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.
"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?"
Joy Behar ripped the House of Representatives on her program on Monday for their recent defunding of Planned Parenthood. Behar, focusing on the organization's birth control services, criticized the move as "illogical...because if you are not going to help people with birth control, you're going to have more abortions. So, besides being evil and immoral and unethical, they're also stupid" (audio clips available here).
The liberal host led her 10 pm program by playing clips from Democratic Congresswoman Gwen Moore's Thursday speech on the floor of the House, where she argued that funding Planned Parenthood was better than having "to give your kids ramen noodles at the end of the month to fill up their little bellies so they won't cry. You have to give them mayonnaise sandwiches." Many in the conservative blogosphere argued that she's hinting that it's better to abort a child than have them live life in such a way. Behar then introduced Rep. Moore and Planned Parenthood Federation of American president Cecile Richards and asked the congresswoman, "What drove you to finally stand up on Thursday and deliver that great speech on the floor?"
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."
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."
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.
Nagourney claimed “the Democratic Party can clearly claim a mandate” after the 2006 elections in which the party gained 25 seats in the House. But on Monday he argued the G.O.P. lacks a mandate, even after an election where the party gained 63 seats and took over the House.
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."
Discussing the union protests in Wisconsin with political analyst John Dickerson on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge noted: "You talk about this being a potential Tea Party movement for the Left." In response, Dickerson proclaimed: "...this is the energizing moment on the Left, progressives and unions have always been together....It's about the threat to their benefits."
It's interesting that Dickerson made a positive comparison to the Tea Party, given that last year he appeared on the Early Show and described how Democrats hoped the conservative movement would "overreach" and become "a stain on the Republican Party." On Monday, he further explained to Wragge how liberals "were a little dispirited, Barack Obama didn't turn out to be the president they had hoped. Well now they're quite energized and it's not about President Obama anymore."
Last October, ABC’s Christiane Amanpour characterized the Tea Party as “extreme,” declaring “people are looking at the Tea Party and saying this is not conservatism as we knew it but it's extreme.” On Sunday, however, with “People Power” plastered on screen over video of union members in Wisconsin, she saw only a genuine “populist” outpouring of “people power” in Madison.
“This week” she announced in conflating the union grievance in Madison with protests against Arab dictators, “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...in the middle of this country” as “a budget war threatens to shut down the federal government. And now union workers fighting back.”
The unhinged paranoia on the left knows no bounds.
Take for example New York Times columnist Paul Krugman who believes that Governor Scott Walker's grand plan is to lessen democracy in Wisconsin and America eventually replacing government with a third-world-style oligarchy:
In a surprising move Sunday, the folks at ABC invited a Tea Partier to participate in its Roundtable segment on "This Week."
Rather than bringing on three liberals to battle lone conservative George Will while predictably presenting exclusively labor's side of the budget battle in Wisconsin, host Christiane Amanpour included freshman Congressman Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) to match wits with ABC's Jon Karl and Democrat strategist Donna Brazile (video follows with transcript and commentary):
“On the broadcast tonight, the uprising at home,” teased NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, touting “another day of fury in Wisconsin. Workers angry about what they call a plan to balance the budget on their backs.” Williams set up his Friday newscast by equating the left-wing protests with those against Arab dictatorships: “From the Mideast to the American Midwest tonight, people are rising up. Citizens uprisings are changing the world,” he championed, citing what “we’ve witnessed from Tunisia to Egypt” and now Wisconsin where “the state capitol has been taken over by the people.”
Without ever mentioning the involvement of President Obama’s Organizing for America, reporter John Yang trumpeted from Madison how “tens of thousands of public workers have come here to make their voices heard.” Scolding incivility certainly didn’t interest Yang, who cued up a protester to trash Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker without making any note of the sign he was holding which showed a hammer and sickle below “Scott Stalin.”
ABC and CBS on Friday night, as they did on Thursday night, ignored the instigation by Organizing for America as CBS’s Cynthia Bowers, who never identified anyone as liberal, concluded: “More protests are planned for tomorrow and for the first time conservative activists are calling upon their supporters -- including Tea Party groups -- to hold rallies of their own.”
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on Friday made the idiotic claim that House Republicans are stealing food from babies and pregnant women.
