Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln...

I've got to admit: the highlighted phrase in this news article produced a sardonic chuckle or two:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wholesale prices jumped last month by the most in nearly two years due to higher energy costs and the steepest rise in food prices in 36 years. Excluding those volatile categories, inflation was tame.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the Producer Price Index rose a seasonally adjusted 1.6 percent in February -- double the 0.8 percent rise in the previous month. Outside of food and energy costs, the core index ticked up 0.2 percent, less than January's 0.5 percent rise.

Food prices soared 3.9 percent last month, the biggest gain since November 1974. Most of that increase was due to a sharp rise in vegetable costs, which increased nearly 50 percent. That was the most in almost a year. Meat and dairy products also rose.

Energy prices rose 3.3 percent last month, led by a 3.7 percent increase in gasoline costs. [Emphasis added--E.M.]

Saying that "outside of food and energy costs" the economic news isn't so bad is a bit like the famous joke question, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

Does anyone doubt that in a Republican administration, the news that food prices were higher than they had been in 36 years, since November of 1974, would lead the evening news, top all the headlines, and be the subject of "talking head" discussions on every major news channel?

I can't help but wonder if the Democrats are going to be blindsided by the depth of the public's frustration over jobs, the economy, and the rising prices of necessities like food and energy. After all, the mainstream media is busy telling us all that everything is okay--and nobody but pajama-wearing bloggers thinks otherwise, right?


LeeAnn Balbirona said...

Time to start making a list of our favorite meatless recipes. And not just for Lent. I keep reading articles in NYT that say things like, "the Great Recession, which ended in December 2009...," as if that makes it true. Well, I think there are a whole lot of persistently unemployed people that beg to differ with that ending date.

Geoff G. said...

You do know that core inflation always excludes food and energy costs, even during Republican administrations, right?

In other words, this isn't a vast, left-wing conspiracy.

And yes, I do doubt it. Coverage of recent spikes in gas prices has been about the same as it was during the last price spike, back in the Bush administration.

If it's been pushed out of the news lately, it may be because of the recent minor unpleasantness in Japan. Although, in fairness, if a Luo tribesman is clever enough to fake a birth certificate and foist communism on God's chosen nation, he's probably smart enough to trigger a 9.0 earthquake too.

In fairness, I'm a little b*tchy lately because I've been having to shoot down these sorts of conspiracy theories and victim complexes from a friend of mine who's rather liberal (Example: he's convinced that Pat Tillman was deliberately killed in Afghanistan in order to advance some conservative agenda—yeah I don't get it either). Apparently, the ability to interpret current events as deep an dark conspiracies is something common to Americans of all political persuasions.

Anonymous said...

Have you been to an Apple Store lately? (not the fruit, but the computers, etc) You have to sign in and wait in line just to buy something, and it's ALWAYS packed. As a stay at home Mom, I enjoy not having to shop during peak hours, and let me tell you, it's ALWAYS peak hours there. Hard to believe people are hard pressed to pay for food... but I digress. Geoff, you are right. I love it when the right says stuff like that. "you'd have made a much bigger stink about X if it was a Republican president...." blah blah. Facts remain. These economic times were set in motion by the republicans. they said they could easily fix it. they can't. During Bush's reign, criticism against him was considered treason. He was a dolt and an embarassment to our country. Let's just let him stay in the past. Oh, and people should stop complaining about how much meat costs. If the government didn't subsidize it, it would (should) cost triple what it does. I wish it did, maybe then the environmental damage inflicted by the meat industry could be mediated.

Red Cardigan said...

I think, Geoff and anonymous, you've misunderstood me slightly. I'm not saying that food and energy costs aren't left out of inflation numbers (though whether they should be is another question). I'm saying that a news report like this during a Republican administration would have been the lead story on the nightly news, complete with video of homeless people and of poor people being interviewed outside of grocery stores about how terribly expensive food is. Somehow, in a Democrat administration, all those stories just disappear. That says more about the media than it does about our politicians.

