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Thursday, December 29, 2005
  Media Ignores The Largest Consumer Price Decline in 56 Years
I would have never known.

If we listened to the media, no one would have heard the biggest price decline in 56 years.

Ever since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in late August sending oil prices to $70 per barrel and gasoline above $3 a gallon, the media have been in a panic over a return of ’70s-style inflation. Such concerns reached a fevered-pitch in October when a gauge of consumer prices rose by the largest amount in 25 years. Yet, when the Labor Department released numbers last week showing that inflation had declined by the greatest percentage in 56 years, rather than using this data to ease the public’s concerns about rising prices, the press either downplayed the report or totally ignored it.

Back in October, when the September consumer price index (CPI) jumped by 1.2 percent, media reports were full of phrases like “Hurricanes Katrina and Rita helped make energy prices soar in September at the fastest rate on record,” and “Inflation in September was the highest since 1980.” Two months later when the November CPI fell by 0.6 percent, the greatest amount since Harry S. Truman was president, one prominent paper’s headline simply read “Price Index Shows Big November Drop.” Maybe most important, few media made it clear to the public that core prices have only increased by 2.1 percent since last November, an annual rise quite similar to what has been transpiring for many years.

The worst offender in disparate coverage of these reports was CNN. Virtually every CNN program on October 14 discussed the September CPI report. From “American Morning” early on Friday to “In the Money” on Saturday, the cable news channel was all over this story. On “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” Dobbs began this segment: “Tonight middle class Americans and those who aspire to the middle class face a growing cost of living crisis. Inflation last month up at the fastest pace in 25 years, while wages are falling.”

Correspondent Christine Romans entered the discussion: “The ingredients of middle class life are getting more expensive by the day. Gasoline, fuel oil, fruits and vegetables, medical care, education, all slashing American spending power.” Romans finished the segment on a cheery note: “And when you adjust those earnings for these higher prices, Americans' earnings fell in September.”

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