It is very rare that a conservative agrees with anything published by Newsweek. Yet, Robert J. Samuelson wrote an article Wednesday that will likely shock most NewsBusters readers (emphasis mine throughout):
As someone born in late 1945, I say this to the 76 million or so subsequent baby boomers and particularly to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, our generation's leading politicians: shame on us. We are trying to rob our children and grandchildren, putting the country's future at risk in the process. On one of the great issues of our time, the social and economic costs of our retirement, we have adopted a policy of selfish silence.
Shocking, yes? Think this might go counter to most Newsweek subscribers’ beliefs? Well, sit back and enjoy, ladies and gentlemen, for Robert was just getting warmed up:
You know the one thing I think I'd enjoy less than watching a complete stranger's vacation slide show? Subsidizing it with my tax money. But ABC's Bill Redeker (see full story here) failed to raise just how much taxpayers foot the bill for rail enthusiasts who ride Amtrak for a scenic view of the American West, even as he waxed nostalgic for the pre-Amtrak days of the luxurious long-distance train ride.
Today of course rail travel is dwarfed by more competitive, efficient, and convenient air travel while Amtrak all but monopolizes the nation's passenger rail.
But, perish the thought of actually making some cuts in the Amtrak budget:
Splicing his report with dining car scenes from “Silver Streak” and “North by Northwest,” Redeker complained that Amtrak had to skimp on china, stemware and tablecloths to meet budget cutbacks on its California Zephyr rail line.
The detritus of Nancy Pelosi's imperial celebrations have barely been cleared, and already at least one member of the liberal punditry, Robert Kuttner, is demanding that the new Dem majority do more of what Dems do best: tax and spend.
It's as if one of the Smithsonian's dinosaurs, taxasaurus democratae, patiently gathering dust all these last dozen years, had suddenly roared to life, broken from its exhibit, and began slouching toward Capitol Hill to be reborn. To mix a metaphor and a poem.
Annotated excerpts from Kuttner's impassioned plea, Get Serious Democrats, from this morning's Boston Globe:
And my colleague Julia Seymour has the proof right here.
As the new majority of Democrats takes over the House of Representatives January 4, they have big plans – plans the media have supported.
Journalists have called arguments against a minimum wage hike “a lot of bull” and even came out in blatant endorsement of socialized medicine.
"The only answer is going to be, eventually, some kind of national, universal coverage. A guaranteed system that everybody regardless of income will have at least basic health care," said ABC medical correspondent Dr. Timothy Johnson on the Oct. 16, 2006, "Good Morning America."
Well, we all love to jump on it when a lefty says something stupid, don't we? We should also point out when an ostensible Conservative news commentator says something ridiculous, too...
Now, I don't usually report what radio guys are doing or saying, not that I don't like them or that I find them somehow illegitimate, but because they have their own fora from which to make their waves and they can get their ideas out without my assistance. But, I do listen to several talkers and enjoy some of them, as well.
One of the talkers I like is Hugh Hewitt. He is the reason I have stepped up my blogging and why I started a Town-Hall blog, too. I find he is usually a Reagan styled conservative and I agree with him very often. So, when he says something I usually give it consideration.
Rubin Urges Democrats to Raise Taxes to Reverse Budget Deficit
Interesting, in light of this in the Washington Post (HT Surly Don Surber; as an aside, I really have to wonder how this plays with the Democratic Underground/Daily Kos base):
Alternative Minimum Tax Targeted
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Democratic leaders this week vowed to make the alternative minimum tax a centerpiece of next year's budget debate, saying the levy threatens to unfairly increase tax bills for millions of middle-class families by the end of the decade.
So this week’s Time magazine has declared an end to Ronald Reagan’s conservative revolution? It wouldn’t be the first time — the fortune tellers at Time also saw the end of the “bankrupt” Reagan era back in 1993, after novice President Bill Clinton pleased Time’s writing staff by passing a budget that raised personal income tax rates and increased the tax on gasoline. Too bad the “return to the economic orthodoxy of balanced budgets” Time promised wasn’t achieved until voters put budget-cutting Republicans in charge of the House and Senate the following year 1994.
“Overturning the Reagan Era” screamed Time’s cover, which showed an upside-down image of President Reagan. The cover story, by Nancy Gibbs, showed Time’s obvious infatuation with liberals' concept of “fiscal responsibility,” namely, punish the private sector with tax rates high enough to pay for all of the fat government programs that Democrats can dream up (although Gibbs wished for even higher taxes, saying the ones Clinton and the last Democratic Congress pushed through "weren't very brave.").
