Pete's random thoughts

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Media games and the economy

Whenever I watch or read the news, I get pissed off.

The media has a way of twisting things around to make all news stories "sensational". Unfortunately, the average person watching the news doesn't really think about things a whole lot, they just accept what is told to them. This means the press has the power to control our country by controlling public opinion and thought. Right now, they are controlling the economy.

Which brings me to one of the topics that I rant about fairly often.

The so called "mortgage crisis" or "housing crisis". I just read an article on MSN that had the headline: "Foreclosures continue to soar, worst is not over
Filings up 57 percent in March over ’07; ARM resets to crest in May and June"
. The article went on to describe what a massive crisis this was, how the sky is falling, etc and backed up their claims with hard numbers.

Here are some numbers from the article: "The number of U.S. homes receiving at least one foreclosure filing jumped 57 percent in March to 234,685, compared with 149,150 properties a year earlier. Filings include default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions." I'm not even going to get into how the number is skewed by including auction sale notices AND repossessions, thus double-dipping the number because first a property is repossessed, then it is auctioned. Nor will I rant on the fact that a "default notice" is not a repossession, just a notice that you are in default and if you don't pay, they'll start repossession proceedings (I guess that is triple-dipping the numbers).

What I want to concentrate on is the numbers and how they can be twisted right in front of our eyes to mean something that they don't.

The article goes on to spew forth facts: "That meant one in every 538 households received a filing during the month. Forty-four percent were households that slipped into default for the first time and more than a fifth were homes banks took back.

The number of default related "filings" is quoted at being 234,685. Sounds like a terribly high number, right? Not really, because the article later says that "one in every 538" households received a filing of some sort. If you do a little analytical math with these numbers, that means only .0018 of households received some kind of "filing" in March.

.0018 of mortgages doesn't seem all that bad now does it? Yet the press constantly bombards us with "news" about how the middle class is being squeezed and how there is a mortgage crisis destroying our economy. It is, but only because we are letting it by swallowing all of the nonsense the press feeds us. The MSNBC article is just one example of how the media can lie right to our faces, even while giving us facts.

Is .18% of mortgages with filings a big increase? (note, that is not 18 percent, that is POINT eighteen percent, less than one-fifth of one percent) Yes. The same time period last year saw a "filings" rate of .11%. It is an increase of about 60%. If you take a really tiny number and increase it by 60%, it is still an increase, but it is still a very tiny number.

Yet we as a country panic and act like the sky is falling. And strangely, so does the rest of the world. Why? Because if buyer confidence is down and people are afraid to go and buy their new TV or whatever because they are afraid that they'll get foreclosed on because the press said so, the manufacturers aren't able to sell that TV to the distributors, the distributors can't sell it to the wholesaler, the wholesaler can't sell it to the retailer, and the truckers between all points in this example lose. In the end, the only people who profit are the media people who will just create a new "crisis" news story when this one proves to be Y2K did, or the "carbon credits" fiasco, or so many other hyped-up media non-news events over the years.

And, of course, the federal reserve folks, who manage to profit in any "bailout". The media is screaming for government intervention because .18% of people are not paying the mortgage they agreed to pay when they bought the house, and what the end result of screaming is will invariably be a bailout of some sort. The government will dump tax dollars into the banks who are hurt by this whopping .18% of loans that aren't being paid, and to fund it they will sell bonds to the Federal Reserve Bank. The Fed will use the bonds as collateral to print new money and make new loans in a ratio of $10 printed to each $1 of bond. (no kidding, that is how it works, look it up) The influx of "new money" will cause inflation, and we all lose again.

Yet, strangely, the media never seems to report on the Fed actually works and how every bailout is really just controlled inflation, lining the pockets of the Fed by giving them permission to create money out of nothing. I wonder how many people out there know that the Federal Reserve Bank is NOT a government entity, that it is just a cabal of banks that are authorized by Congress to control currency?

It would make quite a news story!