COMMENTS: The Check may be in the Mail

What a fun day of news! Tyndall Report appreciates it when the nightly newscasts take on the pharmaceutical industry. We have to sit through so much Big Pharma advertising that it is always fun to see network journalists biting the hand that feeds them. Both ABC and CBS did the job today. NBC showcased its new one-person digital reporting unit as Mara Schiavocampo offered eyecatching visuals of the bald Hindu devotees of Venkateswara. And CBS closed with priceless scenes from old school Sesame Street. As for the Story of the Day, all three networks led with the prospect of a check in the mail for every American as Congress seems certain to approve a fiscal stimulus package.

The stimulus was urged by Chairman Benjamin Bernanke of the Federal Reserve Board in his testimony to a House panel. ABC's Betsy Stark (embargoed link) summarized his criteria for an appropriate package as the three Ts--"timely, targeted and temporary." That means that President George Bush has been defeated in his attempt to include a permanent extension of his soon-to-expire tax cuts. He is "not expected to insist," said Stark…the White House will "no longer insist," according to NBC's David Gregory…it has "now backed away," as CBS' Anthony Mason put it.

CBS' Mason recalled the stimulus package of 2001 that cost $38bn and offered cash rebates of $300 to every adult. The total value of the stimulus visualized for 2008 is "between $100bn and $150bn," according to NBC's Gregory. Besides the rebate check, ABC's Stark anticipated that the legislation will include food stamps for the poor, extended benefits for the unemployed and tax relief for business. The stimulus "is not going to stop the train wreck" facing the economy. "All it can do is mitigate the damage."

CBS and NBC rounded out fiscal coverage with other sectors of the economy. On NBC, Erin Burnett of the CNBC financial news cable channel, updated us on the declining stock market, down 8% so far this year. The losses taken by Citigroup and Merrill Lynch in the past 48 hours are "twice as big as the entire economy of Iceland was all last year," she offered, using an imaginative unit of measurement. CBS continued its Hitting Home series about the impact of a looming recession on an average household. Kelly Cobiella relayed a financial planner's advice: "Everyone should have enough money set aside to get through at least three months without a pay check."


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