Weapons of mass distraction

So in the last week, the Dow has dropped 300 points to close the week at 6626. For those of you keeping track (and honestly, who would do that, the Dow is really like a tracking poll anyway and in no way represents our nation’s financial security), the Dow has now lost close to half its value in a year, with half of that loss coming in the four months since Obama was elected. With unemployment numbers at 8.1 percent and falling, there are clearly things that are wrong with the economy. So what does CNN report on?

I think you get the idea.

So instead of reporting the truth, which is that thus far, Obama’s economic policies are bringing the market down faster than a 747 shot down over Russia, CNN reports these fluff pieces. I know I’m pulling news from the ticker, which is pretty biased as it is, but even on CNN.com and the news network itself, these stories are repeated. These are like, as Robin Williams said in the 2006 movie Man of the Year, weapons of mass distraction, but here’s the difference: Williams’ character said they were used by politicians, not by the news media.

Most of the media, including CNN, MSNBC and CBS, are playing along with these distractions – giving us the breaking news updates of when that swingset was installed, or that Rush Limbaugh uttered another phrase which could be cut up into a soundbite and made him look completely evil. Why? Does the media not use money? Are they not worried that these policies are failing?

Instead of reporting problems with Obama’s administration, such as that he doesn’t watch the Dow (no link because I can’t find it on CNN.com) or that he can’t hold on to appointees to save his life, CNN is quick to report any note of positivity. Note that, if Bush had bought a swingset for his kids (maybe grandkids; the Bush kids are a little too old) in this economy, the media would rip him to shreds for spending taxpayer dollars on a swingset.

Now I know that the Dow Jones Industrial Average isn’t the only indicator of our economy. It’s really kind of a made-up number that’s supposed to quantify the wealth of the top companies in the nation (kind of like WHIP or OPS in baseball), but its performance is crucially important because it affects something else which affects the economy: consumer confidence. Let’s think about it: if you watch one piece of financial news during the day, it’s likely the report of how the Dow, Nasdaq and S&P did that day. Even during the trading day, the little ticker on the bottom of the three news networks are updated every few seconds. In general, if a consumer is educated at all, they’re likely to know what the Dow’s doing. The news networks even color-code it!

In essence, the secondary reason why the Dow is important is that it provides a barometer to the non-economic elite citizens of the country how healthy our economy is. If they’re going to buy a car, buy a home, invest in stock or even make a large purchase like a computer, they’re likely to hold back if they see the Dow has gone down. They’re even more likely to hold back if they can’t remember the last time the Dow went up.

So while Obama is correct in that minor fluctuations are nothing to really worry about, it’s important to see that trends such as what the Dow has done in the month and a half since Obama took office is important.

Originally posted on Cleveland, Curveballs and Common Sense on March 8, 2009 at 1:22 PM. Post text content © 2009 Jimmy Sawczuk. All rights reserved.