March 30, 2023

CNN has been roundly mocked for a fawning business analysis article on their website, in which the author claimed that motorists should think of the recent drop in soaring gas prices asa pay raise.

The White House is trumpeting the reduction in average prices as a cause for celebration: on Friday, the nationwide average was $3.918, down from $4.495 a month ago – and it appears that the WarnerMedia owned news outlet is happy to share the Biden administration’s good news. 

But a year ago, the price was $3.177, meaning that Americans are still substantially worse off.

‘Next time you stop at a gas station, think of it as a $100-a-month tax cut. Or a maybe $100-a-month raise,’ wrote Chris Isidore, a senior writer for CNN Business.

The article, published on Friday, was headlined: ‘America just got a $100-a-month raise’.

Joe Biden is seen on August 16 in the White House. His administration has heralded the fall in gas prices; critics point out that they are significantly higher than when he took office

CNN Business senior writer Chris Isidore has been mocked for celebrating the fall in gas prices

Critics were quick to point out the obvious flaw in the argument.

Congressman Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota said: ‘Gas was $2.39 a gallon when @POTUS took office. It is $3.92 now.

‘Next on @CNN arsonist gets medal for helping fight fire he started.’

‘CNN just makes it so easy for its critics. This is some next level gaslighting,’ said Brian Riedl, an economist at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank.

Mark Lotter, a former communications director for the Trump campaign who now works at the America First Policy Institute, said: ‘Gas still costs, on average, $1.50 more per gallon than it did on January 20, 2021’ – the day Biden took over.

He joked: ‘This spin should be reported as an in-kind contribution to the Democrat Party.’

Immigration lawyer Matthew Kolken pointed out: ‘The average price of gas in New York is still twice as much as it was under Trump.’

Robby Starbuck, a Tennessee former candidate for election to the House in November, said the CNN article was ‘shameless propaganda’.

‘Gas is still insanely expensive Vs. when Trump was President,’ he said.

‘It’s not a tax cut or a raise for Biden to fail slightly less badly. His huge failures are still hurting America.’

And Mike Carey, a Republican congressman for Ohio, said CNN was following the White House in trying to spin the harsh reality.

‘So it’s not just the White House changing definitions & twisting the narrative,’ he said.

‘Americans are still paying far higher gas prices than they should.

‘Unleash American production, fast track energy infrastructure & stop penalizing the industry with overregulation & higher taxes!’

Carey was referring to accusations that the Biden administration is ‘twisting the narrative’ to insist the U.S. is not in a recession – despite suffering two consecutive quarters with negative growth, the technical criteria for a recession.

A White House fact sheet, issued on July 21, said the determination of whether there was a recession or not was ‘holistic’.

‘What is a recession? While some maintain that two consecutive quarters of falling real GDP constitute a recession, that is neither the official definition nor the way economists evaluate the state of the business cycle,’ the White House said.

‘Instead, both official determinations of recessions and economists’ assessment of economic activity are based on a holistic look at the data—including the labor market, consumer and business spending, industrial production, and incomes.

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‘Based on these data, it is unlikely that the decline in GDP in the first quarter of this year—even if followed by another GDP decline in the second quarter—indicates a recession.’

The White House in this July 21 fact sheet said the U.S. was not in a recession

The White House is instead relying on an ‘official declaration’ from the the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which can be very slow to come. 

On Wednesday, the CEO of Bank of America said the recent debate over whether the U.S. economy is technically in a recession or not is missing the point, condemning the Biden administration for arguing over semantics and failing to comprehend the real pressures people felt.

Brian Moynihan, head of the bank – one of the world’s largest financial institutions – spoke as stocks fell sharply on Wednesday, as drops by big technology companies wiped out the S&P 500’s gains for the week.

In more bad financial news, it emerged that the number of people with at least $1 million in their Fidelity 401(k) accounts plunged 29 percent in the second quarter, and the number of IRA millionaires in Fidelity fell 17 percent from a year earlier.

Moynihan emphasized, in an interview with The Associated Press, that the White House’s attempts to argue that the U.S. was not technically in a recession was not helpful. 

‘Recession is a word. Whether we are in a recession or not is really not the important thing,’ he said. 

‘It’s what it feels like for the people going through this.’

Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, is photographed at the Bank of America Tower in Manhattan on Wednesday

The issue of whether the U.S. economy is in recession has become politicized heading into the 2022 mid-term elections. 

While inflation is at a level not seen since the early 1980s and U.S. consumer confidence is falling, other measures of the economy, such as the monthly jobs report, are still strong. 

In response to high consumer and wholesale prices, the Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates aggressively in hopes of taming inflation, while not causing too much economic damage.

Moynihan, who has been BofA’s CEO since 2010, would not say the U.S. economy is in recession, saying that declaration will have to come from ‘a bunch of people in Cambridge, Massachusetts’ – a reference the National Bureau of Economic Research, the nonpartisan organization that determines when recessions begin and end.

However, Moynihan cited two major issues negatively impacting average Americans – gas prices and rent – as reasons to be concerned. 

Moynihan said that recent quibbling over whether the U.S. economy is technically in a recession or not is missing the point

The national average for a gallon of gasoline ballooned to just over $5 in June before falling back below $4 last week. 

Moynihan appeared more concerned about the rising cost of rents, which tend not to fluctuate like gas prices.

‘Gas prices are coming back down, but rents are going up 10, 12, 15 percent. And rent can end up taking 40 percent of these households’ income,’ Moynihan said.

