National Review's Rich Lowry on Sunday had a classic debate with Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne about whether or not the tax cuts implemented by former President George W. Bush should be allowed to expire.
Dionne agrees with President Obama that they should only be extended for folks making less than $250,000 a year; Lowry thinks that raising anyone's taxes right now could send the country back into recession.
With this in mind, NBC's David Gregory opened the panel segment of "Meet the Press" with a discussion about the current state of the economy and how this issue might impact the upcoming midterm elections.
As he tossed the baton to Lowry and Dionne, one got the feeling Gregory was intentionally lighting a fuse he knew would result in some entertaining fireworks (videos follow with transcripts and commentary):
Obama administration Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (pictured at right with what I would guess is her ideal car of the future) shamelessly used Labor Day weekend as an opportunity to score political points.
In a presentation that was more a political stump speech than an informative presentation, Solis recited a litany of alleged accomplishments. Many of them have no relationship to what her department does, while some are also objectively wrong. Second, she set up a host of straw men in the form of "those who would" and "to those who want to" to make her department and the administration where she works appear as if they and they alone are the bulwark against rapacious employers and their political allies.
The YouTube video is present at this DOL page (direct YouTube link here). What follows are selected transcribed excerpts, with specific critiques:
Filling in for Bob Schieffer as host of Face the Nation, Early Show co-host Harry Smith brought his liberal sensibilities to the Sunday show, pressing his economic panel to agree the Bush tax cuts should not be extended, the stimulus was too small and so another would be wise – even suggesting a return to an FDR-era government make-work jobs program: “What about, say, something like a new WPA?”
Presuming the pre-2003 levels are the real rates, Smith questioned Gretchen Morgenson of the New York Times: “Is now the time to continue cutting taxes if there is this overwhelming deficit out there?” He soon cued up White House economic adviser Laura Tyson to agree with his premise: “Should the Bush tax cuts stay in place for the middle class but be rescinded for the top wage earners?”
Turning back to Morgenson, Smith showed exasperation with public opposition to government spending programs as he wondered if the stimulus wasn’t big enough:
I want to go back to the stimulus because as so many of these Congress folks are going back out of their districts and people complain about the size of government, they're complaining about the deficit, they're complaining about TARP and who knows what all else. As we're standing here looking at it right now, just if you can step away, was the stimulus big enough?
New York Times columnist Tom Friedman on Sunday accused Barack Obama of badly misreading his Election Day mandate, and said the current White House is the worst communicating administration he's ever seen.
Appearing on the Roundtable segment of ABC's "This Week," Friedman blasted the President saying, "I'm for more health care. I'm glad we've extended it to more Americans. But the fact is there's a real, I think, argument for the case that Obama completely over-read his mandate when he came in."
Friedman continued, "He was elected to get rid of one man's job, George Bush, and get the rest of us jobs. I think that was the core thing, and by starting with health care and not making his first year the year of innovation, expanding the economy and expanding jobs, you know, I think looking back, that was a political mistake."
Moments later, the Times columnist said, "I've never seen a worse communicating administration" (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):
Can you imagine what would happen to the economy if top wage earners were taxed at 70 to 90 percent?
Former Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich can, and he thinks it's a great idea.
To be sure, many Americans were concerned that giving Democrats control of the executive and legislative branches of our government during an economic crisis could usher back in socialist tendencies first seen in this nation during the Depression.
Fears of such a leftward shift sparked a new powerful movement called the Tea Party.
With this in mind, Reich's op-ed "How to End the Great Recession" published in Friday's New York Times validates these concerns:
Despite unemployment at 9.5 percent and millions of people having lost their jobs since Barack Obama was elected, Chris Matthews just doesn't understand why anyone would miss George W. Bush.
Without naming this week's PPP poll finding Ohioans would vote for Bush over Obama by the tally of 50 to 42 percent if a presidential election was held today, Matthews in the first segment of "Hardball" asked his guests, "Why would you want that back?"
When Time's Michael Scherer tried to explain logically why voters are disappointed with what Obama has done since Inauguration Day, Matthews wasn't having any of it (video follows with transcript and commentary):
It's been a challenging week for President Barack Obama. His vacation ended. He was forced to rebuke questioning reporters with a cutting, "We're buying shrimp, guys." And now Reuters global editor-at-large Chrystia Freeland, accurately described recently by Media Research Center president Brent Bozell as "a deeply devoted Obama groupie," is referencing what Obama-endorsed former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) termed testicular virility.