In an election year gift to Democrats, Sunday’s "60 Minutes" pointed out GOP failings in Congress on the eve of a crucial midterm election, hitting the Republican Congress over failure to control spending and in particular, earmarks. "60 Minutes" has a history of running stories like these on the show preceding an important election. In 2002, correspondent Morley Safer provided a forum for liberal columnist Molly Ivins to hype the candidacies of two Texas Democrats running for state wide office, while providing no counterpoint from a conservative or Republican in the piece.
On Sunday, Safer profiled Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake about earmarks and government spending, unfortunately Safer portrayed earmarks as the only wasteful spending in Washington. In an attempt to discourage conservatives and demoralize the GOP base, "60 Minutes" attacked the Republican Congress over its failure to limit spending. Safer invoked the name of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and equated earmarks with corruption while lamenting Congress’ wasteful spending.
"American Morning" reporter Ali Velshi insinuated on Tuesday’s show that corporations favor the GOP partly because "Republicans have kept hourly wages" low:
Ali Velshi: "All right, no big secret that Big Business favors Republicans, or has traditionally favored Republicans. But with polls showing that their friends in high places might be in some trouble leading into this election, Big Business has decided to cozy up with the Democrats. Corporate America likes Republicans. For the most part, Republicans have kept hourly wages and taxes low, and they keep their hands out of business as much as possible. Republicans like corporate America, and its hefty donations."
So, apparently, in addition to attempting to "criminalize science," Republicans also are the party of low wages? Perhaps that should be on a bumper sticker somewhere. Also, do Democrats not like their "hefty donations" from trial lawyers?
The New Republic’s senior editor Jonathan Chait wrote an interesting op-ed on Sunday determined to prove that President Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 haven’t resulted in increased tax revenues (hat tip to Dave Pierre), while also attempting to make the case that tax hikes are better fiscal policy. The article’s title was “Bush’s Silly Budget Logic,” which is quite apropos given the fuzzy math and distorted recollection of history employed by the author: “There's no dispute among economists. Conservative, moderate or liberal, every credentialed economist agrees that the Bush tax cuts caused revenues to drop.”
Really? Well, let’s look at some of the facts first, shall we? For instance, according to the historical tables supplied by the Office of Management and Budget, tax receipts in FY 2003 were $1.783 trillion. The most recent estimate for FY 2006 is $2.402 trillion, a 35 percent increase. Simple, right?
Unfortunately, not for Chait who chose to represent an incomplete and misleading picture to his readers:
In a Monday CBS Evening News story on how the FBI has reported that violent crime rose 2.3 percent in 2005, with a 9.2 percent hike in mid-sized cities -- a topic CBS hyped as "Eye on Crime: The Crisis" -- Byron Pitts attributed the increase in part to police officers deployed to Iraq as well as to the media's favorite culprit: a cut in federal spending. Pitts traveled to a mid-sized city, Minneapolis, where he found that “like so many cities its size, resources are strained. One burden, dollars diverted to Homeland Security. An added burden, the war in Iraq." A police officer lamented: "We have probably 30 to 40 officers that are serving in Iraq right now." But in a department of nearly 900 officers, that's only about four percent of the force. Pitts soon proposed another factor: "Since 2004, the Feds have cut funding for state and local police departments by nearly 50 percent. So with fewer police officers, more at-risk kids and more gangs go unwatched."
I was dutifully working my way through Robert Kuttner's Boston Globe column of this morning, Cleaning Up the Mess, on the lookout for some outrageous MSM morsel with which to arouse NewsBusters readers.
But all I was getting were Kuttner's "on the one hand, but on the other hand" arguments as to whether it is in Democratic interests to retake one or both houses of Congress come November. His thesis is that America is such a mess thanks to years of Republican misrule that fixing it could be a thankless task for Dems, who might be better off waiting for the deluge of the 2008 presidential elections. For the record, Kuttner does come down on the side of taking power now.
Oops. Back in 2004, then-ABC White House correspondent Terry Moran argued President Bush’s tax cuts were building debt, not prosperity: “Most experts say that making those tax cuts permanent would cause gigantic deficits virtually as far as the eye can see.” Early last year, CBS’s Bob Schieffer suggested it would be impossible for the federal budget deficit to be cut in half before 2009 without raising taxes: “The government has just got to find some money to finance these programs.”
