Tilt! NPR Answers 'Your' Fiscal Cliff Questions, and 'You' Favor More 'Stimulus,' Oppose Entitlement Spending Curbs

On NPR’s All Things Considered on Friday, the network devoted a segment to "Answering Your Questions On the Fiscal Cliff." Audie Cornish declared: “It turns out many of you are confounded as well by a debate that has quickly devolved into a jumble of numbers and half truths.”

It also turns out "many of you" were liberals, and none were conservative. The listener questions that NPR picked tilted left, obsessing about taxing the “top two percent” and insisting that Social Security and Medicare be left off the table:

“This one's from John Vogel of West Chester, Ohio,” reported anchor Melissa Block, “who writes this: Why are Social Security and Medicare included in the cuts to balance the budget since, as far I know, these programs are funded by their own tax and don't take from or contribute to the general fund where the deficit is?”

At least NPR’s John Ydstie called that out as untrue: “Both its outpatient coverage and its drug benefit are paid out of the government's general fund, which is running a deficit, so I think we can say Medicare contributes to the deficit.” He added that Social Security could be presently calculated as adding to the deficit.

Then NPR turned to another liberal to push more stimulus:

CORNISH: Jimmy Gertzog of Arlington, Virginia, wants to know which would create more jobs, not raising taxes on the top 2 percent, many of whom run their own businesses, or raising them?

GERTZOG: The government presumably isn't going to flush those additional tax dollars down the toilet. Those dollars would give the federal government more buying power to do the things it needs to do. I'm thinking of things like investing in infrastructure improvements, increasing the capability of our armed forces, expanding programs for hiring teachers and opening opportunities in higher education.

CORNISH: Scott, what do you think?

SCOTT HORSLEY: Well, it's certainly a reasonable question that Mr. Gertzog has, but there's no real link between the tax hikes and the level of government spending. It's certainly true, some kinds of government spending can be job generators, infrastructure is a good example, but the government's not going to build any more roads or fix any more bridges if those taxes go up.

There's just a disconnect in the way the government functions between spending and revenue. That's part of our problem. What we can say is that raising those taxes on only the top 2 percent would not be a major disincentive for job growth. When the Congressional Budget Office looked at this, they said the difference between having those tax rates go up and not having them go up is only about 200,000 jobs.

Seth Levy of Collegeville, Pennsylvania asked "for a couple that would be considered in the top 2 percent of earners, would it be a better situation tax-wise for the country to hit the fiscal cliff or for the tax increases to go through with the deals that are currently being discussed?

Horsley then underlined how Obama has all the leverage: "Well, let's just look at the president's proposal, for example, and this is a good illustration of why the president's bargaining position is pretty strong. If the president's offer is accepted, the rates for those top earners would go up to as much as 39.6 percent. If, on the other hand, we hit the cliff, the rates on those top earners would go up to as much as 39.6 percent. So the president gets what he wants whether House Republicans bargain or don't bargain."

The last question was "How many members of Congress are part of the 2 percent?"

There were no questions that challenged with Obama or the Norquists of the left who are demanding tax hikes with little or no reduction in the growth of social programs.

I would have asked: "If we're running an unsustainable national debt, why are we still spending tax dollars on public broadcasting? Shouldn't the top two percent fund that voluntarily?"

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis