Friday, September 16, 2011

The NewsHour - Trainwrecking Obama's Jobs Proposal

A Cordial History of Disappointment and Complaining

Perhaps because MeanMesa is such an old geezer, certain habits, once settled in, just go on and on and on.  For years here at the MeanMesa Galactic Headquarters, 6:00, like clockwork, means that the PBS NewsHour is beginning its hour long "news in depth" reporting on the "news of the day."  

Just like most other things in the world, the NewsHour has gradually transformed as the months and years have passed.  For example, a decade ago one could expect such things as a fairly robust reportage of international events or an unapologetic line between news and opinion.  However, with the latest clutch of corporate sponsors, PBS NewsHour has taken a remarkable "turn for the worst."

Hell, let's spit out the chewing gum and get specific.

Awash with United Health, Chevron and Bank of America money, the old MacNeil-Lehrer show has careened into a grotesque "talking heads" cameo for quite an embarrassing batch of really, really stinky truth bending.  Amazingly, this just gets worse and worse.

It's all on video.

Perhaps the old NewsHour crowd has adopted the GOPCon "thick skin" habit of not paying any attention whatsoever to public opinion, polls or comments so long as the sweet corporate dollars keep arriving in the mail.  MeanMesa is dumbfounded that the thing still claims to receive public cash support from its viewers.

Well, all this geriatric whining would amount to nothing if there were not a pungent scratch of evidence to justify all the complaints.  Unhappily, as far as evidence goes, everything which was possibly necessary was delivered over the air waves this week.

Goolsbee and Feldstein on the President's Job Plan

A quick look at the players invited to the NewsHour for Judy's interview may be a good place to start.

Austan Goolsbee

Austan Goolsbee, Judy Woodruff's Democrat

Mr. Goolsbee is a Yale, MIT graduate economist who served as Chairman of Obama's Economic Advisers until he quit to return to return to teaching at the University of Chicago.  He may be a stellar economist, but for this interview he apparently attempted to swallow a hand full of marbles in the NewsHour green room.

Martin Feldstein

Martin Feldstein, Judy Woodruff's Republican

Mr. Feldstein is currently an economics professor at Harvard University.  He was Chairman of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers.  His Wiki site characterizes him as a "deficit hawk," a position which put him at odds with his boss, Ronnie.

Now, it's time to listen to the interview.  It is 14 minutes long, and if you are in a hurry, the good parts begin at 3 minutes 40 seconds.

The "$200,000" Job -
Judy's Unchallenged Right Wing "Talking Point"

First, let's set our sights firmly on exactly what "both sides" of the interview are actually discussing.

The total price of the Jobs Plan is roughly $450 Bn.  The main components of the plan are infrastructure spending, unemployment benefits and middle class tax cuts.  Mr. Feldstein's comments during the interview are revealing.

Clearly, the portion of the $450 Bn which would fund infrastructure projects amounted to somewhere around $100 Bn.  This is the amount of money which would fund projects to repair roads, bridges and schools, etc.  More importantly, some portion of this money would wind up paying for the labor to do these jobs.

Of course, we know such construction projects will spend a lot more money on things other than labor -- materials, for instance.  The CBO estimate of how many people could wind up being employed for these projects is roughly 2 million.

In comes Harvard economist Feldstein.

After carefully calculating the "arithmetic" problem:

$450 Bn total program cost / 2 Mn workers getting pay checks = $225,000 per worker

Mr. Feldstein repeatedly states that "creating" a single job under the jobs plan would cost $200,000.  In fact, Feldstein not only derisively repeats this screw ball figure over and over in the interview, Goolsbee just sits there blithering.

This approach would imply that a project to build a $1 Bn dam across a river which employed 1,000 workers cost $1 Mn dollars per worker.  Wait a minute.  There's also the dam which was built, Mr. Feldstein!  A Harvard economist knows better than this.

This is crap.  Thank you, PBS NewsHour.

Is Obama going to lose the 2012 election to the media?

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