The saying goes that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Along the same vein, NBC’s Tim Russert never misses an opportunity to denounce a tax cut or pass along arguments in favor of raising taxes. And NBC anchor Brian Williams didn’t even have to mention taxes to lead Russert, a few minutes after President Bush finished his State of the Union address Tuesday night, to fret about how Bush hasn’t raised them. Williams noted how President Bush “is known to be very frustrated at what he sees as a large part of the population in the country, and in that chamber tonight, that doesn't seem to agree with his message that this is a nation at war.” Russert retorted: “Critics have responded by saying well, if that's the case, Mr. President, ask people for sacrifice. Democrats have pointed out it's the first war we've been involved in where the President hasn't raised the revenues or the taxes in order to pay for it.” (Transcript of the exchange follows.)
Buried a little inside my Prince William weekly section of the Washington Post on Thursday was a story by Michael D. Shear touting the boldness of new Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who will provide the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union this week. The headline is "Kaine Going Boldly Where Few Dare to Tread." This is becoming a habit. Remember Shear is the same "objective" reporter who touted Gov. Mark Warner with the recent front-pager headlined "Warner's Triumphant Legacy No Easy Feat: Bipartisan-Minded Governor Broke Tax Vow But Revived Va." Shear is amazed that Kaine is taking on the developers' lobby with slow-growth talk, and...
Bob Schieffer mostly posed unobjectionable questions on the news of the day (Hamas, Iran, etc.) to President George W. Bush in an interview conducted Friday and then excerpted on the CBS Evening News. But he did pose three inquiries from the agenda of the left which caught my attention. Schieffer wanted to know, in reference to NSA eavesdropping, if Bush thinks “there is anything that a President cannot do, if he considers it necessary, in an emergency like this?" Raising “horror stories about torture,” Schieffer cited Hubert Humphrey in pressing Bush on whether he worries the U.S. is “losing the moral high ground in some way?" Moving on to dependence on foreign oil, Schieffer touted New York Times columnist Tom Friedman’s advocacy of, in Schieffer's words, a “huge gas tax” because it’s “the only way to cause people to change their ways.” (Full quotations follow of these questions from Schieffer.)
I know this is the week between Christmas and New Years, but did CBS really need to dig up 12 year old news to fill time this morning? The subject was commercial advertising on public school buses in Colorado Springs, an outrage pretty much contained to liberals who hate commercials and lower school taxes.
In the 7:00 half hour of Wednesday’s Early Show, host Harry Smith interviewed two guests about the growing trend of school districts selling advertising space on their school busses, and once again the Early Show is more than a decade late in reporting the controversy (Christmas Card Controversy). Elaine Naleski, Director of Communications for Colorado Springs District 11 school, told Harry Smith "Colorado Springs District 11 started putting ads on busses in 1993 and it was because they couldn't pass a tax increase of any kind..." So why is this news? Could it be that CBS wanted to put on a guest that would argue that higher taxes are the answer? Gary Ruskin of the "consumer group" Commercial Alert opposed the idea of private revenue sources and called for higher taxes when he told Smith, " The answer is for school districts to band together and to demand a partial revocation of the Bush tax cuts and send it back to schools and police and fire departments that are absolutely abjectly poor." Ruskin neglected to mention that the Federal government is spending more money than ever on education, and that spending on education has risen faster under President Bush than it had under President Clinton, nor did Harry Smith feel the need to mention that fact either.
Next, Russert moved on to Iraq. As liberals, the anchors responded only to liberal criticisms of their coverage. The concept that these networks were too fervently in favor or liberals or Democrats was not entertained. But the idea that they were too soft on the Bushies was assumed to be the dominant, if not the only legitimate, critique. Said Koppel: "Do we have a right to ask critical-- not just a right; do we have an obligation to ask critical questions? And did we fall short of that prior to the Iraq War? That's a perfectly legitimate point, and I think we all have to plead guilty, to one degree or another, to having been, you know, a little bit soft on the administration beforehand."