Later that evening, appearing on PBS's "Inside Washington," syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer demonstrated just how foolish Krugman's assertion was (video follows with transcript and commentary):
CNN's Candy Crowley adopted the pro-abortion lobby's talking points on Friday's Situation Room, as she asked Rep. Steve King about the House's vote to defund Planned Parenthood: "There's that term, 'penny wise and pound foolish.' Would you worry that, by cutting off those services, people...would have sicker babies, or certain people...wouldn't have HIV testing...and that would just cost us more?"
The journalist, who was substituting for regular anchor Wolf Blitzer, brought on the Iowa Republican and his Democratic colleague, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to comment on the current budget debates at the state and federal levels. Towards the end of her interview, at the 42 minutes into the 6 pm Eastern hour mark, Crowley raised the 240-185 vote earlier that afternoon to eliminate federal funding of Planned Parenthood, and used an argument similar to that of liberal Fox News contributor Jehmu Greene, who emphasized on the February 3, 2011 edition of The O'Reilly Factor how the organization's employees "provide mammograms [and] provide birth control advice." The anchor also hinted that cutting off Planned Parenthood would end up costing more tax dollars in the long run:
In the midst of outcry that Wisconsin teachers were skipping school to protest the governor's new budget bill and demand collective bargaining rights, NBC's Norah O'Donnell provided the teachers' motives as an argument for their side. She failed to mention why Wisconsin Gov. Walker cut into their benefits in the first place.
Covering the story on MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports," O'Donnell remarked that "I know there are some that think this is a travesty for the schoolchildren of that state." She added, however, "But these teachers are talking about their pensions, and they're worried about having to pay more for their health care costs, right?"
The explosive debate has featured voices from the left and right crying about the compensation Wisconsin public employees receive and what they pay in, compared with that of private sector workers. The conservative Heritage Foundation explains that Wisconsin's budget was already in the red, and that state employees enjoy generous benefits that many other citizens don't.
Welcome to the reckoning. We have met the fiscal apocalypse, and it is smack dab in the middle of the heartland. As Wisconsin goes, so goes the nation. Let us pray it does not go the way of the decrepit welfare states of the European Union.
The lowdown: State government workers in the Badger State pay piddling amounts for generous taxpayer-subsidized health benefits. Faced with a $3.6 billion budget hole and a state constitutional ban on running a deficit, new GOP Gov. Scott Walker wants public unions to pony up a little more. He has proposed raising the public employee share of health insurance premiums from less than 5 percent to 12.4 percent. He is also pushing for state workers to cover half of their pension contributions. To spare taxpayers the soaring costs of Byzantine union-negotiated work rules, he would rein in Big Labor's collective bargaining power to cover only wages unless approved at the ballot box.
On Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge attempted to portray Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's efforts to curb costly benefits for public sector unions in his state as purely political: "Your teachers union, which votes Democratic...hit very hard. Yet your police, state trooper, firemen unions, who all supported and endorsed you, did not get touched in any of this. Why is that?" [Audio available here]
In the live interview, Walker quickly dismantled the entire premise of Wragge's attack: "Chris that actually is not true. There are 314 fire and police unions in the state. Four of them endorsed me. All the rest endorsed my opponent." Wragge was undeterred in his follow up question: "But you understand their position with some of the state workers, saying you're essentially taking away their voice by trying to break these unions. You understand that, correct?"
I knew we were in for real budgetary trouble with Obama, but his recent statements on the subject make me wonder whether he is so brainwashed with liberal ideology as to be divorced from reality — or worse.
Based on his tireless rhetoric, it would appear that he thinks — contrary to all evidence, including the failure of his $868 billion stimulus package to create jobs — that even more spending would finally lead to jobs. This, though even his economic advisers have warned us not to expect unemployment levels to reduce to acceptable levels for years.
In the meantime, as wrongheaded as he is about government spending's creating jobs, he's outright delusional about what he's doing to the national debt — and that's giving him the benefit of the doubt.
ABC on Thursday night championed a “mutiny in America” by public employees in Wisconsin whom NBC’s Brian Williams trumpeted for “rising up and saying no to some of the most extreme cuts in the nation.” ABC’s Diane Sawyer teased: “Tonight on World News, a mutiny in America. Public workers take to the streets as governors try to cut their pay and perks.” Sawyer framed coverage from the grievance of the unionized workers:
Today, we saw America's money trouble meet a reality, a human reality, as teachers, nurses, tens of thousands of state workers took to the streets in this country protesting cuts by the governors, saying to these governors, a promise is a promise. One lawmaker looked out at the crowds gathered in the Wisconsin capital today said it's like Cairo moved to Madison. [Audio available here]
NBC’s Williams also offered a comparison to “citizen uprisings” overseas: “Tonight after watching citizen uprisings now across the globe for weeks, how about a big one here in the United States.”