Rent accounts for about one-third of the government’s Consumer Price Index, which showed a year-over-year increase of 8.5 percent in July.

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‘We are worried about, for the U.S. broad-based consumer, is the increased rents as we go into the natural turn of rents (typically in the fall with school year),’ he added.

The average U.S. consumer entered this period of high inflation and economic turbulence in healthy financial shape. 

The U.S. government spent trillions of dollars to extend unemployment benefits and other forms of pandemic relief. 

In response, Americans were paying down debts faster than historic norms and had higher than normal levels of savings. 

Those economic programs largely ended last year.

A trader is seen on Wall Street on Tuesday, as markets digest the latest financial news

Moynihan said he still believes, as he’s said in previous interviews, that overall the American consumer is still in good shape and able withstand the economic turbulence. 

He says Americans who have a fixed-rate mortgage largely have locked in low borrowing costs and that credit card balances, while climbing, are still lower as a percentage of household income.

‘We see no deterioration in consumer behavior from the beginning of the year until now,’ he said. 

He did say there’s been some slowdown in the amount of money Americans are saving, which is likely due to rising costs.

Moynihan said companies are still raising wages as well, which is helping Americans cope. 

Brian’s BIG payoff! Fired CNN host Stelter still has three years left on his $1M-a-year contract – as major shareholder says he wants woke network to become ‘more centrist’

Fired CNN host Brian Stelter still has three years to go on his $1-million-a-year contract it was revealed Friday, as a key shareholder said he wanted the news network to return to its ‘more centrist’ reporting roots.

Neither Stelter nor CNN have commented on the specifics of the Reliable Sources host’s contract or dismissal, but he’ll almost certainly get to pocket the six-figure sum he’d have earned if the network had allowed him to stay until 2025.  

Meanwhile, billionaire media mogul John Malone, who owns Liberty Media – a significant stakeholder in CNN’s new parent company – told The New York Times that he had ‘nothing to do with’ the ouster of the ‘Reliable Sources’ broadcaster.

He did, however, say he wanted ‘the ‘news’ portion of CNN to be more centrist, but I am not in control or directly involved.’ 

‘I would like to see CNN evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with, and actually have journalists, which would be unique and refreshing,’ he told CNBC. 

Billionaire media mogul John Malone, pictured, said he had nothing to do with Brian Stelter’s ouster from CNN

Axed CNN host Brian Stelter, pictured, has three years left in his $1 million-a-year contract

CNN CEO Chris Licht warned his staff of future ‘significant’ changes they ‘might not understand or like’ following Stelter’s firing.

‘I want to acknowledge that this is a time of significant change, and I know that many of you are unsettled,’ Licht told his staff, according to a report by The Hollywood Reporter. ‘There will be more changes, and you might not understand it or like it.’

Some staff members expressed concerns that Stelter’s departure from the company is an indicator for the removal of other anchors.

‘I think people are legitimately sad that Brian is leaving,’ someone familiar to the situation told Hollywood Reporter. ‘He was a big presence at the network, but (we) understand that Chris has to put his stamp on the network.’ 

Some CNN staff expressed their concerns for Stelter’s departure as an indicator for the removal of other anchors, like Don Lemon

Stelter had more than three years left on his contract

Stelter confirmed in a statement to NPR that he would be stepping down from the show, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in March.

He added that he was grateful for the show and his team’s examination of ‘the media, truth and the stories that shape our world.’

‘It was a rare privilege to lead a weekly show focused on the press at a time when it has never been more consequential.’

In his call, which echoed his warning to his staff, Licht complimented Stelter’s contributions to CNN while criticizing outside media speculating how the show will move forward.

‘Give it a minute, see how things develop, and then have feedback,’ he said. 

Licht, who was hired to be the head of the broadcast news service in February, has made an introduction to the company after a series of layoffs and strategic changes.

Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s legal analyst, announced last week that he would not be returning to the network after his vacation.

Some were speculating online that other anchors could be next, with Don Lemon, a lightning rod for the right, being mentioned.

In addition to the in-house loss of staff members, CNN is also shutting down its CNN+ streaming service after less than a month of it being online.

This decision led to 239 employees being laid off.

In light of the show’s staff removals, Licht announced it would be lifting its hiring freeze. 

CNN’s legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin (pictured) announced last week that he would not be returning to the network after his vacation

‘You heard me say in my first town hall that I am going to make decisions slower than some would like,’ Licht said in a June memo.

‘I know this organization has been through tremendous change over the last four months, which is why I am approaching this process slowly and thoughtfully as we look at all parts of the operation.

‘We will continue to realign where it makes sense to best serve our people and the business.’

Stelter, following the announcement that his show was canceled, said on Twitter that its final taping will air Sunday morning. 

Stelter’s show, which competed against Fox News’ ‘MediaBuzz,’ did not match up in war for viewership

Additionally, he also taped the show’s final podcast, which is currently available online as of Friday morning. 

All of the recent news to the changes at CNN ride alongside a ratings nosedive, with it plunging to less than half of its rival on Fox News and averaging just 787,000 this year.

Stelter’s show struggled, however, in its ratings war with Fox News.

Fox’s rival show, MediaBuzz, has averaged 1.5 million viewers this year, while Reliable Sources had 787,000.

Reliable Sources is having its lowest-rated year since 2015 and has lost 26 percent of its total audience versus last year.

It has shed 34 percent among the 25-54 age range, and 31 percent in the 18-49 demographic.