Larry Elder

Investors Business Daily, paragraph 3: "The jobless rate, based on the separate household survey, edged up to 4.8 percent from January's 4.7 percent, a 4 1/2-year low. That's due to more people looking for work."

New York Times, paragraph 3: "'This report is good, but it does not say the economy is booming,' said David Kelly, senior economic adviser at Putnam Investments, the mutual fund concern in Boston." (So we exist in a non-booming economy -- an economy that withstood the 9-11 terrorist attacks, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and hurricanes Rita and Katrina.)

Media Research Center (MRC) examined the year 2005, specifically how ABC, NBC and CBS covered employment news. In 2005, the economy created 2 million jobs. According to the MRC, however, more than 50 percent of the stories involved job losses rather than gains.

Professor John Lott, economist and resident scholar at American Enterprise Institute, and Kevin A. Hassett, the Institute's director of economic policy studies, examined, among other things, newspapers' economic political bias as reflected by their headlines: "We found that newspaper headlines reporting economic news on unemployment, gross domestic product (GDP), retail sales, and durable goods tended to be much more frequently negative when a Republican was in the White House. And this was true even after accounting for the economic numbers on which the stories were based and how those numbers were changing over time."

In other words, all other things being equal, positive economic news under a Democratic president becomes even more positive news. Positive economic news under a Republican president suddenly becomes less positive news. And, on the other hand, negative economic news under a Democratic president becomes less negative news, while negative economic news under a Republican president becomes even more negative.

Consider the Investors Business Daily and New York Times headlines about the 243,000-jobs-created story.

Investors Business Daily: "243,000 New Jobs in Feb.; Wage Gain Best in 4 1/2 Years."

New York Times: "U.S. Says [emphasis added] Employers Added 243,000 Jobs in February." (The U.S. "says"? As opposed to whom? The Taliban? In other words, the Bush Administration claims or asserts or advances the notion. Can you really trust what the Bush Administration "says"?)

Hassett and Lott write, "We also found that positive headlines explained whether people thought that the economy was getting better more than the economic variables themselves. Newspapers are indeed important." Few of us read dry, economic articles A-Z. Headlines matter.

Sometimes good economic news is simply good economic news -- unless, of course, a tax-cutting Republican sits in the White House.


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.