Well, the tax cuts haven’t been repealed, and there have been no big new tax increases. But yesterday the White House announced that final tallies for the federal government’s fiscal year ending September 30, 2006, the budget deficit had shrunk from $413 billion two years ago to $248 billion. The federal government collected $2.407 trillion in taxes in FY2006, $122 billion more than originally forecast back in February.
A huge point has been virtually if not totally ignored since the announcement on Friday that the reported federal deficit for the fiscal year that ended a week ago was $250 billion -- The Bush Administration has done what it said it would do about the deficit three years ago, and has done it a full three years early, i.e., in half the time predicted.
This continues what has been a very difficult past few years have been for those who deride supply-side economics. If Washington, with a little help from the states, lets the supply-side engine continue to chug along for next several years, the results could be so positively stunning that it would become impossible for supply-side detractors in touch with any part of the real world to hang on to the comfort of their static-analysis fantasyland.
But first, let's recap what has happened in the past three fiscal years:
The Congressional Budget Office just announced extraordinary news about the budget deficit. As reported by Market Watch moments ago:
The federal government probably ran a deficit of about $250 billion in fiscal year 2006, which ended Sept. 30, the Congressional Budget Office estimated Friday. That's about $10 billion less than the CBO forecast earlier this summer and about $68 billion less than the $318 billion deficit recorded in fiscal 2005. Corporate tax receipts have continued to come in ahead of expectations, CBO said. The Treasury Department will release the official budget figures next week.
Do you favor tax cuts? If so, you're no better than a congressman wanting to slip the pants off a page. Worse, for that matter. That's the reasoning of Rosa Brooks, L.A. Times columnist. In Grand Old Party of Child Endangerment, Brooks argues that:
"Foley's acts may have damaged the handful of boys unfortunate enough to have attracted his attention, but the damage to children caused by his abuse of power is still far, far less than the damage to American children caused by this Congress' disastrous mismanagement of the American economy."
By "mismanagement," Brooks makes clear she largely means tax cuts:
"Though only the Foley scandal has generated substantial media coverage, the Republican-led Congress has a long record of child endangerment. Recall that from 2000 to 2005, Congress handed out tax breaks for the rich like hors d'oeuvres at a Republican fundraiser. They slashed the estate tax and the capital gains tax, selling these cuts with an advertising campaign that misled ordinary people into thinking the cuts were going to help working Americans, instead of just the rich."
It's Bush's fault because he's not sending enough money to local governments.
He doesn't care about the uptick because the victims tend to be young black men.
Oh, and to heck with the Constitution.
There. That wraps it up nicely.
My favorite bit is Venocchi's approving citation of L.A. police chief William Bratton:
``The federal government has stepped back significantly from dealing with the issue of local crime. This administration in Washington clearly feels that local crime is an issue for local towns and municipalities."
An underappreciated accomplishment of the past five years has been the continued reduction in the number of people on welfare.
The welfare caseload, after declining dramatically in the first four years after Welfare Reform was enacted, might have been expected to level off, or even rise slightly with overall population growth, after the initial impact of the 1996 law wore off.
After all, the reduction in the number of welfare recipients during the 1990s was stunning. From a peak of over 14 million in 1994, and over 12 million at the end of 1996 (over 4.5 million families) when the new took effect, the number of those receiving welfare came tumbling down to about 5.5 million by the end of 2000 -- a decline of nearly 2 million per year.
I'm not sure that anyone expected the numbers to steadily fall after the first four years of reform, but that is exactly what has happened. Here are the details for famillies and recipients on welfare as of the end of each calendar year beginning with the turn of the century (000s; the index to data for all years back to 1960 is here):
On the August 22 edition of "NBC Nightly News," host Brian Williams described a gas station in Illinois that accidentally sold unleaded fuel for 30 cents. He sarcastically recounted the story this way:
"The pumps were quickly shut down amid fears that oil company profits might plummet. But for one brief, shining moment, we the consumers won. It was like the old days before you needed to refinance your home to refill your tank."
It should be noted, according to New York magazine, that Brian Williams makes $4 million a year. Sounding a bit like a radio DJ dedicating a song, the "Nightly News" anchor also announced that the story was "for all those who quietly suffer at the gas pump every day across this country, watching those numbers fly by."
The AP loves their hit piece reporting, don't they? Hot on the tail of the terror plot being stopped by the British, AP has let us all know of that nefarious "Bush staff" that wants to eliminate funds to develop bomb detection devices here in the USA.
