Here's something you don't see every day: a major American press outlet speaking ill of a campaign proposal from presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama.
Yet, there it was moments ago in an Associated Press piece amazingly titled "Obama's 'No income Taxes On Seniors' Draws Critics."
Maybe even more surprising than the AP actually reporting critical assessments of the junior senator's plan to exempt from federal income taxes seniors who make less than $50,000 a year was the authors not citing anyone that supports Obama's proposal...not one single person.
Now, I know what you're thinking: this was either a Wall Street Journal or Investor's Business Daily article. Think again (emphasis added, photo courtesy AP):
If you believe that there's a 50-50 chance that your take-home pay will be cut by almost one-fifth beginning in as little as five months from now, would that belief affect your current spending habits?
Of course it would. But that idea apparently never occurred to the Associated Press's Mark Jewell.
In the course of a 950-word article Monday about how the rich are getting more stingy, he focused on how "the economic slump" and "downturn" are affecting their spending, while ignoring the massive tax hits high-income earners will likely be forced to absorb (illustrated in detail below the fold) if Barack Obama wins the presidency and Democrats retain control of Congress.
Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein, who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, on Friday contended “it is not the protectionists of the AFL-CIO or CNN who are primarily to blame for the erosion of public support” for free trade, instead:
The blame lies squarely with a business community that continues to support Republican politicians who refuse to raise the taxes and spend the money necessary to provide the economic safety net for American workers that a free-market economy has not, and will not, provide.
In his column bannered across the top Friday's “Business” section, “Wave Goodbye to the Invisible Hand” Pearlstein argued that “just as the Gilded Age gave way to the Progressive Era and the New Deal gave way to the post-war era of big government, big business and big labor, the current era of free-market capitalism seems to be giving way to something else” as “the larger truth may be that the social and economic costs of the next increment of globalization probably outweigh the benefits for many people, and that reality has now been reflected in the political marketplace.”
Appearing as a guest on Thursday's Countdown on MSNBC, liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, also a Princeton University professor of economics, informed viewers of what he believes is "the reason to hate Exxon," which is because "it has not done anything to address the energy problem, and it's actually spent heavily on, you know, financing climate skeptics, on basically blocking intelligent policy, on muddying the waters of our debate." He also lamented that America did not follow Jimmy Carter's advice on energy policy: "If Jimmy Carter had actually managed to sell us on energy conservation 30 years ago, we would be in a lot better shape than we are right now."
As he and host Keith Olbermann dismissed the legitimacy of John McCain's plan to drill for more oil domestically to reduce gas prices, Krugman complained that Barack Obama is not being aggressive enough in attacking McCain, and recommended that Obama charge that McCain's plan is an "outrage," and that the Arizona Senator is "insulting your intelligence, he's really doing bad stuff." (Transcript follows)
In the midst of a campaign in which conservatives fret John McCain is missing opportunities by staying to the left on too many issues, Chrystia Freeland, the U.S. Managing Editor of the Financial Times based in London, declared “extremely imprudent” the conservative desire for John McCain to make a commitment against raising taxes. On Tuesday's Hardball she saw the “hard right,” not politicians unwilling to stick to a pledge, as the problem:
The first President Bush did not fare very well when he made that absolutely firm, clear campaign pledge not to raise taxes. So, you know, I think that in a way, the biggest problem John McCain is facing in this campaign is the hard right of his own party, which is trying to pin him into positions that are not really very realistic right now.
Her comment came after fill-in host Mike Barnicle read a statement from the Club for Growth rebuking McCain for saying that raising the Social Security tax is not “off the table.” Barnicle posed this leading question to her: “Can any sane politician, Chrystia, make an adamant, set in stone statement given the fact that we're a country at war with an energy crisis -- about never raising any tax under any circumstances?” She agreed “it would be extremely imprudent” to do so given the “dire economic situation the United States is facing right now.”
Following a segment on Monday’s CBS "Evening News," on Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," correspondent Chip Reid again touted Obama economic advisor Warren Buffett calling for more taxes on the rich: "Barack Obama met with his team of economic advisers Monday...But there's one who couldn't make it and had to put in his two cents by phone...Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world. Despite his billions, he says the rich are under-taxed."
Reid went on to outline Obama’s plan to remedy that under-taxing: "Obama wants to end the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year and use the money for a tax cut for the middle class." Reid also mentioned John McCain’s economic team: " John McCain is also tapping the minds of business leaders, including Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and Meg Whitman, former head of ebay. They briefed reporters Monday on the importance of tax cuts for business."