Though Governor Scott Walker is merely asking the coddled workers for a slight increase, from six to twelve percent, in the portion of the generous health coverage they must pay, ABC reporter Chris Bury painted it as a dire burden, citing how Walker is “demanding that public employees pay more for their pensions and health care, the equivalent of a seven percent pay cut,” adding that “what really upsets state workers is a budget that strips away nearly all of their union bargaining rights over health care, pensions, and work rules.”
After the riots in Athens, the Greek authorities decided to enact new laws to deal with their obvious problems. The new laws, which treat rich and poor alike for the first time, have been seen has harsh. The name of the legislator who wrote the laws is a man called Draco. The date is believed to be 621 B.C. And more than 2,600 years later, the adjectival form of his name — draconian — is still tossed around here in Washington anytime someone proposes real budget cuts.
Of course, most of the Washington hands who hurl the "draconian" charge around probably do not know that Draco's laws were considered "just" according to Aristotle. For the first time in Athenian law, the codes were written down so that even poor people could know what was legal and what was illegal — thus they could avoid inadvertently breaking the law.
On the home page of the Office of Management and Budget website, President Obama is quoted: "Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time to try something new."
If only he would, but the president's proposed $3.7 trillion budget is more of the same: taxing and spending for which liberal Democrats are known and "cuts" as in Pell Grants and home heating assistance for the poor he knows congressional Democrats are unlikely to approve. It is also full of assumptions about revenue and a rosy scenario on economic growth that is more than double current growth.
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough thinks the GOP's house is already on fire in his latest Politico column, where he thrashes the party's leadership for a poor showing at CPAC. He ridiculed the gathering as "a conference cursed with dull speechmaking and intraparty battles."
"Like most Egyptians, the conservative movement still has no idea who will lead it through the next election," Scarborough writes. What is the biggest reason candidates have not entered the field, he thinks? They are scared to run against Obama.
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, senior White House correspondent Bill Plante seized on a rare instance in which the Obama administration and conservative members of Congress happened to agree on a single budget cut: "It's not very often that the Obama administration finds itself on the same side as Tea Party Republicans when it comes to spending."
The spending in question was funding for the production of jet engines for F-35 fighter aircraft. As Plante described it: "Defense Secretary Gates and the President say it's not necessary. And so do fiscal conservatives." He also noted that cancelling the project was "a defeat for House Speaker John Boehner....Part of it would have been made in his district." The on-screen headline read: "Budget Battle; GOP Fiscal Hawks Torpedo Boehner Pet Project."
Interviewing Donald Trump this morning, MSNBC's Chris Jansing put on her Democratic strategist hat to press the Republican real estate mogul with liberal talking points.
After Trump, responding to Jansing's question about what he would do to fix the economy, suggested cutting taxes to spur economic growth, the host of Jansing & Co. groused: "A lot of people sitting out there, with all due respect, saying spoken like a true businessman but not about the little guy. Tax breaks for the rich, not for the middle class."
Not missing a beat, Trump retorted: "But Chris we're the highest-taxed nation in the world, as it stands right now. And that's a pretty bad statement when you think of it."
Just a few years ago, double-digit unemployment seemed like a crazy idea. But when the economy began to stumble, it was fear of high unemployment and a promise to prevent it that the Obama administration used to usher in the $787 billion stimulus package. As The New York Times reported on Oct. 22, 2009, "The Obama administration's forecast at the start of the year, which predicted that unemployment would not climb much above 8 percent."
A big promise to be sure and a claim that proved false as unemployment climbed higher and higher reaching 10.2 percent at its peak. Yet, ABC, CBS, and NBC referenced this promise just nine times in two years in stimulus stories mentioning unemployment.
Unemployment still exceeds the Obama-guaranteed 8 percent unemployment rate two years after the bill's passage. In the same time period, network news barely reported that the stimulus failed to halt the sharp rise in unemployment. ABC 'World News,' CBS 'Evening News' and NBC 'Nightly News' all paid plenty of attention to the stimulus and its accomplishments, but more than 98 percent of those evening broadcast stories skipped over the administration's failed prediction.