In "Bush staff wanted bomb-detect cash moved," AP writer John Solomon took what was a common request for a re-direction of funds from one thing to another and turned it into an overarching plot by the Bush administration to materially harm Homeland Security. Worse, he tried to contrast this everyday Washington budget activity to the terror plot in England to leave the reader with a feeling that Bush was trying to allow terrorists to get away with the kinds of plots that the Brits uncovered.
Four states, four regions, four local authors giving folksy, personalized takes on the candidates and the issues. You can't knock the Times' choice of format for giving readers a sense of Senate races across the country. But when it came to substance, it soon became clear that just beneath the authors' fly-over state surface lay Upper West Side attitude.
Setting the tone, author Deirdre McNamer might have found the only farm equipment store manager in Montana who makes "taking care of the homeless" his first priority. The Dem candidate's barber was also brought in to accuse the Republican in the race of "lies [and] cheap shots," complaining for good measure about money spent on the Iraq war.
'Wishin' and hopin' and 'Thinkin' and prayin', 'Plannin' and dreamin' 'Each night of his charms, 'That won't get you into his arms.' - Dusty Springfield, 'Wishing & Hoping'
If E.J. Dionne's wishes were horses, Democrats would ride them to the White House. In his WaPo column of today, The End Of the Right?, the liberal pundit foresees the fall of conservatism. The immediate springboard for his prediction was yesterday's failed vote for an increase in the minimum wage. According to Dionne:
"The most obvious, outrageous and unprincipled [conservative] spasm occurred last night when the Senate voted on a bill that would have simultaneously raised the minimum wage and slashed taxes on inherited wealth.
Nothing can put a bigger smile on an old cynic’s face than the normally predictable throwing a twelve to six curveball. Such is what occurred this morning when I opened up a Newsweek article by Robert Samuelson entitled: “Utterly Shameless; How could President Bush publicly brag about a federal budget with a $296 billion deficit?”
After seeing that head and sub-line, I prepared to do battle with what I expected to be the usual liberal mantra concerning budget deficits. Unfortunately, Samuelson didn’t cooperate, for scattered throughout his text was more sense coming from a Newsweek columnist not named George Will than I had seen in decades.
Now, I must caution the reader ahead of time to be prepared for some almost unprecedented sanity from this unlikely source (emphasis mine):
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts on Tuesday delivered short items on how this year's budget deficit will be $296 billion, down substantially from the administration's predication of $423 billion, but while ABC anchor Kate Snow and CBS anchor Bob Schieffer stuck to how economic growth fueled increased tax revenue, NBC anchor Brian Williams decided to relay, without naming any names, a conspiracy theory: “Many economists and administration critics say the White House has deliberately inflated its own deficit projections in the past few years to score political points when the actual numbers came in lower." Of the three anchors, only CBS's Schieffer noted the role of tax cuts, citing how President Bush “gave the credit to his tax cuts, saying they stimulated the economy and boosted the amount of money coming into the Treasury." (Transcripts follow)
Somebody's got it wrong. In explaining the lower-than-projected deficit, President Bush today gave credit to his tax cuts. As reported in this AP article, in a speech Tuesday announcing the good news, "Bush said the improvement is due to tax cuts he pushed in 2001 and 2003" and keeping the lid on domestic spending.
But when the AP weighed in with its own analysis, it was 180 degrees opposite from the president's. Here's what the AP reported as fact:
"Several rounds of tax cuts, including Bush's signature $1.35 trillion tax cut in 2001, also contributed to the return to deficits four years ago after four years of budget surpluses."
In a chock-filled first half-hour of Today, the family of one the soldiers murdered in Iraq shared their grief and pride, Andrea Mitchell got it all wrong about conservative discontent, and White House spokesman Dan Bartlett declined to rise to Matt Lauer's bait.
Although the appropriateness of publicizing the grief of bereaved families is often debated, their dignity is a frequent source of inspiration. Here, the father of PFC Thomas Tucker of Oregon, reportedly tortured and murdered by the new al-Qaeda leader in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Zarqawi, spoke with simple eloquence:
"We don't understand the big political picture. We understand what has happened. Our son has died for the freedom of everybody in the United States. We are very proud of our son."
The writers of The New York Times apparently think that every day's a good day to bash the Bush administration. And any hook will work, whether it's factually correct or not. Today's example comes from yesterday's Times, and Niall Ferguson. He's got a long piece about the burgeoning Federal debt.