Missing a golden opportunity to correct a specious presumption of Barack Obama and his liberal supporters that the wealthy are under-taxed, CBS reporter Chip Reid on Monday night highlighted how “ending the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year and using the money for a tax cut for the middle class” is one of Obama's highest priorities and one supported by “Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world who, despite his billions, says the rich are not taxed enough.” Reid, who later in his story asserted “critics wonder how” McCain could possibly balance the budget “given his support for extending all of the Bush tax cuts,” failed to inform viewers of how the wealthy increasingly pay far more than their fair share of income taxes.
The Tax Foundation reported on July 18 that new 2006 IRS tax data revealed “both the income share earned by the top 1 percent of tax returns,” those earning $388,806 or more, “and the tax share paid by that top 1 percent have once again reached all-time highs.” Gerald Prante pointed out those top 1 percent “paid about the same amount of federal individual income taxes as the bottom 95 percent of tax returns.” The top 5 percent, those making $153,542 or more, earned 36 percent of all the reported income, but they paid just over 60 percent of the total income taxes collected.
The massive housing bailout bill, meant to prop up beleaguered government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae (NYSE:FNM) and Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) and help homeowners refinance adjustable rate mortgages, was praised in a segment on the CBS broadcast. It passed in the House July 23 and won't face resistance from President Bush.
"This afternoon, the House passed a bill that throws an estimated $25-billion lifeline to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae - the backbone of the home mortgage industry," CBS chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod said. "The bill makes it easier for both to raise unlimited capital from the government if needed and would allow hundreds of thousands of homeowners to refinance rather than face foreclosure."
Democrats in Congress may not have acted on Sen. John McCain's proposal for a summer gas tax holiday, but that hasn't stopped the Democratic National Convention from getting tax-free gas courtesy of the citizens of the Mile High City, reports the Denver Post this morning.
Filed as breaking news and published at 8:13 EDT on July 23, the Post's Allison Sherry has the scoop here. Below is an excerpt:
Since March, staffers working on the Democratic National Convention have been using the city of Denver's tax-free gas pumps to fill up their cars - and using its carwashes.
A dispute about this prompted city officials Tuesday to promise that the local host committee will reimburse the city at a market rate for gas - and pay state and federal taxes on the fuel.
Calling for tax cuts to stimulate the economy is just a call from the presidential election’s "silly season" and those who do (McCain) are "going to say anything to get elected" according to CNN financial analyst Gerri Willis. Appearing on July 21 edition of "The View,"Willis discussed many of the current economic troubles from high oil prices to the mortgage crisis. [audio available here]
Reliable liberal and Democratic partisan Joy Behar asked "how can the Republican party then say that they’re going to cut taxes in this election? How can they say that when the whole country will fall apart?" Gerri Willis changed her financial analyst cap to political analyst adding "it’s the silly season."
Earlier in the broadcast, Joy Behar brought up some past McCain jokes she finds offensive, such as the "bomb, bomb, Iran," remark. Behar felt such jokes are "inappropriate" but seemed to forget her own inappropriate jokes such as belittling the role of the saints to simply crazies and labeling men "idiots" who "think with Mr. Happy." Elisabeth Hasselbeck , for her part, added McCain does not have a monopoly on such jokes and alluded to Obama’s recent joke mocking the American people.
One of the favors the media routinely perform for liberal politicians is citing left-of-center think tanks as "non-partisan" entities, who just happen to have evidence proving the awfulness of conservative policies. A classic example occurred on the July 7 CBS Evening News, as reporter Chip Reid cited "the non-partisan Tax Policy Center" as showing how Barack Obama's "tax cuts" are superior to John McCain's.
In fact, the Tax Policy Center is the product of the left-leaning Brookings Institution and the Urban Institute. The Tax Policy Center data cited by CBS followed the liberal approach of portraying tax cuts as a government giveaway, and calculating the raw dollar value of each person's "benefit." Reid reported: "A recent study by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says Obama's plan would give a cut of more than a thousand dollars to families making between $37,000 and $66,000 a year. Under McCain's plan, they'd get just $319."
Specifically, Cheney's 2000 statement was that "we may well be on the front edge of a recession here," while Bush's 2001 claim was a milder "You know better than me that our economy is slowing down."
So what will be the reaction be to the Sunday assertion by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama that there's "little doubt" the country is in a recession, when no negative growth has occurred?
The Associated Press's Jeannine Aversa "creatively" and selectively rounded figures presented in today's Monthly Treasury Statement from Uncle Sam. That Treasury report, released this afternoon, covered monthly and year-to-date receipts and spending in the federal government.