Brokaw tried to defend the media against the Eric Altermans of the world by saying the liberal Democrats were pathetic in their opposition:
Inside the A section today, Washington Post reporters Jonathan Weisman (economics beat) and Alan Cooperman (religion beat) combine to publicize the latest stunt by religious leftist Jim Wallis. The story is headlined: "A Religious Protest Largely From the Left: Conservative Christians Say Fighting Cuts in Poverty Programs Is Not a Priority." Give the headline writer a thimble of credit for at least using "Left" in the headline, although it may seem required for contrast. But the Post makes the typical liberal Wallis assumption: that the Christian imperative to help the poor is completely synonymous with favoring government welfare programs. Christians apparently must give at the office, instead of giving from their own wallets and hearts.
NPR’s Nina Totenberg declared on this weekend’s Inside Washington that the House vote to extend the current tax rates on dividends and capital gains was “immoral” as she ridiculously claimed, in the face of ever-soaring entitlement spending, that Congress is cutting aid to the poor. Newsweek’s Evan Thomas backed her up, asserting that “we need to raise taxes...and who better to raise them on than the super-rich?" Totenberg argued of the tax rate extension vote: “I just think it's immoral to do that, not to mention fiscally irresponsible, when you're cutting people who have nothing -- from children off of Medicaid and mothers who depend on childcare losing the childcare and can't work. And then what do they do? Go back on welfare? I mean, it is, it's, I just think it's immoral." Columnist Charles Krauthammer tried to insert some rationality into the tax hike advocacy of Totenberg, Thomas and columnist Mark Shields, as he pointed ot that if the House position does not prevail and "you abolish" the current rate "you are essentially raising" taxes when that current rate expires in two years. (Transcript follows.)
The Thursday NBC Nightly News framed the House vote, to extend dividend and capital gain tax rate reductions another two years beyond their December 31, 2008 scheduled end, through a liberal prism which assumes all the money earned belongs to the government and that measures the fairness by the dollar amount of cuts for the rich versus the poor -- a silly notion since the wealthy pay most of the taxes. If the extension is not passed by the Senate and signed by the President, tax rates would rise at the beginning of 2009.
Anchor Brian Williams set up the story: “The House passed its version of a bill that would keep tax cuts for capital gains and dividends in place through the year 2010. It is a top priority for the Bush administration, but some in Congress today said those priorities are misplaced.” Chip Reid interwove soundbites from two liberal Democrats around his observation that “it was at times a furious debate, Democrats accusing Republicans of using tax cuts to reward the rich.” With a matching graphic on screen, Reid relayed how “Democrats say” that “nearly half” of the cut, 48 percent, “will go to people making more than $500,000 a year.” Reid segued to a third Democratic soundbite: “Mississippi Democrat Gene Taylor, whose district was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, says the cuts show Republican priorities are, quote, 'screwed up.'" Reid ran two Republican soundbites as he noted how “Republicans defend the cuts as an essential part of President Bush's domestic agenda. Tax cuts for investors, they say, fuel a growing economy," but he countered that with how “a non-partisan deficit watchdog says tax cuts can hurt the economy when Congress fails to pay for them." Yes, tax cuts must be “paid for.” (Transcript follows.)
Of particular interest, Simpson notes that Weisman fell hook, line, and sinker for a flawed study by a handful of Federal Reserve economists. Portions in bold are my emphasis:
Weisman hyped a flawed report from the Federal Reserve Board to draw the conclusion that the earlier dividend tax cut package “had no real impact on the stock market and prompted ‘only muted gain in total corporate payouts.’
The latest edition of "The Balance Sheet," the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP) newsletter, is up and archived on freemarketproject.com. Balance Sheet, published every week on Wednesday afternoon, provides the best of FMP coverage from the previous week on the media's bias against the free market.
You can obtain a free subscription to "The Balance Sheet" by clicking here and signing up for e-mail delivery.