On today's CNN Newsroom, anchor Ali Velshi suggested a second stimulus might be needed, an idea Chrystia clearly liked:
FREELAND: Well, I think you're absolutely right. I mean, look, he is a Democrat. If you talk to Democratic economists -- one of them, for example, Laura Tyson, who was a senior economist in the Clinton White House, came out with a very strong op-ed piece over the weekend saying we need a second stimulus. I think that is the consensus among Democratic thinkers right now.
And, yes, I think the president should probably have the balls to say this is what I believe in and push it. It's true, that would be publicly difficult, but this is not a moment for milquetoast measures. Things are really rough.
An amazing thing happened on the set of ABC's "This Week" Sunday: a liberal tried to extol the benefits of President Obama's unrestrained federal spending only to get completely smacked down by the entire panel.
Host Christiane Amanpour began the Roundtable segment of the program by showing some of last week's horrendous economic numbers, and opened the debate about what can be done to improve the current condition.
When Democrat strategist Donna Brazile got her turn at the plate, she uttered the same nonsense Americans have been hearing from her ilk for approaching two years:
Congress is divided. They are afraid to put more money back into the system, although most Americans should know by now that the stimulus did create or save 2 million to 4 million jobs, averted the Great Depression 2.0, but Congress doesn't have the appetite to put more money into the system.
The other panelists - George Will, President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass, "Nightly Business Report" host Susie Gharib, and even Amanpour - weren't buying it (video follows with transcript and commentary):
On the same day the Commerce Department dramatically revised down second quarter Gross Domestic Product estimates, New York Times columnist David Brooks published a stinging rebuke of Obama economic policies.
"The American stimulus package was supposed to create a 'summer of recovery,' according to Obama administration officials," wrote Brooks.
"Job growth was supposed to be surging at up to 500,000 a month," he continued. "Instead, the U.S. economy is scuffling along."
Scuffling is putting it mildly, for it was announced Friday that the GDP only grew by a pathetic 1.6 percent last quarter which was down from previous estimates of 2.4 percent.
With this in mind, Brooks' column was not only spot on, but a surprising indictment of everything the Obama administration has done since Inauguration Day:
Better strap in because we could be on a wild ride if what some economic prognosticators are saying is true - not just on a financial market basis, but politically as well.
Noted economist Nouriel Roubini has upped his forecast the economy could head into a double-dip recession. And CNBC "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer is predicting mass panic in the markets after tomorrow's gross domestic product report tomorrow. So based on a lot of this, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer suggested that economic fears have returned to the public. He was asked by Fox News Channel's "Special Report" host Bret Baier what all the negative data meant.
"Historically high and number of unemployed for more than six months also historically very, very high," Krauthammer said on the Aug. 26 broadcast of "Special Report." "I think there is something new happening in terms of the economy, at least the perception of it and that is a return of fear."
In the media's continued effort to sell the stimulus to the American public, reality is simply a nuisance. It's much easier to use rosy economic projections with little to no grounding in the real world, and to refrain from informing readers just how disconnected from reality those models are.
That is exactly what many in the media have done since the Congressional Budget Office released numbers yesterday (pdf) claiming that the stimulus has, in the words of ABCNews.com reporter Andy Sullivan, "put millions of people to work and boosted national output by hundreds of billions of dollars in the second quarter."
The only problem with this reasoning: it has no basis in reality. Those employment and economic growth numbers exist only on paper. The models may tell economists and policymakers that a certain number of jobs have been created, but that number has literally no connection to the actual unemployment situation.
Of course that hasn't stopped the media from reporting CBO's numbers as fact before. And once again, they've demonstrated their own disconnect from reality.
In late July, a Government Accountability Office report circulated which analyzed stimulus funding being spent by the Department of Energy. The main gist of that report involved the cost of each job being generated by the stimulus bill - a staggering $194,000. Tucked away in that report was a phrase that was new to most of us, a way to calculate jobs through a term called ‘lives touched'.
Last week it was confirmed that some departments being funded by the stimulus are indeed using the metric ‘lives touched' - a regression from the absurd ‘jobs saved or created', which was already a step down from the incalculable ‘jobs created'.
A spokesperson from the CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Company explains:
"Lives Touched" is a figure that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) uses to track the amount of people who have been positively affected by the Recovery Act funds. This total would include people who have been provided full time employment (i.e. saved and created jobs) through the Recovery Act and people who at some point have supported a project funded by the Recovery Act.
Essentially, the Obama administration had figured out another way to inflate job numbers to better fit their claims of success. And yet, the media has remained largely silent on this matter. Even as Vice-President Biden released a report on the Recovery Act yesterday, with a specific focus on the Department of Energy and job creation.
