Audit Notes: FCIC Report, Reuters Talking Points, WSJ Sues

The New York Times gets hold of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report first and it seems somewhat promising.

Here’s the money quote:

“The crisis was the result of human action and inaction, not of Mother Nature or computer models gone haywire,” the report states. “The captains of finance and the public stewards of our financial system ignored warnings and failed to question, understand and manage evolving risks within a system essential to the well-being of the American public. Theirs was a big miss, not a stumble.”

To say the least.

This is also important:

The report does knock down — at least partly — several early theories for the financial crisis. It says the low interest rates brought about by the Fed after the 2001 recession “created increased risks” but were not chiefly to blame. It says that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage finance giants, “contributed to the crisis but were not a primary cause.” And in a finding likely to upset conservatives, it says that “aggressive homeownership goals” set by the government as part of a “philosophy of opportunity” were not major culprits.

This comes a day after The Huffington Post reported that the FCIC referred cases to authorities for potential prosecution. Maybe the panel will be of some use after all.

— Reuters confuses right-wing talking points with facts in the lede of a news story on the State of the Union address tonight:

President Barack Obama aims to rise above party politics in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, but he must prove he is serious about tackling the budget deficit that could unleash a bitter partisan fight.

Lots of people, mostly on the left, think that tackling the deficit—at least the short-term one—right now is what the president most definitely should not be doing. Government spending increases economic growth. Reduce it while the economy is still shaky and you risk sending the country back into recession (see our austerity-minded pals in the UK)

And does Reuters really know that this is why Obama’s poll numbers are up rather than, say, his response to the Giffords shooting?

Americans have responded positively to better bipartisan cooperation after Obama struck a deal with Republicans over tax cuts, helping lift his approval ratings in recent weeks.

— Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal are suing the government to let it report freely on Medicare and the doctors who get paid by it.

The filing by Dow Jones & Company, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, seeks to overturn an injunction obtained by the American Medical Association in 1979. The injunction prevents the public from knowing how much taxpayer money individual doctors receive from the Medicare program. As a result, The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations are barred from fully investigating and exposing abuses in the $500 billion system.

The legal action follows a series of articles in The Wall Street Journal last year, “Secrets of the System,” that relied on a sampling of the government’s closely guarded Medicare databases. The series highlighted suspicious billing, potential abuses of the system and the government’s role in policing Medicare payments.

However, the 1979 injunction constrained the Journal’s investigation and what it could tell its readers because it limited the Journal to only a subset of the data. In addition, the government would only release the limited subset of data if the Journal agreed not to disclose the identities of individual doctors in the databases.

Good for them. The strings attached to the information the WSJ reported earlier smacked of government censorship.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , ,