Last Monday, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman ironically asked his readers why voters are so ill-informed.
Eight days later, MSNBC's resident Rhodes scholar Rachel Maddow, while chatting with the "Tonight Show's" Jay Leno about what's going on in Wisconsin, demonstrated perfectly why so many in our country have little factual knowledge of current events (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Reporters also portrayed this as a national union issue, but mostly failed to point out the national problem of pension underfunding.
Actually, the battle is the result of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's attempts to balance the state budget by asking roughly 300,000 state employees to contribute more to their pension funds and health insurance and give up the ability to negotiate more than their wages. According to CNNMoney, the state faces a $3.6 billion budget deficit.
Only 1 out of 24 network evening stories about the Wisconsin "feud" since Feb. 16, reported a critical number relating to union pensions: $1 trillion. That's the huge deficit facing public workers' pensions in America and the reason Walker and other state governors are facing tough choices including demanding public workers contribute more.
Curse those wascally Wepublicans in Wisconsin, you'll never believe what they're up to now.
Bad enough for the Badger State GOP to abet Gov. Scott Walker in his nefarious scheme to prevent public-sector unions from bankrupting the state. Worse, they are hatching even more diabolical plots while Dem state senators continue their courageous evasion of the law to avoid voting on Walker's proposal.
Here are the sordid details, as ferreted out by ace ferret-outer Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show Monday night (video after page break) --
The battle in Madison, Wisconsin between new Gov. Scott Walker and the public-sector union hacks offers an amazing study in journalistic double standards. The same national media that have spent the last two years drawing devil’s horns and Klan hoods on the Tea Party protesters have switched sides with lightning speed. In the Wisconsin protesters, they find sweetness and light, “hope and change.”
From her Sunday soapbox, ABC host Christiane Amanpour snobbishly deplored the Tea Party as not conservative, but “extreme” last fall. In a special “town hall” episode of her show on the Ground Zero mosque debate, she accused an incredulous Gary Bauer of encouraging vandalism at a Tennessee mosque because somehow, Christian rhetoric is offensive. The accusation itself was offensive because it was entirely baseless.
Yet in Wisconsin, the exact opposite happened. Amanpour took the extreme, vicious, and wholly offensive signs comparing Gov. Walker to Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak – and embraced them as geopolitically accurate: “People power, making history: A revolt in the Midwest, and a revolution sweeping across the Middle East.” She touted how “populist frustration is boiling over this week.”
"Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski and regular guest John Heilemann both pulled the class warfare card and pressured Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) Tuesday on why he did not raise taxes on the wealthy to cover the state's budget shortfall, rather than pushing to require union members pay into their pensions.
"You're receiving a lot of criticism for only asking the other side to give, and they have given – on health care and pensions. Are you asking people in your state across the board, including the wealthiest, to give, to help deal with the crisis....and I mean tax increases for the wealthy, or in any way, has anyone else been asked to give?" Brzezinski pressed Walker.
Following up on Brzezinski's question, New York Magazine columnist John Heilemann asked Walker why he cut the corporate income tax rate and chose to go after unions – but Walker corrected him. "We didn't cut corporate taxes," he answered.
On CBS's Face the Nation on Sunday, host Bob Schieffer interviewed Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and compared union protests in that state to the democracy movements spreading across the Middle East: "There are also reports that this could spread to at least nine other states....Is Madison, Wisconsin, Congressman, the Tunisia of American politics now?"
At the top of the broadcast, Schieffer declared "protests at home and abroad" and moments later, he touted the size and duration of the demonstrations in Wisconsin: "For the fourth day in a row and in the largest turnout yet, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets again in Madison, Wisconsin as they marched to protest major cuts in state spending. The question is, will the protests spread to other states where similar proposals to cut spending are also being contemplated?"
The liberal media have virtually ignored the scandal of medical doctors handing out fraudulent sick notes to labor union protesters in Madison, Wisconsin, NewsBusters senior editor Tim Graham noted on yesterday's "Your World with Neil Cavuto."
What's more, while the media have been quick to portray Wisconsin public sector employees as victims, media outlets have ignored the perspective of parents who have been inconvenienced by the teachers' sick-out, the Media Research Center director of media analysis told substitute host Stuart Varney:
On MSNBC's "Jansing & Co." Tuesday, liberal journalist Carl Bernstein criticized the continued stance of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) against the right of public unions to collectively bargain. The liberal Watergate journalistic "legend" labeled the governor's efforts as "ahistorical" and "demagogic."
When the governor cut into benefits and pensions of state employees to solve a budget shortfall, union members and supporters of their cause took to the streets of the state capital. Later they were willing to compromise on the amount they had to pay for their benefits, but they demanded to keep their collective bargaining ability. The governor was not willing to cut that deal.
Bernstein said Gov. Walker's move went beyond his own prudence, calling it a "very political, demagogic move by a governor who knows that the Democratic Party subsists to some extent on union contributions." He even called out conservatives for making too many issues into partisan battles.
Loud protests by Wisconsin public employee unions against a budget reform proposal from new Governor Scott Walker have drawn considerable national network news attention since Thursday, the day Democratic state senators fled the state in a last-ditch gambit to prevent the bill from becoming law. A story-by-story analysis by the Media Research Center shows the Wisconsin protests are a perfect case study in the media’s longstanding double standard favoring left-wing causes while demonstrating much more hostility to the Tea Party and conservative protest.
Last March, as thousands protested on Capitol Hill in the days before the passage of ObamaCare, CBS’s Nancy Cordes slammed it as “a weekend filled with incivility,” while World News anchor Diane Sawyer painted the Tea Party as a violent gang, with “protesters roaming Washington, some of them increasingly emotional, yelling slurs and epithets.” In August 2009, ABC anchor Charles Gibson complained how “protesters brought pictures of President Obama with a Hitler-style mustache to a town hall meeting,” failing to mention that the signs were produced by Lyndon LaRouche’s wacky fringe movement, not the Tea Party or conservatives.
While the mainstream media finds it tolerable to compare Gov. Scott Walker to Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, the bloggers at Daily Kos can always stretch the slander further. The blogger "Dengre" finds Walker and his conservative ilk are quite similar to Confederate slave holders:
What thing becomes clear--as you consider the modern Republican Confederate Party's effort to attack workers, Unions, the Middle Class and their rights--is that their focus is all about the theft of labor. Stealing the labor of folks is a sure fire way to get rich and it has been since, well, forever. Fighting efforts to protect people from the theft of their labor is what the modern so-called Conservative and/or Gliberterian movements are all about.
On the February 22 edition of "American Morning," CNN's Carol Costello framed the ongoing budget debate in Wisconsin as a struggle between embattled middle class workers and corporatist Republicans with ulterior motives, parroting SEIU President Mary Kay Henry to warn viewers that "corporate America is about to win big time."
"Henry says corporate America save themselves money in wages by lining the pockets of Republicans running for statewide offices," regurgitated Costello. "According to followthemoney.org, in the 2009-2010 election cycle, business interests donated $878 million to candidates running for governor and other statewide offices across the country, that includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio."
While those figures are not in dispute, Costello failed to hold Democrats and their Big Labor financiers to a similar standard: "And Democrats say there is another reason Republicans want to gut unions. Organized labor donates hundreds of millions of dollars to candidates like Barack Obama. So if you weaken the unions, you weaken a traditional moneyed supporter of the Democratic Party."
Nothing more cogently demonstrated the left's apparent strategy in Madison, Wisconsin thus far than a group of pro-union demonstrators silencing a Fox News report on a budding scandal there with cries demanding that Fox "tell the truth." Demonstrators, and much of the left over the past week, were unconcerned with the content of Fox's report. The fact that Fox was doing the reporting meant that the truth was not being told.
Fox was attempting to interview the president of the MacIver Institute, a free market think tank based in Wisconsin, which had reported two days earlier that doctors were writing sick notes for union demonstrators in Madison so they could get out of work and attend the protests (check out video of the protesters below the break).
In an interview with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee on Tuesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge worried about the fallout from budget cutting in Wisconsin: "It seems to look like this governor [Scott Walker] is trying to basically break unions and that other states may then follow suit. Is this – should unions be on alert all around the country?"
