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Night and Day: CBS, ABC Opposite on Fed Rate Cut

     Was the Federal Reserve’s rate cut good or bad for the economy? Even the networks don’t agree. The 50 basis point interest rate cut caused CBS to warn about added threats to the economy and had ABC telling viewers the move was “more than welcome.”

 

     CBS gave a downbeat assessment and focused its report not on the Fed’s rate cut, but its own poll expressing public sentiment about economy.

 

     “I'm hoping this move by the Fed will be a psychological lift,” said Debbie Scully, a realtor, on the September 19 “Evening News.”

 

    CBS correspondent Anthony Mason was quick to respond with all that’s wrong with the economy. “We need one,” Mason replied to Scully’s comment. “According to a new CBS News poll, for the first time since 2001, a majority of Americans, 51 percent, say the economy is getting worse.”

 

     ABC “World New Tonight with Charles Gibson” had a more positive spin on the Fed rate cuts – the 336-point jump in the stock market, its help to “home buyers and other consumer borrowers,” and “the powerful reassurance” to consumers and businesses.

 

     “[T]his was a bold move by the Fed today,” ABC business correspondent Betsy Stark said on the September 19 “World News.” “One that shows just how concerned the nation's top economic policymakers had become about the housing crisis, the credit crunch and the possibility of a recession. From Wall Street to Main Street, today's action by the Federal Reserve was more than expected and more than welcome.”

 

     Even Moody’s Economy.com economist Mark Zandi – usually quoted in the media as a pessimist – had good things to say about the move on “World News.” “Great news, the economy needed some help and they got it today,” Zandi said. “Confidence is the difference between a slow-growing economy and a recession.”

 

    However, CBS also featured Zandi in their segment, but cherry picked a more downbeat sound bite. “I think we’ll need a series of rate cuts to support confidence sufficiently to ensure this economy doesn’t unravel into recession,” Zandi said to CBS. 

 

     Prior to the Fed’s move, Zandi told Investor’s Business Daily he didn’t foresee a recession and was upbeat when Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke was only expected to cut Fed Funds target rate by 25 basis points.

 

     “The economy has a number of fundamental strengths that will ultimately win the day,” Zandi said in IBD’s September 14 issue.

 

     “Evening News” also featured liberal economist Dean Baker.  Although Baker didn’t make any extraordinary remarks, the co-director of the left-wing economic think tank the Center for Economic and Policy Research has a reputation for taking radical stances on economic issues. In August, Baker proposed the government should seize homes so that people would not have to leave them in the event their property was foreclosed on.    

 

     ABC’s positive take on the economic news of the day appeared to have been the exception more than the rule. The networks have been notorious for taking any economic news and finding the worst according to a Business & Media Institute Special Report, “Bad News Bears.”