By doing what she did, Aversa made sure we know that year-to-date receipts are down, but at the same time made Congress's overspending look less serious than it really is.
Spending of $2.2 trillion so far this year is up from $2.1 trillion reported for the corresponding period last year. Meanwhile, revenues of $1.93 trillion are down from $1.945 trillion a year ago.
Because Aversa rounded off the spending numbers to the nearest $.1 trillion while not supplying percentage changes, the average reader will think that spending is up a bit less than 5% so far this year.
A report on the economic policies of John McCain and Barack Obama by correspondent Chip Reid on Monday’s CBS "Evening News" suggested that Obama’s supposed middle class tax cut would be more beneficial for American families: "Obama's plan is to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and use the savings for a middle-class tax cut...A recent study by the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says Obama's plan would give a cut of more than a thousand dollars to families making between $37,000 and $66,000 a year. Under McCain's plan, they'd get just $319."
The "non-partisan" Tax Policy Center is actually a product of the left-leaning Brookings Institution and Urban Institute. Reid went on to explain that: "On spending, Obama wants to jump start the economy with another round of stimulus checks for taxpayers to the tune of $50 billion." After outlining McCain’s policies on taxes and spending, Reid observed: "McCain also now supports extending the Bush income tax cuts, even though he once opposed them as too generous to the wealthy. Barack Obama says McCain's switch is more evidence that a McCain presidency would be more of the same. "
At the end of the segment, Reid mentioned the candidates’ proposals on gas prices: "As for the price of gas, both candidates have elaborate plans for bringing it down in the long run but neither one offers much in the way of short-term relief." Apparently Reid forgot about McCain’s support for a temporary gas tax holiday. While the effectiveness of that policy can be debated, it certainly would qualify as "short-term relief."
During the roundtable discussion on Sunday's This Week on ABC, when host George Stephanopoulos asked why Barack Obama had not talked about the economy more in his campaign ads, ABC political analyst Mark Halperin argued that taxing the wealthy should be a strong issue for Democrats this year, although he conceded it failed when tried by Al Gore and John Kerry. Without making any mention of the case that lower taxes on all Americans is beneficial to the overall economy, Halperin merely talked about President Bush's tax cuts that "disproportionately benefitted the wealthy," and seemed to suggest that eliminating those tax cuts may help the economy. Halperin: "That's one issue, again, Gore and Kerry went up against George Bush whose tax cuts disproportionately benefitted the wealthy, one of the best issues the Democrats could have. Neither of them made it stick. I think Obama, again, compared to the last two Democrats to run, has a real chance to make that case on taxes and fairness and how to grow the economy in a way that, I think, could be one of the decisive issues in this race."
Below is a transcript of the relevant exchange between Stephanopoulos and Halperin from the Sunday, July 6, This Week on ABC:
On Monday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked to John McCain supporter Carly Fiorina and Barack Obama supporter Senator Claire McCaskill about the respective economic plans of the presidential candidates: "Bear market blues. Wall Street returns from the holiday as gas prices set another new record. Can either candidate calm America's fears?" At one point, Smith asked Fiorina: "How do we do all of this stuff? And we're not making more money, the tax rolls are not growing, the coffers are not full. We're just talking about deficit -- if nobody's going to get taxed, isn't this just going to be deficit city?" (audio available here)
While Smith did not feel the "coffers" were "full," at least not full enough for him, in reality, government tax revenue has tripled since 1965 and since the Bush tax cuts took effect in 2003, corporate income tax revenue has reached its highest level in over 20 years.
Smith began the segment by touting a new CBS poll: "The economy remains a major issue for voters as we head into the fall elections. In fact, a recent CBS News poll shows 78% of Americans think the economy is in bad shape." Considering the "Early Show’s" declaration of a recession last week it’s easy to understand such poll results.
Rush Limbaugh's new deal with Clear Channel, as flashed by Drudge (also covered or addressed here and here at NewsBusters; here at the New York Times; and here in a very long New York Times magazine article), is north of $400 million for the next eight years.
Good tax planning too: Maharushie will get his reported nine-figure signing bonus this year before a possible President Obama does his hundreds of billions in damage. Limbaugh's tax savings, if the bonus is $100 million and Obama gets everything he wants, would be a hair under $17 mil (12.4% Social Security on all but $148,000, plus the 4.6% planned increase in the top rate).