Huckabee pointed out: "I think unions have to get realistic. They can't expect to pay $1 in and get $57 from the state as a pension match. Nobody else gets that." Earlier, Wragge expressed skepticism of Governor's Walker's handling of the issue: "...what you've seen...with the workers and the unions versus Governor Scott Walker and the teacher sick outs, do you think this was handled the best way it possibly could have been?" Huckabee defended Walker: "I think he's got to call attention to the fact that this is a serious issue....You can't borrow money that you can't afford to pay back."
New York Times columnist David Brooks published a truly must-read piece Tuesday about what's going on in Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, out of some odd desire to appear balanced, Brooks advanced the totally erroneous liberal meme that Governor Walker's budget repair plan exempted cops and firefighters because they typically support Republicans:
CBS on Monday night tried to corroborate the case for the position on protesting Wisconsin state union workers, claiming without citing any source that they earn less than comparable private sector works, while FNC put the union workers in a less oppressed light, showing how “apparent doctors” were “handing out doctor’s notes for sick days. Our undercover producer got a medical excuse, no illness necessary.”
CBS’s Cynthia Bowers touted “high school history teacher Amanda Bazan, of Deerfield Wisconsin,” who “took a personal day to get her students to the protests.” Bazan insisted: “They were learning about democracy firsthand.” Bowers relayed how “the single mom has been teaching 13 years and earns $41,000,” and while “public sector workers in Wisconsin do make slightly more in salary and benefits than the average private sector worker,” that's “because nearly twice as many of them have college degrees necessary for high-skilled jobs.” Without any citation from her or on screen, Bowers maintained:
When education and other factors are considered, two recent studies found public sector employees end up earning less than their counterparts in the private sector. In Wisconsin, nearly five percent less. Nationally seven percent less.
When three-fourths of the Boston police department went on strike in 1919, leading to broken shop windows and looting, then-Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge called out the state militia and broke the strike. Coolidge declared, "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time."
His courage propelled him to the vice presidency and eventually to the presidency.
"The fate of our country won’t be decided on a battlefield. It will be determined in a classroom." Do you believe that?
Last week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called on 14 state Senate Democrats, who had fled the state instead of voting on a deficit-cutting anti-teachers-union bill, to return and do their jobs. Senate Republicans hold a 19-14 majority there but can't vote on the bill unless at least one Democrat is present.
Does that sound like democracy at work to you? Do you think it’s just a coincidence that the two largest teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, are the largest campaign contributors in the nation -- $55 million in just the past two years, more than the Teamsters, the National Rifle Association or any other organization -- and that 90 percent of those contributions fund only Democratic candidates?
AP reporter Ryan Foley's update from Madison on Monday night included details about a rock musician causing the crowd to to roar: "At noon, guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine took to a stage on the Capitol steps to fire up the crowd. He said he flew in from California to lend his voice to the protest."
Onstage, when the Nightwatchman [Morello] sang, "I pray that God himself will come and drown the president if the levees break again," the Jammin' Java crowd's attitude was chilling. People were praying.
Lawrence O'Donnell on Monday made a prediction that most who hadn't heard of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker until a week ago might find astonishing.
On MSNBC's "The Last Word," the host told his perilously liberal guest Ezra Klein that if Walker's budget repair plan goes through, "He would instantaneously become the greatest hero in the Republican Party nationwide, I think would go to the top of Republicans' lists for possible presidential nominees in the upcoming election" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Normally you'd expect a left-winger like MSNBC's Rachel Maddow to do cartwheels if current-day Republicans agree with opinions held by Franklin Roosevelt during the depths of the Great Depression.
This is not one of those times, however, as we are learning during the ongoing battle in Wisconsin over public-sector unions.
What's happening in Wisconsin, according to Maddow, is an existential threat not just to unions but to the Democratic Party. Since the Supreme Court ruling last year in Citizens United v. FEC, Maddow said on her show Friday, Republicans have increased their advantage in political donations from outside groups such as corporations, unions and advocacy groups --
MSNBC's Chris Matthews tried Monday to push the liberal media meme that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker exempted police and firefighters from his budget repair plan because their unions endorsed him in last November's election.
