NPR & Marketplace: Keeping Smart Americans Stupid About the Economy UPDATE: CBO Reality

If you’ve ever wondered why so many educated, professional, otherwise intelligent Americans seem to know little about basic economics and what is actually going on in the world, look no further than publicly-funded outlets like National Public Radio and American Public Media.

NPR and APM’s Marketplace program, carried by NPR affiliates, are doing their best to reinforce the false economic narratives that best serve the re-election interests of the Obama administration-cum-campaign. In the process, they are recycling pure fantasies and falsehoods that much of America’s intellectual elite seems to take as Gospel truth.

In a story about the Michigan Republican primary, NPR’s Don Gonyea described the opposition of Sen. Rick Santorum and Gov. Mitt Romney to the federal auto industry bailout that allegedly helped Chrysler and General Motors to “survive.” The implication is that they wanted those companies to “fail”–a false accusation made repeatedly by President Obama.

In reality, critics of the bailout wanted those companies to go through normal bankruptcy–instead of a politicized restructuring process that gave Obama’s union contributors huge chunks of the companies they had crippled, while destroying the property rights of primary creditors, arbitrarily closing dealerships nationwide, and fleecing the taxpayers.Marketplace led this morning by touting what it calls the “Great Rebound,” the supposedly fantastic economic recovery that is entirely due to President Barack Obama’s miraculous policies, as proven by two successive months of less-than-awful data.[Update: For a more realistic picture, read the Congressional Budget Office’s report on “Persistently High Unemployment“:

The official unemployment rate excludes those individuals who would like to work but have not searched for a job in the past four weeks as well as those who are working part-time but would prefer full-time work; if those people were counted among the unemployed, the unemployment rate in January 2012 would have been about 15 percent.]

Host Jeremy Hobson and correspondent Heidi Moore engaged in an absurd display of back-slapping over the notion that fortunes have reversed since 2008, and we are now helping debt-stricken Europe:

Hobson: So all good news here in this country. But of course, there still is the question of what’s going to happen with Europe, which could be sliding back into recession.

Moore: Yeah, it’s pretty dire over there. They are dealing with maybe the end of the eurozone. So they’re trying to latch onto our success right now and if you remember 2008, it’s kind of a huge flip in the power dynamic. Back then we were trying to save our economy and they wanted nothing to do with us. They said, ‘We don’t want to import your American cancer,’ so now we’re looking at it from the other direction. But now we know it’s a far more global world and we are helping them.

Hobson: They want to have a piece of our success right now?

Moore: That’s exactly right.

The segment that followed was almost as bad. Hobson interviewed Ford CEO Alan Mulally about his company’s success in turning around its fortunes–and deliberately steered Mulally away from the fact that his company was the sole major American automaker to refuse a government bailout. Instead, he tried to emphasize Ford’s borrowing–perhaps in the belief that it parallels Obama’s borrowing to fund the bailout–while Mulally gently corrected him:

Hobson: And of course, Ford is the only one of the Big Three American automakers that avoided bankruptcy after the financial crisis. What do you think, looking back now, that your company did differently that allowed it to emerge without going through bankruptcy?

Mulally: We borrowed nearly $23.5 billion in 2006 to restructure the business, to get it back to profitability. We started that process; none of us ever anticipated that the economy would slow down as much as it did. And now we’re very pleased to not have used precious taxpayer money and to have this fabulous line of world-class products for our consumers today.

Hobson: But you’re saying that you were able to do that in part because you took out a big loan at a good time, at the right time?

Mulally: Well that’s absolutely a key part of the plan, but remember Jeremy, we also chose to invest in developing the new products that people really do want and value…

Hobson continued with an absurd, Occupy-inspired line of questioning about inequality:

Hobson: A lot of people view you as a hero for turning the company around and as a result of your work, you received more than $50 million in stock last year. Do you see anything wrong with a CEO making that much more than the rest of the company workforce?

Mulally: All of the Ford employees are compensated in terms of the company’s performance. So as we create an exciting, viable profitably growing company, I’m very pleased that everybody associated with Ford now is benefitting from a profitably growing company.

Hobson: And indeed, what you’re saying is absolutely true: You have raised the salaries for your employees. But do you think that there’s a problem with a CEO making so much more? Some people look at that and it opens their eyes a little bit.

Mulally: Well I think all the compensation is market-driven and is competitive and we are absolutely committed to being competitive in every element of our business and all the skills that we employ.

For saving Ford without taxpayer help, Mulally deserves whatever Ford is willing to pay him. Heck, he probably deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But to Marketplace–and to the Obama administration–contrived issues of “fairness” trump real issues of success.