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.
On Friday's Countdown show, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann plugged the Rolling Stone cover story by historian Sean Wilentz which argued that George W. Bush may be the worst President ever, citing the opinions of over 400 historians. As he introduced his interview with Wilentz, Olbermann sympathetically referred to the recently fired CIA employee who leaked classified information on the agency's use of secret prisons in Europe in the War on Terrorism, calling her a "whistleblower," and asked the question: "President Bush, whose administration is now firing, perhaps prosecuting whistleblowers, is he simply the worst?"
While introducing the segment, Olbermann listed several of Wilentz's attacks against Bush without challenging their validity, including accusations of "fabricated evidence" of WMD, a "retro fiscal policy" of "massive tax cuts" for the wealthy that "racked up monstrous deficits," and a criticism citing an unnamed Republican strategist who claimed that the Republican Party is "the first religious party in U.S. history." Olbermann, who perennially makes comparisons between George Orwell's novel 1984 and the Bush administration, managed to work in yet another reference to Orwell as he ended the interview mocking the administration's use of the term "pre-9/11 thinking," charging that Bush would accuse Wilentz and the other historians of being "guilty of pre-9/11 thinking, as George Orwell might have said." (Transcript follows)
On to promote his new children's book Billy Crystal couldn't resist taking a shot at the President on this morning's Today show. Crystal, opening to an illustration of a grandfather in his book let this zinger fly: "So we try to make them, [the] guy look like an everyman but look at this, if you can get in close, doesn't he look like President Bush?"
Lauer: "He does. He really does."
Crystal: "Just telling this little baby you have a $9 trillion dollar debt you can't pay off. Isn't that nice?"
In a conversation about gas mileage, Charles Gibson showed he does have some understanding of how when a pie gets bigger, predictions done with static scoring, instead of dynamic scoring, are wildly inaccurate. Unfortunately, he doesn’t apply the same common sense to the affect of tax cuts on the federal deficit.
On this morning’s "Good Morning America" Gibson quizzed GMA financial contributor Mellody Hobson about the new fuel efficiency standards, "Mellody, when you do the math, first of all, we've had increases in mileage requirements in the past and I don't know that it's done anything to break our addiction to foreign oil. And secondly, if you run the math, they're increasing the requirements by 2.4 miles per gallon for SUVs and light pickup trucks over five years. That's an 11 percent improvement over five years. That's not much, is it?"
In a little half-hour online chat Friday at Washingtonpost.com, WashPost columnist/reporter David Broder complained about the "fiscal profligacy" of the federal government, but specifically against the Bush tax cuts. He sounded the familiar refrain that Americans should be having to "sacrifice" more for the war, even as his questioners pointed out tax cuts are popular.
Ontario, Calif.: David, A recent NBC poll disclosed that nearly 60 percent of the American people "strongly" or "somewhat strongly" support "making the President's tax cuts of the past few years permanent." Do you think that in the face of this much popular support, the Democrats will be able to stand on principle and display the political will and unity necessary to defeat this questionable plan?
Washington Post reporter Thomas B. Edsall hits the front page today with a story headlined "Grants Flow to Bush Allies On Social Issues." Edsall reports that a bevy of tiny crisis pregnancy centers and abstinence groups have seen their budgets double and triple through federal grants from groups established as part of President Bush's faith-based initiatives.
Edsall briefly refers to the left in his opening: "For years, conservatives have complained about what they saw as the liberal tilt of federal grant money." What they saw as liberal? And yet, Edsall can't use the C-word enough in this story, about 13 times. It was especially overdone in this late passage:
According to a large story in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on January 26th, income inequality is widening. Wrote David Westphal, "income inequality is likely to deepen beyond its growth of the 1980s and 1990s, when incomes of affluent Americans grew more than three times faster than those of the low-income."
"Inequality is growing in all parts of the country," said Jared Bernstein, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
"Certain trends have been favoring the left for the past several decades. In the early 1960s, transfer payments (entitlements and welfare) constituted less than a third of the federal government's budget. Now they constitute almost 60 percent of the budget, or about $1.4 trillion per year. Measured according to this, the US government's main function now is redistribution: taking money from one segment of the population and giving it to another segment. In a few decades, transfer payments are expected to make up more than 75 percent of federal government spending."
Federal spending has soared 33 percent since 2001 and will continue to surge under President Bush’s budget proposal released Monday afternoon, yet network reporters referred to imaginary “cuts” in programs and departments. On World News Tonight, ABC’s Martha Raddatz outlined Bush’s proposal to increase defense and homeland security spending before she asked: “How to pay for all this? There are no tax increases. Instead, there are a host of spending reductions. On top of the list: Slowing spending on Medicare by $36 billion through 2011." While she at least said “slowing spending,” the on-screen graphic falsely stated about Medicare: "Reduced by $36 billion by 2011.” She went on to recount how “the budget calls for doing away with or making substantial cuts in 141 programs for a saving of $15 billion,” a minuscule amount, zeroing in on how “one-third of the cuts would target education, reducing money for the arts, parent resource centers and drug-free school programs.”