And--really, the Apple Store? I'm sure all the people lining up for the Ipad2 are the *same* people buying rice and beans in bulk to feed their families. Um, not.

Anonymous said...


It's cheap and easy to predict what the media "would have said if." One cannot analyze non-existent situations, only speculate. So we are left with personal axes to grind, bones to pick, choose a metaphor.

Price increases are a result of the free market at work - which you are for - right?

Most intelligent Americans understand that the White House does not set grocery prices no matter which party holds the office.

You are too young to remember, but food prices rose very quickly in the Nixon years. That fact contributed significantly to a revived co-op grocery store movement and a return to cooking with whole, unadulterated ingredients. I don't remember the media blaming the President then, either.

Politicians and policy makers in both parties have championed bio-fuels, which drives up the price of corn, encourages more farmers to plant more corn, and returns no discernible environmental advantage.

I am not aware the media has stopped paying attention to extended unemployment, BTW, in the presence of a Democrat in the White House. (My husband is in year 4.5 of being unemployed (we're about to start calling him "retired" - so I pay attention to stories about that.)

Republicans and conservatives claimed to be victims of a fabled leftist media even when they held the White House and BOTH HOUSES of Congress, for 6 of Bush's 8 years, though from my point of view the media just rolled over for a tummy scratch for most of that time.


Anonymous said...

IF the media was truly a left wing operation, Reagan and the second George Bush would have been exposed to the point of impeachment. Instead many things that were illegal and/or hidden were given a pass in the media and explained away by them. In the case of Reagan, many stories of his arms deals were hidden in blurbs on page 9 or not covered at all. How can any president not recall so much and keep his job, especially when what he can't recall is breaking the law.

The media isn't leftist. It's just that the "right" has gone so far right, that they have moved the center well into right territory.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

My opinion of the "liberal media" is that they are a bunch of spineless, gutless wonders, so hypersensitive to the possibility that they will be criticized for missing a scandal involving a liberal that they play them all up big, just to show how "balanced" they are, and passing over scandals involving "conservatives," so they won't be accused of a witch hunt.

What passes for "conservative" media display no such scruples. They go for the jugular, and laugh off the critics, whether or not there is any factual content to present.

If I were in public office, my response to almost ANY media query would be "You may be right about that, but contrary to recent rumor, I do not have the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy implanted in my cranium. I will look into all the relevant facts on the matter you asked me about, and when I am confident there is not some overlooked fact that will motivate me to say something totally different 24 hours later, I will give you a definitive statement on the matter. We wouldn't want to say something hasty in response to a quick sound byte that turns out to be totally untrue when all the facts are in, would we?

As to the price of gas: I recall Mr. Stephanopolous tremulously pointing out to every candidate he could "The price of gas is hitting $4 a gallon..." and inviting them to reassure voters that they would fix that as soon as they got into office. Any candidate who did so would have been a liar. Actually, the Great Recession brought the price down, for a while. It's going back up, and it's going to stay up, and now that I have a car it's going to hurt. but it is inevitable. Hopefully it will continue to motivate us to get out of technologies that rely on massive amounts of oil. My next car will be a Leaf, and I will have the five-years-from-now generation of photocells on my garage to reduce the amount of coal that needs to be burned to recharge the batteries. I also ride a bicycle.

Anonymous said...

Erin: The truth of the matter is that there is not a lot that the President or Congress can do about the rising costs of fuel or food. I am 68 years old, and, yes, I do remember Pres. Nixon instituting a price freeze back in the early Seventies (not very popular with conservative/right-wing folks, right?).

On a personal level, yes, I realize prices for gas and food are up, but it doesn't affect me much. My 13 yr old Civic still gets 31 mpg day-in-and-day-out. At most, I put on 10,000 miles in a year. Food? I live with my brother and pay for all our food. But we live and eat simply, no filet mignons, buy store brands, etc.

Finally, as Geoff has pointed out, the media's attention has been focused on Japan (and now Libya). I just don't think this is a Republican vs. Democrat situation.