The February 11 “Good Morning America” introduced a new dire consequence of the slowing economy: “cash-strapped homeowners” committing arson.
“We have news this morning on the home foreclosure front, word that cash-strapped homeowners are taking desperate measures,” ABC co-host Diane Sawyer said.
What made Sawyer believe there are “desperate measures” taken by “cash-strapped homeowners?
She based it on two isolated cases of anecdotal evidence. One home supposedly burned because Sheryl Christman, a 38-year-old Michigan woman, was three days short of foreclosure. She pleaded no contest after the Sept. 1, 2007, arson. The other case was a Colorado arson where a man “may have” committed arson before an “imminent foreclosure.”
“Investigators think that may have happened at this home in Woodland Park, Colorado,” ABC News correspondent Bianna Golodryga said. “It too burned to the ground just days before foreclosure.”
But even Golodryga said some of these arson cases are just coincidence.
“Experts say that’s all they have right now – coincidences,” Golodryga said.
Sawyer led into the story citing an Associated Press/IPSOS Poll that indicated 61 percent of Americans “believe” we are in a recession and that is causing these “desperate measures.” She cited that poll even though economists can’t tell whether the country is in a recession or not – until the official data come out much later.
“Desperation abounds out there,” Sawyer intoned at the segment’s close.
The glum attitude about the economy Sawyer tied to these arsons is brought on by a lot of recession talk in the media, according to CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo.
“[W]ell, it really is all about perception right now,” Bartiromo said on the February 10 “NBC Nightly News.” “Everybody is trying to figure out, are we in a recession? Are we not in a recession? The fact is, [“Nightly News” anchor] Lester [Holt], it doesn’t matter. We’re already talking ourselves into a recession, and that’s the bottom line. Worries about losing your job, the headlines out there, the wild swings on Wall Street that you mentioned – it’s already impacting people. They’re pulling in their purse strings. They’re spending less and that is begetting more fear. Fear begets fear. And that really is the bottom line here.”