"Well one more time you're completely uninformed," replied Republican State Senator Glenn Grothman who then proceeded to tell the facts to the obviously clueless "Hardball" host (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Leave it to "On Faith" to offer a Marxist/left-wing liberation theology twist on the public sector unions protesting Gov. Scott Walker's (R-Wis.) budget plans.
On Saturday the Washington Post/Newsweek online feature published a "Guest Voices" by Wendy Cooper in which the divinity student lamented that middle-class government workers in the Badger State have much in common with the masses in Tahrir Square in Cairo, as well as the ostracized imperial Roman tax collectors of Jesus' day (emphasis mine):
NBC's Kelly O'Donnell, on Monday's Today show, lumped the Wisconsin and federal budget fights together and depicted the Republicans, in both cases, as being on the defensive. Starting in Wisconsin O'Donnell reported that over the weekend "Protesters backing union workers vented anger" but didn't mention the Tea Party had a counter-protest. Then O'Donnell, moving to the budget struggle on Capitol Hill, passed along Democratic talking points as she reported: "Democrats claim Republicans are too stubborn and their budget cuts too severe" and advanced: "The '90s government shutdown, with empty offices and closed national parks, left the Republican majority then with real political damage. A cautionary tale today."
O'Donnell aired sound bites from Democratic Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer on the offensive, warning against a government shutdown with Schumer charging Speaker John Boehner with being "reckless." However when it came to the GOP side O'Donnell aired a clip of Senator Tom Coburn defensively admitting: "It's good for political rhetoric to talk about a government shutdown, but I don't know anybody that wants that to happen."
Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Monday repeatedly lobbied Wisconsin's Scott Walker to compromise in the budget battle over public employee unions. Arguing that the unions were making reasonable efforts to compromise, he said of the protesters: "They're going to stay out as long as it takes. Are you read to negotiate?"
Repeating union talking points, Stephanopoulos pressed, "...Your critics say this is not about balancing the budget, it's about union busting. And the unions and the Democrats have said they're willing to take the concessions on wage and health benefits."
After Walker argued for the necessity of state workers to contribute to their retirement, Stephanopoulos rebutted, "But, they already said they're willing to give that up. But, Governor, they already said they're willing to give up on the pensions and the health care. They already said that."
In an interview with the Democratic minority leader of the Wisconsin state senate on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill proposed a solution to the political stalemate over curbing benefits for public union workers in the state, suggesting Democrats "work together" with "more moderate Republicans" to "come to some sort of agreement that could then put pressure on the Governor."
Minority Leader Mark Miller eagerly agreed: "Absolutely. I think cooler heads need to prevail....There is such a thing as compromise. The Governor needs to be part of that." Earlier, Hill had explained that: "There's been a proposal put forth by moderate Republicans in the state which would effectively take those collective bargaining rights away [from teachers unions], but only for two years, it would bring them back in 2013." To which Miller remarked: "Well, the problem is, is that the Governor has to agree. And the Governor has not done anything except insist...it has to be his way. All or nothing. And the Governor needs to recognize that this is a democracy, and in a democracy, you negotiate."
In a segment totaling just two and a half minutes on Monday, Good Morning America's Bob Woodruff managed to feature eight clips of pro-union protesters in Wisconsin and only two supporting Scott Walker, the state's Republican governor.
Covering the ongoing battle over whether or not the state will limit collective bargaining for public sector employees, Woodruff appeared quite impressed by the scope of the rallies: "There's going to be protesters coming out here today for the seventh day in a row. It's an amazing weekend. About 70,000 actually showed under here."
The GMA correspondent repeatedly highlighted those on the side of the union and portrayed Scott Walker as inflexible: "Making themselves at home, the protesters say they're prepared to make concessions but the Governor so far is refusing to budge." One demonstrator complained, "We are willing to negotiate. But do not take away our rights."
"The mainstream media was late to the party when it came to covering" the Wisconsin budget protests, Fox Business Network's Stuart Varney noted as he introduced NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell earlier today on the February 21 edition of "Varney & Co."
But are the media now skewing coverage in favor of the perspective of the public sector labor unions, Varney asked.
Most certainly they are, Media Research Center founder Bozell answered.
[Video of the segment and transcript follow the page break]