Below is an outline of how the administration and the DOE are collaborating to inflate their numbers by measuring the number of ‘lives touched' by the stimulus bill.
CNN's Ali Velshi enthusiastically touted the Obama administration's promotion of "alternative energy" on Tuesday's Newsroom, and advanced the idea that the field would become a major economic force: "This may be the driver of the economy for the next 15 years....And I will give this administration credit. It is such a dramatic increase over the last administration's commitment to alternative energy."
Velshi brought on correspondent Josh Levs to discuss the current administration's latest push concerning the "stimulus," focusing on the percentage of the $862 billion spent on "green" energy: "Vice President Biden [is] talking about what's been done for energy, and they released this report, saying $100 billion out of the $862 billion stimulus is going to innovation- things like electric cars, things like solar power."
After Levs cited some of Biden's figures, the CNN anchor reacted with his "15 years" prediction and added, "I mean, nobody can come up with a more obvious driver. It's not going to be the credit system. It's not going to be banks. It's not going to be other things. It may be this." He concluded with his endorsement of the Obama administration "commitment to alternative energy."
The New York Times on Tuesday declared what most conservatives knew would happen if Democrats took control of both Congress and the White House: "more Americans - and not just the rich - are going to have to pay more taxes."
In its editorial comically titled "A Real Debate on Taxes," the Times predictably argued for a total elimination of the Bush tax cuts, although it favored some partial delay to this given the precarious state of the economy.
That in itself was humorous as the Times clearly seems to get that raising taxes is indeed economically damaging.
Yet maybe more telling was how this "real debate" didn't once involve the spending side of the budget:
David Gregory on Sunday finally got an answer to his question about extending the Bush tax cuts, but it certainly wasn't what he was expecting.
For those that have been watching "Meet the Press" this month, the host has been grilling his conservative guests about this issue ever since former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told him on August 1 that tax cuts don't pay for themselves.
Having badgered Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) about this earlier in the program with no success, Gregory broached the subject with former House Majority Leader Dick Armey in a subsequent segment.
With a hanging curveball coming into his wheelhouse, Armey whacked a long drive that still hasn't landed (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Here's yet another example illustrating why one must treat the editorials at the Wall Street Journal as a primary source of hard news during Democratic presidential administrations.
On Monday, President Obama visited ZBB Energy Corp, a maker of high-tech batteries in Menominee, Wisconsin. Helene Cooper at the New York Times, where a larger version of the picture at the right appeared, reported that "The company received a $1.3 million federal stimulus loan, which officials said would triple its manufacturing capacity and could lead to 80 new jobs." Note the word "could."
At least the Times mentioned the existence of ZBB's stimulus loan. In three brief reports citing Obama's visit during the past week, the Associated Press didn't even do that.
Are even the most liberal media members starting to realize the administration's "Recovery Summer" campaign was a complete joke?
Such appears to be the case for New York Times columnist Bob Herbert who on Saturday published a piece absolutely excoriating President Obama for not exclusively focusing on jobs after his inauguration last year:
The Obama administration seems to be feeling sorry for itself. Robert Gibbs, the president's press secretary, is perturbed that Mr. Obama is not getting more hosannas from liberals. Spare me. The country is a mess. The economy is horrendous, and millions of American families are running out of ammunition in their fight against destitution. Steadily increasing numbers of middle-class families, who never thought they'd be seeking charity, have been showing up at food pantries.
Keith Olbermann on Thursday cherry-picked an article by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to make a pathetic case that Republicans are targeting and blaming unemployed Americans for the country's economic woes.
In his opening "Countdown" segment on MSNBC, the host began, "When it came time to invade, Republicans used cherry-picked intelligence to make the case for war in Iraq. Now, they`re using cherry-picked intelligence to wage war on the middle class."
Particularly in Olbermann's crosshairs was Gingrich who the "Countdown" host claimed "targeted one individual American who`s struggling to make ends meet and held him up as part of the problem."
Ironically, it was Olbermann that was guilty of cherry-picking as he quoted a very tiny portion of a Human Events article the former Speaker wrote Wednesday (video follows with commentary and full transcript at conclusion):
Ed Schultz on Thursday blamed Republicans for all the unemployed people living in America today.
As he began the most recent installment of the "Ed Show" on MSNBC, the host said, "The Republican Party has been on a crusade against the middle class and the poor for the last 30 years. We're now seeing the wreckage of that race to the bottom line culture."
He disgracefully continued, "Today a government report showed weekly jobless claims at a five-month high. 484,000 new unemployment claims were filed in the week ending August 7th. And you know what folks, you can lay this right at the feet, right at the altar of the Republican Party."
