remake (ugh). The scariest thing in America right now is the continued awful economy.
An incumbent president running for re-election in a down economy – we’ve heard that story before. Only when we heard it last time, George W. Bush was running for re-election in 2004 and the economy was in remarkably fine shape.
That horror story hasn’t been told by the major media according to a soon-to-be-released report from the Media Research Center titled “Upside Down Economics.” The report shows the reality of two different elections and how ABC, CBS and NBC chose to depict the Bush economy as doing badly and ignored or downplay the many faults of the Obama economic record.
Think back to September, 2004. Broadcast coverage criticized Bush on the economy despite economic growth of 3.3 percent, an unemployment rate of just 5.4 percent and gas prices a low $1.82. Even the $7.4 trillion federal debt is but a fond memory now.
To say Bush was depicted in scary terms is an understatement. His jobs record was actually compared to Herbert Hoover (never a good thing). ABC’s Betsy Stark even warned of a recession in her “World News Tonight” report on soaring oil. She was a bit premature since it took more than three years for that recession to arrive.
NBC’s “Today” highlighted a voter who condemned the President Bush in the harshest terms. “I really think Bush has ruined the economy. We’ve lost so many jobs, and I haven’t seen him do anything to really fix it,” the voter said, even though unemployment sat at a robust 5.4 percent.
The story eight years later has gone from trick to treat. In September (as this research was done) US unemployment stood at 8.1 percent, close to 3 percent higher than it had been under Bush at the exact same point in his term. Economic growth was downgraded to 1.3 percent, part of a continued decline. The tandem of unemployment and underemployment meant 23 million Americans were out looking for work.
But network journalists didn’t dare depict that nightmare. ABC’s professional Democrat George Stephanopoulos interviewed White House adviser David Plouffe on “Good Morning America,” asking about the budget. He let Plouffe claim the administration had “cut over $3 trillion in spending, more than what was called for in the Bowles-Simpson plan,” yet forgot to mention that the federal debt had ballooned to $16 trillion under Obama.
Also left out of that discussion was the fact that Obama’s proposed budget didn’t have a ghost of a chance. It didn’t get any Republican votes in the Senate or any Democratic votes either.
Even gas prices, near and dear to American wallets, were downplayed. Gas was nearly 100 percent higher than it had been under Bush. Rather than media screams, journalists put on a positive spin on things. ABC’s Diane Sawyer reflected that trend when she called for “relief is in sight and soon” on Sept. 4 as gas hit $3.84 a gallon – almost $2 a gallon higher than it had been on Bush.
Less than a week till the election and media honesty about the economy is as elusive as the Great Pumpkin.
Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.