Civics 101

One of the advantages of working at home is that when I take a lunch break I can whip up a quick bite to eat in my own kitchen and then plunk myself down and read the paper or watch the news on TV.  Today I took a late lunch around 1:40 and snapped on CNBC to see what was going on in the market and with the government bailout.  What I saw was fascinating on multiple levels.

First, I saw the bailout vote appear to fail which caused the DJIA to plummet 300 points in about five minutes.  It was nuts and it was something I’ve never seen before, but I was even more interested in watching and listening to the Wall Street pundits react.

What became apparent very quickly is that as smart as these people were about markets they were equally dense in the ways of Washington.  They had no clue how Congressional votes worked.  Luckily they had a reporter that could explain what it meant to leave the vote open and how it was possible for votes to change even after they’d been cast. That news caused the Dow to recover a couple of hundred points.

Then it got really good.  They decided to listen to the House vote live and they came in just as a member of the House asked a parliamentary question and asked the Chair for guidance.  Well I think that caused the commentators’ heads to spin off because when the vote was actually closed a few moments later and the House moved on to another bill they didn’t realize it. They had to wait for an explanation from the reporter and once they got it and relayed it to the audience at large and the Dow and other equity markets took an instant plunge.

I don’t expect people who normally don’t cover government to know every intricate detail or parliamentary procedure, but if I knew I was going to be covering one of the most important stories of the day as it affects my area of expertise I’d make sure I understood at least the fundamentals of how things proceed on the Hill.   It’s pretty obvious that didn’t happen in this case.

I don’t want to be too critical of the financial pundits. Their day-to-day existence requires they be highly versed in finance, not in government.  However, I do find it interesting that they were temporarily flummoxed by things they should have learned in high school civics class. 

For what it’s worth I’ve found CNBC to be some of the best television news going these days. It’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s head and shoulders above the rest of the "news" channels.  Watching CNN gives me nausea, MSNBC and Fox should drop any reference to news since they’re essentially televised versions of the Daily News, and the networks are pretty much DOA.  I like public television for the overall news, but CNBC seems to be the best for business and finance. 

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