Well, I'm all in favor of concern about the debt, because I'd rather have a lower debt than a larger. (I rather suspect that, as a matter of policy, the New York Times would not agree with me on the proper means for lowering the debt, but we'll leave that aside for the moment.)
So, what exactly is Ferguson's take?
Since becoming president, George Bush has presided over one of the steepest peacetime rises ever in the federal debt. The gross federal debt now exceeds $8.3 trillion. There are three reasons for the post-2000 increase: reduced revenue during the 2001 recession, generous tax cuts for higher income groups and increased expenditures not only on warfare abroad but also on welfare at home. And if projections from the Congressional Budget Office turn out to be correct, we are just a decade away from a $12.8 trillion debt — more than double what it was when Bush took office. [emphasis mine]
To paraphrase Douglas Adams, "this is obviously some strange usage of the word peacetime that I wasn't previously aware of." Even if you want to describe the 1990s as "peacetime" despite the fact that we had troops active in Iraq (and Somalia and Bosnia), it is difficult to comprehend how someone could describe the period since 9/11 as "peacetime." After the United States was clearly attacked, we have responded militarily, removing the governments of two different nations in the past 5 years, with all of the military costs that those operations have required. There's no legitimate usage of the word "peacetime" in that context. The only reason that you would use that word is to make a false comparison that makes the Bush administration's performance look worse than it has been.
How unusual to see something like that in the New York Times...
New York Times reporter Robert Pear tapped out another article for Thursday’s editions highlighting "conservatives" versus opponents who are merely "Democrats." In fact, Pear used "fiscal conservative" today more times than the New York Times has used the term "fiscal liberal" in 25 years.
The headline read: "Fiscal Conservatives Heighten Fight Over Pet Projects." Pear began: "A battle for the soul of the Republican Party flared up in Congress this week as fiscal conservatives heightened their attack on pet projects stuffed into spending bills with the consent of House leaders."
Overall, as Pear trailed Rep. Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, as he attempted to keep a lid on spending, his story used "fiscal conservatives" four times, not counting the headline. Meanwhile, his opponents were only identified by party affiliation, among them, "Marcy Kaptur, Democrat of Ohio," sticking up for tomato money, and "Mike Thompson, Democrat of California," defending federal spending on the "health benefits of wine."
It must have been a dream come true for the folks at NBC, as well as all those associated with the long-time comedy variety show “Saturday Night Live.” Last night, NBC welcomed former vice president Al Gore to open the show posing as America’s president addressing the American people five years after having "overwhelmingly" won in 2000 (hat tip to Expose the Left with video link to follow). In reality, despite the obvious left-leaning bias, this was a good piece of comedy, with Gore doing a very fine job. Some of the highlights:
“In the last 6 years we have been able to stop global warming. No one could have predicted the negative results of this. Glaciers that once were melting are now on the attack.”
“Right now, in the 2nd week of May 2006, we are facing perhaps the worst gas crisis in history. We have way too much gasoline. Gas is down to $0.19 a gallon and the oil companies are hurting. I know that I am partly to blame by insisting that cars run on trash. I am therefore proposing a federal bailout to our oil companies because - hey if it were the other way around, you know the oil companies would help us.”
“On a positive note, we worked hard to save Welfare, fix Social Security and of course provide the free universal health care we all enjoy today. But all this came at a high cost. As I speak, the gigantic national budget surplus is down to a perilously low $11 trillion dollars.”
“There are some of you that want to spend our money on some made-up war. To you I say: what part of ‘lockbox’ don't you understand?”
“There have been some setbacks. Unfortunately, the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Michael Moore was bitter and divisive. However, I could not be more proud of how the House and Senate pulled together to confirm the nomination of Chief Justice George Clooney.”
What follows is a full transcript of this sketch courtesy of Crooks and Liars, and a video link courtesy of Expose the Left.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday's front page that House and Senate Republicans reached agreement on extending "President Bush's deep cuts to tax rates on dividends and capital gains," but the chart they used on the front page was a Democratic talking point. It shows that people with a 2005 income between $10,000 and $50,000 would receive nearly zero, while people making over $100,000 would have much larger returns. The source cited on the page is merely "Tax Policy Center."
But inside, readers learn that this supposedly nonpartisan center is a project of two liberal think tanks:
Middle-income households would receive an average tax cut of $20 from the agreement, according to the joint Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, while 0.02 percent of households with incomes over $1 million would receive average tax cuts of $42,000.