Good News on Wall Street Means? What Exactly?


Lloyd Blankfein, the company's chairman and CEO, said Goldman is starting to see a rebound across many of its businesses even as the broader economy and consumers continue to struggle with rising unemployment and mounting loan losses.

"Although the world continues to face serious economic challenges, we are seeing improving conditions and evidence of stabilization, even growth, across a number of sectors," Blankfein said in a statement. via Goldman Sachs profit tops $3B on strong trading ? Yahoo! News.

It's literally amazing to me that our press corps hasn't yet managed to draw a distinction between good news on Wall Street for companies like Goldman, and good news in reality.

I watched carefully the reporting of the Dow breaking 10,000 the other day and not anywhere did I see a major news organization include a paragraph of the "On the other hand, so fucking what?" sort, one that might point out that unemployment is still at a staggering high, foreclosures are racing along at a terrifying clip, and real people are struggling more than ever. In fact the dichotomy between the economic health of ordinary people and the traditional "market indicators" is not merely a non-story, it is a sort of taboo ? unmentionable in major news coverage.

Here's an example of the Dow-10000 coverage, from USA Today:

If investors view the Dow's recovery as a signal that the economy and financial markets are healing, it could serve as a mood-altering boost. It might also lure skeptical investors hiding in safe fixed-income investments such as money market funds and certificates of deposit, which are yielding close to 0%, to move cash back into stocks, says Bruce Bittles, chief strategist at Robert W. Baird.

"Dow 10,000 will act like a magnet," Bittles says. "It will increase optimism and bring in more money off the sidelines." But, he says, the index must stay above 10,000 for a few weeks or more before investors think it is safe to get back in.

No one mentions here that this is a carrot-and-stick story ? the stick being that ordinary people have been robbed of the interest they should be getting in CDs and ordinary bank savings accounts by the various bailout programs and lending guarantees, which have brought the cost of capital down to nothing for the big banks, and punished those people who have been doing the right thing all along by saving. The Fed lends its money to Goldman Sachs and BOFA for free, why does anyone have to pay Grandma a high rate for her CD or her bank savings?

And now that those good, savings-oriented people are getting gouged, they're being encouraged to get back into the stock market, where the returns are better at the moment. They're being called people on the "sidelines" who have to be encouraged to "get back in."

What's so tiresome about all of this is that no one reports this stuff as a political story. This is politics at its most basic. The Dow is going up, sure, but what does that mean, if the rest of the economy still sucks?

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Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He’s the author of five books and a winner of the National Magazine Award for commentary. Please direct all media requests to taibbimedia@yahoo.com.

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