The fifth week of the Grand Rapids Press coverage under the new administration continues to follow a pattern set in recent weeks, with the economy dominating coverage. There were 18 articles were run by the Press, with some coming from the Associated Press and others from the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Fourteen of those stories were related to the economy or budget issues:
- General Budget stories – 7
- Mortgage Crisis – 3
- Auto Industry – 3
- Bank Bailout – 1
The remaining stories were made up of two on the new administration’s troop increase in Afghanistan, one on Sec. of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Asia, and one on the Justice Department’s decision to keep some of Bush’s internal memos secret.
A Car Czar?
Early in the fifth week of coverage, there were three stories about the Obama administration’s dropping of a proposal to have someone oversee the revamping of the US auto industry. A February 16 article states that the President “is designating the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, and the chairman of the National Economic Council, Lawrence H. Summers, to oversee a presidential panel on the auto industry. Mr. Geithner will also supervise the $17.4 billion in loan agreements already in place with G.M. and Chrysler, said the official, who insisted on anonymity.”
There was also mention that the administration has brought in Ron Bloom to advise the government on how to handle the revamping of the auto industry. The New York Times article states that Bloom is a “restructuring expert who has advised the labor unions in the troubled steel and airline industries.” Bloom has worked in the banking industry as well and helped to “revive and restructure 50 companies in bankruptcy,” according to a recent online statement from the AFL-CIO.
However, what seems to be missing from the articles on the auto industry loans from the government, is that these loans might be contingent on getting auto workers to make more concessions. According to Labor Notes, the UAW leadership is planning more concessions to the auto industry such as reducing more benefits, loss of holiday bonuses, and restructuring overtime pay. Unfortunately, the only labor voice included in the three stories was from the United Steel Workers, but that comment was only related to the appointment of Ron Bloom not what the government’s proposal means for auto workers.
Beginning with a February 18 article, there were three stories on the administration’s plan to deal with the mortgage crisis. The Washington Post article of February 18 stated:
“The plan will include several elements, including ones that focus on encouraging lenders to lower borrowers’ payments to affordable levels, perhaps by having the government subsidize lower interest rates, sources familiar with the proposal have said. It will also establish industry standards for modifying troubled loans. Those could include extending the terms of loans or giving borrowers a short-term break on payments.”
The other two articles continue along the same line of reporting by discussing what the administration’s proposed plan will do and whom it will help. A February 19 article cites an individual who has been affected by the mortgage crisis, but only as it related to the foreclosure assistance plan under the Bush administration. Nowhere in these three stories was there anything about the growing movement of people refusing to leave their foreclosed homes nor the groups that are organizing thousands across the country to fight foreclosures.
Other Economic News
The remaining stories that focused on the economy ranged included a February 16 story about the ongoing bank bailout, a 2/20 article on Obama saying he is putting NAFTA changes on hold, a 2/21 story focused on the President’s warning to US Mayors if they misspend stimulus money, and another 2/21 article where former President Clinton gives advice to Obama on “how to talk about the economy.” All of these articles were fairly short and lacking in substance. The only other economic story of interest was a February 22 piece that explored ways in which the Pentagon might find ways to cut spending during the economic crisis.
The 2/22 New York Times story discussed how the Pentagon and the Obama administration are “considering” cuts to the military budget. Defense Secretary Gates was quoted as saying, “One thing we have known for many months is the spigot of defense funding opened by 9/11 is closing.” However, there are no real details of where these cuts might come from.
William Hartung, with the New American Foundation, recently stated that the defense industry has been lobbying Congress and the new administration with the idea that an increase in defense spending is a great stimulus:
“The defense budget is not a jobs program, nor should it be. Decisions on how many Humvees to buy, or how many bases to refurbish, should rest on military necessity, not economic expedience subject to political chicanery. When military procurement becomes nothing more than a series of thinly veiled pork-barrel projects, it risks exposing our troops to unnecessary risks, and ultimately undermines our security.”
There were two stories about the administration’s plans to escalate the US/NATO war in Afghanistan. On February 17, an Associated Press article focused on a recent Rand Corporation study that “a game-changing strategy is urgently needed in Afghanistan to save the faltering international campaign.” The article only cites Rand Corp. researchers and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs who both are of the opinion that a new strategy is need to better win the war in Afghanistan.
The very next day (2/18), the Grand Rapids Press ran another story on the announcement that the Obama administration will be sending 17,000 more US troops to Afghanistan. President Obama was quoted as saying, “This increase is necessary to stabilize a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which has not received the strategic attention, direction and resources it urgently requires.”
The article only cites the President and US military officials who are in agreement over the need for more US troops being deployed to Afghanistan. Missing from this coverage is an assessment of the current situation in Afghanistan, Afghani voices, or US opposition to the war.