Sadly, he wasn't close to done, claiming, "The people you see flooding the streets begging for help, begging for an opportunity are victims of the Republican agenda just to make sure that President Obama fails" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has struck back at Paul Krugman calling the New York Times columnist "intellectually lazy."
As NewsBusters reported Saturday, Krugman wrote an article the previous day castigating Ryan as "The Flimflam Man" calling the Congressman a "charlatan" and a "fraud" while claiming his "Roadmap" to balance the nation's budget was "drenched in flimflam sauce."
Krugman's criticisms of the Republican rising star were of course praised by all manner of media member from the shills at MSNBC to the sycophants in the liberal blogosphere.
Liberal publisher Arianna Huffington on Monday displayed an absolutely staggering ignorance of business, taxes, and economics.
Appearing on MSNBC's "Countdown" to discuss Republican plans to stimulate the economy and curb the exploding budget deficits, Huffington was sarcastically asked by Keith Olbermann, "Does Huffington Post hire more people when your personal tax rate changes?"
Realizing the host was mocking the GOP's desire to extend the Bush tax cuts to all wage earners including those making over $250,000 a year, Huffington replied, "Huffington Post operates like most American businesses which is that our hiring practices have nothing to do with the income or the tax rate of the people who are running the business."
Ironically, the liberal publisher contradicted herself in the very next breath (video follows with transcript and commentary):
As media make their case to the American people that the Bush tax cuts should expire, one of the strategies being employed is to claim that Republicans are refusing to "pay for" their extension.
A perfect example of this tactic was seen on Sunday's "Meet the Press" when host David Gregory badgered House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Oh.) on this subject for over three minutes.
After playing a clip from the previous week's program when former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said that he's against tax cuts "with borrowed money," Gregory proceeded to hammer his guest on this issue (video follows with transcript and commentary):
For the media, "Mission Accomplished" represents everything that was wrong with the George W. Bush administration and its war policy. The image of Bush declaring unequivocal victory mere weeks after the invasion of Iraq has been ballyhooed as a visual representation of Bush's arrogance, naivete, even dishonesty (the media contrived most of this meme - more on that below).
Will Barack Obama have a "Mission Accomplished" moment? That is, will the media seize on something he or his administration has said as evidence of the large gap between his rhetoric and the effects of his policies and tout it for years to come as indicative of his flawed style of governing?
The gap already exists. The White House's "Recovery Summer" initiative and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's statement, "welcome to the recovery" are completely divorced from economic reality. The only question is whether the media will seize on the catchy and baseless slogans (the two criteria of the "Mission Accomplished" media standard) coming from the White House to illustrate the sizable gap between this administration's rhetoric, and the facts on ground, so to speak.
The front page of Saturday's Washington Post carried an article by Shailagh Murray from Ohio's 13th congressional district, just west of Cleveland. The dominant theme was two-term Rep. Betty Sutton's whining that her GOP opponent Ted Ganley, a car dealer, benefited from Cash for Clunkers but now bashes it. The Post wondered about why Democrats get so little credit for the "stimulus," and Murray's central question was this:
How can nearly $1 trillion flush through the U.S. economy, with tangible results, and still leave voters dubious? ["Flushed" is a good verb for this.]
Initial requests for jobless benefits rose last week to their highest level since April, a sign that hiring remains weak and some companies are still cutting workers.
The Labor Department said Thursday that new claims for unemployment insurance rose by 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 479,000. Analysts had expected a small drop. Claims have risen twice in the past three weeks.
Good Morning America's Jon Karl on Tuesday highlighted a new report by two Republican senators on extreme examples of waste in the stimulus bill. Karl rattled off some eye catching data: "$71,000 for researchers at Wake Forest University to see how monkeys react under the influence of cocaine."
The ABC journalist informed viewers that Senators John McCain and Tom Coburn released their new report "exclusively to Good Morning America." Now that the information is public, will CBS and NBC follow up on the story?
George Will and Paul Krugman had another showdown about fiscal policy on Sunday, and the ABC contributor made it crystal clear to viewers that he doesn't agree with the perilously liberal New York Times columnist.
As the Roundtable segment of "This Week" moved to a discussion of whether more economic stimulus is needed versus deficit reduction, Krugman made his predictable request for the former.
After Will made a strong point about the economy being "unusually weak for a recovery after a severe downturn," he said one of the reasons is "the consumer in his native perversity has begun to save" rather than spend.
Krugman responded, "Just wanted to say, George, it's exactly what I would have done in describing it."
Will smartly countered, "Lest it be thought that Paul and I agree on something," and this is where the fun began (video follows with partial transcript and commentary):