One conclusion you can reach, based on what newspaper industry watcher Newsosaur told us earlier this week, is that Old Media covering the Limbaugh story is like zombies covering the living (link in excerpt was in original):
Here we go again. Just as with 2001-2003 coverage of Bush's tax cuts which gave the greatest percent cut to those in the lowest income tax bracket (going from 15 down to 10 percent, a 33 percent reduction), ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Sunday chose to undermine the fairness of John McCain's proposed tax plan (and illustrate the media hostility sure to greet McCain whenever he takes a conservative position) by citing estimated dollar cuts by income level, as if it's unfair for someone earning more to get a larger dollar amount tax cut than someone making less.
Citing the Tax Policy Center, a project of two left of center organizations -- the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution -- Stephanopoulos reminded This Week guest Tim Pawlenty, the Republican Governor of Minnesota, how “your trademark has been that the Republican Party has to be the party of Sam's Club, not just the country club.” Stephanopoulos, who failed to hit his other guest, Democratic Congressman Rahm Emmanuel with any numbers critical of Obama's tax plan, pounced on Pawlenty:
The Tax Policy Institute [actually, Center] has crunched the numbers on John McCain's tax plan. I want to put some of them up there right now. It shows that if you're making under $60,000 a year about, the bottom 60 percent will get about $150. The top one percent of people, making about $600,000 a year, get $45,000. The top 0.1 percent -- that's approaching $3 million a year -- get almost $270,000. How do you sell that as a plan that targets Sam's Club more than the country club?
Regretting that “few grownups are concerned about the $526 billion cost so far for the Iraq war without end” because “President Bush and his rich buddies have made sure most of the monetary burden will be borne by our children and grandchildren,” USA Today founder Al Neuharth, in his weekly column on Friday, recommended “a stiff income tax surcharge” to pay for the war. But Neuharth made clear his real motive is to turn those for the war against it:
The surest way to jar us into realizing the unconscionable cost of the Iraq debacle is to impose a stiff income tax surcharge to pay for it. If we did that, most hawks would become doves overnight.
Neuharth hailed Abraham Lincoln for imposing an income tax to pay for the Civil War and stressed how the current rates in the U.S. “are below those of other major countries. France, Germany, Great Britain and Japan all assess higher rates. The Netherlands' top rate is 52% and Sweden's is 60%.”
In the past when Warren Buffett has spoken out the "super rich" needing to pay a higher tax rate, the media have hung on his every word. But, now that he has spoken out against a windfall profits tax on oil, will they notice?
"I think it is very hard to have windfall taxes," Buffett said. "Steel has doubled in price. Is that a windfall for the steel producers? Sure. Corn is $7 a bushel; soybeans are at $15 a bushel. I don't think any candidate in his right mind with the number of electoral votes in farm states would say you ought to tax farms specially because they are getting a windfall."
If, as shown yesterday (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), media reporters can't even get basic things like the fact that $1.74 x 3.5 doesn't equal anything close to $4 right, you would think that it's way too much to expect them to understand the difference between income and net worth.
To extend the life of Social Security, Obama proposed applying a payroll tax to annual incomes above $250,000, affecting the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans. The Democrat also proposed eliminating income tax for any retiree making less than $50,000.
As anyone aware of the concept of supply and demand could have foreseen, Americans are driving less now that gasoline prices have passed $4.00 per gallon. So on this morning’s Today show, NBC’s Tom Costello dutifully noted that Americans have driven 20 billion fewer miles so far this year, but then declared a “bad news” side effect of drivers buying less gasoline:
“We use federal tax money that comes from gasoline sales to maintain the nation’s roads and bridges. We’re looking at a billion-plus-dollar short fall right now, and the National Governors Association wants Congress to come in and fill the gap.”
I guess “filling the gap” could either mean hiking the tax on gasoline, or supplementing the highway fund with other tax dollars. Maybe the real “bad news” for consumers is that some politicians seem determined to collect all of the gasoline taxes they desire, whether drivers actually buy the gas or not.
Overall, the Tax Policy Center said people with very high incomes would benefit the most under McCain's proposal, while low- and middle-income taxpayers would see larger tax breaks under Obama's plan and wealthy taxpayers would see their taxes increase.
Press coverage of Barack Obama's Social Security proposal in Columbus, Ohio last week made many of the usual mistakes any time there's a story about the government's "third rail" program. But in this case it missed what would be a historic de-linkage of payments made into the system from benefits paid out.
Sen. Barack Obama promised senior citizens Friday that as president, he would protect Social Security benefits and provide universal health care.
To extend the life of Social Security, Obama proposed applying a payroll tax to annual incomes above $250,000, affecting the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans. The Democrat also proposed eliminating income tax for any retiree making less than $50,000.
..... Obama said it is unfair for middle-class earners to pay the Social Security tax "on every dime they make," while millionaires and billionaires pay it on only "a very small percentage of their income."
