MSNBC's Monica Novotny on Friday highlighted a dubious Vanity Fair piece lamenting the "cost" of the Republican Party opposing Barack Obama's agenda. The News Live host talked to writers Duff McDonald and Peter Keating about their contention that the "party of no" has cost taxpayers $1.34 billion.
Apparently, the GOP and various conservative organizations total this much by not supporting health care or the stimulus. Never mentioned in the article or during the segment is the fact that Obama's spending on those two items alone will end up costing taxpayers $3.3 trillion, 2500 times the amount of the expensive Republicans.
During the segment, Keating snidely remarked, "And, you know, Republican offices need heat and light and water and sewage. People are showing up just to say no and we're paying for it!" Earlier in the piece, Novotny played along and complained, "So, for that [the price of the GOP], we've got nothing?"
Lost on the Vanity Fair journalists (and the host) was the fact that parties in opposition obstruct. Their job is to make the case for a viable alternative. When George W. Bush was President, MSNBC was practically the network of opposition.
One of the odder accounting totals in the article is that Keating and McDonald add in the price of conservative think tanks:
THINK TANKS: Didn’t think taxpayers were footing the bill for think tanks? Think again. Because most "policy institutes" enjoy tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, the federal government loses about 35 cents in taxes for every dollar given to conservative policy institutes. Here we’ve included revenues lost because of donations to five of the largest conservative think tanks—the Heritage Foundation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Manhattan Institute. Sure, they’ve come up with some interesting ideas. When Republicans enact any of them, you can take this item off our list.
G.O.P. total: $79.4 million.
On News Live, McDonald confusingly explained, "Well, that's why we added in think tanks and said the cost of taxpayers to funding conservative think tanks has been almost $80 million. If some of those ideas do get enacted, we're totally happy to remove that number from our total."
So, conservative organizations cost money to taxpayers because they oppose massive new spending from the Democrats? The logic is certainly hard to follow.
A transcript of the April 16 segment, which aired at 10:24am EDT, follows:
MONICA NOVOTNY: As the midterm elections are approaching, there's one Republican motto that's being carried above the rest.
SARAH PALIN: There is no shame in being the party of no. Or better said by the good governor of this state. He said, "Party of no? Nah. We're the party of hell no."
NOVOTNY: Being the party of no carries not only a political cost but, also, a financial one, it turns out. In a Vanity Fair web exclusive, writers Duff McDonald and Peter Keating break down the numbers and take a look at what they call the most expensive word in American political history. Duff and Peter, great to see you both. So, you broke down the numbers, and it's kind of educating. We've got some full screens up. I'm going to run through a few of them. Congressional salaries, $47.9 million. That's the GOP share of total salaries in Congress. And you started this one when, back in January of '09?
DUFF MCDONALD (Vanity Fair): Yeah, the beginning of the 111th conference.
NOVOTNY: You've got staffer expenses, $231.3 million. The total taxpayer cost, essentially, you guys say, of the party of no, is $132 billion thus far. So, you're saying for $132 billion we've got nothing?
MCDONALD: $1.32 Billion.
NOVOTNY: $1.32 billion. So, for that we've got nothing?
MCDONALD: Well, you know, the evidence is there for you to see. Like- Obstructionism, as we said, can be a good political strategy. But, what is its product? Its product is nothing. It's no.
NOVOTNY: Initially, the obstructionist strategy seemed to be working. Right? I mean, we saw some victories. And, certainly Senator Brown could be the poster child of that. So, initially they would say this really worked for us.
PETER KEATING: Well, sure, it may be working. But, whether or not it's working, the effect of the Republicans saying "No, no, no," is, essentially, we argue, no different than if they stayed home. If they didn't show up, all the no votes would either win or they would lose. But, taxpayers would save money on all the salaries and benefits. And, you know, Republican offices need heat and light and water and sewage. People are showing up just to say no and we're paying for it!
NOVOTNY: Okay, but you will have, certainly, Republicans who- if I had Republicans, GOP pundits or, or lawmakers themselves standing up here would say we have not been doing nothing. We're not the party of no. We came up with our own health care plan. We presented back it in May of 2009. I think they called it patients choice. So, they've been presenting different options. The President just, before they signed the health care bill into law, was saying "I want to bring in some of the GOP ideas." So, they would say we're earning our money?
MCDONALD: Well, that's why we added in think tanks and said the cost of taxpayers to funding conservative think tanks has been almost $80 million. If some of those ideas do get enacted, we're totally happy to remove that number from our total.
KEATING: Yeah, I mean, here's the other thing, there's more than 10,000 people working for the House of Representatives as staff.
NOVOTNY: On both sides.
KEATING: Right, for everybody, right. But the question is, does it take that many thousands of staff members to come up with Mitch McConnell's talking points which everybody repeats every day, every week?
NOVOTNY: Meanwhile, you've got Newt Gingrich. He says he wants the GOP to be the party of yes, the man of the Contract With America. And now we're hearing some rumblings that there may be a new Contract with America being formed. Although, we heard yesterday, Luke Russert, MSNBC's Luke Russert was reporting maybe they are going to call it a blueprint. There's some GOP leaders who are saying we don't want everything specifically in print we want to achieve. So, maybe we'll just call it a blueprint. Do they need to be specific if they want to be this party of no?
KEATING: Well, I think it depends on whether or not they think it's worth it to nationalize the elections. In 1994, all the pundits in the House and the Senate would be decided state by state. But, they came out with a contract- I want to say contract on -- but it's actually a Contract For America. And they had a big national victory. But, then, you know, the thing is that most people don't realize, most of the contract never actually got enacted. So if they come forward with specific proposals, maybe they will get some through and passed into law.