Barney Frank Takes on CNBC

I was watching Barney Frank this morning on CNBC, again marveling at his, while not succinct, certainly compelling responses to questions.  He is able to put things in a larger context.  It’s worth hearing how he defends government control of wages in companies taking government bailout funds and the greater say he wants to give shareholders.

But when he tried to answer host Mark Haines question that suggests giving shareholders a say wouldn’t accomplish much, Haynes accused Frank of misrepresenting his question.  Frank did draw a conclusion that Haynes did not specifically say, but one must ask what Haines meant by “burn down the house.”

It concluded with Frank declaring the interview over when he couldn’t finish his answer.

CNBC: Call of the Wild

I watch CNBC regularly, and I’m not sure why they have a segment called “Call of the Wild.”  But my guess is it’s got something to do with the lack of calm, reasoned debate and discussion.  This segment today demonstrates two core principles about CNBC:  one, most reporters there have no journalistic principles; and two, they are incapable of reasoned debate and discussion.

Larry Kudlow wants nothing except than to press his politicians on viewers.  The infamous Rick Santelli is cut from the same cloth.  But today’s shoutfest is a disgrace.  Listen especially to the last minute.  There is nothing but three right-wing nuts ganging up on the economist Steve Liesman.

Liberal CNBC!?

I’m not sure what CNBC’s Mary Thompson was trying to say in this piece.  At first, she suggests CNBC was among General Electric’s media properties criticized by shareholders for being too liberal!  CNBC?  Liberal?  But then she is asked about this by Maria Bartiromo and Thompson’s answer is muddled.  I think what she’s suggesting is that Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO, was criticized by shareholders for telling his media outlets that they were too hard on Obama.  Well, we know he couldn’t haven’t been talking about MSNBC.  Maybe you can figure out what she’s saying.

And it is impossible to think that, if he was criticized for telling his media outlets they were too hard on Obama, he was talking about CNBC.  Listen to the report below which followed the one above.  It’s about corporate tax rates of U.S. companies operating abroad.  The conservative argument is invariably that to tax them as they would be taxed in the U.S. would mean the loss of U.S. jobs because these companies would move their HQ abroad.  Listen carefully for Maria Bartiromo’s editorial comments during the interview.

After Greg Valliere, who is opposed to corporate taxes, makes his comments, Bartiromo says, “You make a good point.”  And then she says in a accusatory manner to the hapless woman on the progressive side of this argument, “You said [Obama] should go ahead and do this!”

When Valliere criticizes tax equality, his ridiculous argument that people move from state to state to avoid taxes goes unchallenged by Bartiromo (or the hapless progressive — Nicole Tichon, of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group — for that matter; I think CNBC tries to find the most feckless progressives to represent the side CNBC hates.) 

When Valliere makes the other well-worn canard that our corporate tax rates are the highest in the world, Bartiromo laughs.  Then when Tichon (now regaining her legs) says that’s debatable.  Bartiromo says “Whoa, Whoa, why is that debatable?” 

Tichon gives a halting but accurate answer, and then Valliere changes the subject, saying that companies won’t be able to create jobs,  Bartiromo says, “Right, Yep, Yep.”

Bartiromo wouldn’t know a journalistic ethic if hit her on her collagen inflated lips.

CNBC: Unreliable

One of the downsides of my foray into stock trading has been that I have CNBC on all day.  It, along with Bloomberg News, is the business news network of the economic elite.  Its average audience is about 250,000 viewers, but they represent the cream of the recently rotten crop. 

The network lacks journalistic objectivity.  With few exceptions, the on-air anchors especially, they are a right-wing lot, infusing their reporting with opinions that sometimes have little relationship to reality and frequently they act as apologists for Wall St. miscreants.  They are, of course, welcome to their opinions.  But when we know how they feel — and how rabid they are — can we really trust their reporting?

One particularly egregious example is a thug named Charlie Gasparino.  He is now pushing the idea that the financial crisis is a result of Obama’s leadership

No one can blame the faltering stock market solely on Obama’s tax plans or McCain’s own inanity on economic issues. But stock prices reflect current market conditions plus best guesses of what’s coming down the road. And I keep hearing nervous traders and investors talk about “a lack of leadership from Washington.”

Of course, as is often the case, Gasparino allows his politics to infuse his reporting, as Portfolio writer Felix Salmon attests.

This is bensteinery of the first order: not only is it ill-argued, it’s also utterly wrongheaded. Yes, it’s a good idea for the government to spend money in a recession. Yes, it’s a good idea to target that money at the poorest members of society, where it will do the most good and have the highest velocity. And no, with stocks down 40%, there really isn’t an enormous number of people worried about capital gains taxes.

Still, one could forgive the litany of GOP talking points on a right-wing op-ed page were it not for the fact that Gasparino styles himself a working reporter. The more you set down your opinions in black and white, the less open-minded you become; this is true of everyone, and especially of stubborn, bull-headed types like Gasparino.

Most of the on-air personalities on CNBC fancy themselves working journalists.  But they are journalists in the mold of Bill O’Reilly, which is to say they are not journalists at all, at least not reporters who can be trusted.

CNBC needs less screaming and extremism, and more sobriety and trustworthiness. Even if Gasparino’s political views don’t influence his reporting — which is doubtful — they will reinforce in his viewers’ minds the idea that he’s unreliable. I just can’t see the upside of Gasparino writing a column like this, and I’m surprised that his superiors at CNBC let him get away with it — especially since the Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch, CNBC’s fiercest competitor.

In fact, CNBC risks NBC’s news reputation.  Often, program segments consist of four or five talking heads, usually consisting of a few of the aforementioned  anchors, one conservative, one right-wing commentator, and an Attila the Hun wannabe.  CNBC will tell you that’s the breadth of economic opinion.  The interviewing is clearly biased.  The anchors often ask leading questions to those they sympathize with and attack relentlessly those who they disagree with.  (Yes, they occasionally have progressive voices as guests.)  Once, while interviewing a son of the Johnson & Johnson clan who had made a movie critical of the rich, Maria Bartiromo, another of the right wing anchors, asked not once, but twice, “What ax do yo have to grind?”  Keep in mind, the guy is an heir to fortune.  An ax to grind?  If he were poor he’d have an ax to grind.

While most working families never watch CNBC, it is a leader in promulgating the elite Wall St. opinion.  While there are exceptions who seem to try to be neutral, most of the on-air staff are hurting the reputation of the mother network and ill-serve the national discussion of the current financial crisis.