The sudden and shocking death of NBC's Tim Russert brought an outpouring of kindness and generosity. The deluge of coverage suggested Russert had become a very central figure in the media-political complex. He was much better known than about 500 members of Congress, and had more political clout than about that many as well. Not enough people have wondered how the un-elected media have gained so much power and influence in the nation's capital. For our part, we hailed Russert's tough but fair questioning first in 1993, when he was asking tough questions about Bill Clinton's first big tax hike. From the August 1993 edition of MediaWatch:
NBC Meet the Press host Tim Russert has added historical perspective to the budget debate by comparing the Clinton plan to the 1990 deal. On June 27, he grilled Budget Director Leon Panetta: "You raised taxes, the economy went further into recession, and there was no deficit reduction. Why is it going to be different in `92 when it didn't work in `90?" Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen received the same welcome on July 25. "1990. Congress got together with the President, raised taxes, cut defense, tried to limit Medicare growth, promised a $500 billion dollar deficit reduction....The deficit went up. Why isn't the same going to happen this year?"
In his report on Uncle Sam's Monthly Treasury Statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger incorrectly informed readers that the stimulus checks sent out by the government represented the major reason why May's monthly deficit ballooned from a year ago. The AP reporter also continued with the wire service's seemingly never-ending recession obsession.
Here's the headline, and how Crutsinger began his report:
Stimulus payments result in record May deficit
A flood of economic aid payments pushed the federal budget deficit to $165.9 billion, the highest imbalance ever for May.
The Treasury Department reported Wednesday that the May deficit was more than double what it was in May 2007. Some $48 billion in payments went out as part of the $168 billion economic relief effort to revive the economy and keep the country from a deep recession.
CNN continued to harp about "big oil’s" record profits and the Democrats’ proposed windfall taxes on companies like ExxonMobil on Wednesday. In an interview of Kansas Senator Sam Brownback on "American Morning," co-host John Roberts was amazed over the Republican’s opposition to the tax proposal. "There were a couple of other provisions in this bill. One of them were to roll back the $17 billion in annual tax breaks so that these five biggest oil companies get. Together, they made... $36 billion in profits in the first quarter this year. Why do they need $17 billion in tax breaks?" Later, during "The Situation Room," host Wolf Blitzer returned to his laser-beam focus on ExxonMobil as a particularly "guilty" part of "big oil." He asked former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, "Explain why it's appropriate at this time of rising gas prices, for ExxonMobil, for example, to get additional tax cuts."
In Wednesday's off-lead story by Michael Cooper and Larry Rohter, the New York Times found both McCain and Obama retreating to home base when it comes to economic solutions. But the Times' unconscious embrace of liberal conventional wisdom was evident in how it treated much-argued political terms like "windfall profits", "the death tax," and even "victory" in Iraq.
Bush's mild tax cuts were seen as only benefiting "the wealthy" (by whose definition?), an assertion the Times underlined by repeating it three times.
And look how the Times used quotation marks as warning flares or to suggest a conservative position was dubious. While "victory" and "death tax" were seen as partisan Republican terms and secured in protective quotes, Democrat-loaded terms like "windfall profits of oil companies" weren't put in quotes but stood unencumbered and presented as fact, even though the phrase "windfall" is calculated to make it appear oil company profits are somehow unjust or unearned.
Update | 10 AM: McCain Campaign Comments to NB on Mitchell Remarks
McCain campaign deputy chairman Frank Donatelli has commented to NB on Mitchell's remarks. See report at foot.
IMing with a friend in England this morning, Morning Joe on in the background, I was vaguely aware that an Obama staffer was on, touting her candidate's economic plan. Signing off my chat, I focused on the tube, only to realize that the Obama staffer was in fact . . . Andrea Mitchell.
Mitchell cast the battle of the candidates' tax plans as McCain's "old-fashioned" supply-side economics versus Obama's "mainstream, centrist" plans that "do help people" while responsibly "paying for everything."
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer pressed McCain campaign adviser Carly Fiorina about oil companies "awash in record profits" on Tuesday’s "The Situation Room." The CNN host used ExxonMobil as an example five different times in his questioning. "...ExxonMobil has got these billions and billions of dollars in record profits. They can afford to not necessarily get additional tax cuts."
After Fiorina outlined McCain’s proposal to lower the federal business tax rate at the beginning of the segment, which began 14 minutes into the 5 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program, Blitzer took a persistent stance in asking if the reduction in taxes included "big oil." First, the CNN host asked, "Would that reduction of the tax rate also include, as Obama says, ExxonMobil and the other big oil companies, who are awash in record profits?"