Highlights from this week include FMP director Dan Gainor's take on the Fox News's special from Sunday: "The Heat is On," editor Amy Menefee's analysis of the media's hyped predictions on natural gas prices for this coming winter, and as always, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" in economic and business reporting from the past week, and yes, the New York Times makes the list, but perhaps in a way that will surprise you. All that, plus links to commentaries, analysis, research and upcoming events from experts at think tanks like American Enterprise Institute, Heritage, and Cato.
For those who missed it, on MSNBC’s “The Situation” last night, host Tucker Carlson interviewed author Peter Schweizer, whose new book “Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy,” has raised a lot of eyebrows. Some of the highlights (video link to follow):
Environmentalist Barbra Streisand spends $22,000 per year watering her lawn and gardens while she lectures Americans that they need to cut back on their consumption of such things as gasoline by getting rid of their SUVs
Anti-Wall Streeter Michael Moore, who has claimed on many occasions to not own any stock because Wall Street money is dirty money, actually owns tens of thousands of shares in many different companies, and has even owned stock in off-shore oil companies…even Halliburton
Michael Moore and Al Franken, who regularly chastise Republicans for being racist and not hiring enough African-Americans, actually have hired very few African-Americans to work for them
Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass), who has fought all of his life for higher taxes, in particular estate taxes, has done a fabulous job of avoiding them. In fact, the Kennedy family has been able to transfer between $300 million and $500 million from generation to generation while only paying $134,000 in taxes, or less than 1 percent
For those of you who were confused, that was an article in today’s New York Times complaining about the lack of tax cuts in the two reform proposals offered by the president’s advisory panel last week.
For those that missed it, Edmund L. Andrews wrote a piece this morning about the recommendations of this panel for future reforms to America’s tax code. In it, he appeared disappointed that there were no significant tax cuts being proposed:
“However sensible those ideas may be, they fall far short of a radical overhaul. Neither of the proposals would have replaced today's system with a flat tax or a pure consumption tax, the goal of many Republican conservatives. More important, neither of the proposals would significantly lower existing tax rates - a crucial attraction of the 1986 overhaul.”
Picking up on a Wednesday Washington Post story about how “the CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe,” on Inside Washington this weekend NPR’s Nina Totenberg declared her shame of her country: “We have now violated everything that we stand for. It is the first time in my life I have been ashamed of my country." Totenberg’s first thought about Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito: "We know he's very conservative." She also managed to squeeze in her near-weekly blast at tax cuts as she chided the Senate for how it “cut $35 billion from the poorest people in the country and food stamps and things like that and at the same time they're going to try to cut, boost tax, tax cuts for the wealthiest people in this country by $70 billion." In fact, the Senate proposal is only an effort to slow the rate of spending growth.
Appearing on the same show, Newsweek Assistant Managing Editor Evan Thomas asserted that Bush’s decision to dump Harriet Miers “takes him from stand-up guy to tool of the right.” Thomas urged Bush to move left and drop Rove who “is the problem because Rove's entire engine is to polarize the country.” Thomas recommended: “If he's ever going to moderate, and if he's ever going to create any kind of national unity, Rove is going to have to go."
Video of Totenberg’s “ashamed” comment, in Real or Windows Media. [UPDATE, 9:25pm EST Saturday: Version of show with ads ends seconds before Totenberg's "ashamed" remark. Details below.]
For those who have read or seen a lot of press reports since the announcement of the indictments against I. Lewis Libby on Friday, you have likely observed a growing number of quotes from White House “aides” and “insiders” concerning a state of panic and disarray within the administration. Yet, most of these reports do not give the names of the sources, and, instead, suggest that the informants wish to retain anonymity due to the current environment within the White House.
Newsweek’s Howard Fineman and Richard Wolffe wrote an article for the upcoming issue entitled, “Flying Blind,” wherein they asserted, “Team Bush is in turmoil.” To be sure, the title is quite appropriate, for not one of the eight “quotes” or paraphrases from White House “aides” identified the name of the source. In fact, two of these (the second and third bullets below) were referenced by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's "This Week" this morning:
In the upcoming issue of Newsweek, senior editor Jonathan Alter suggests that the tactics of the Bush administration have acted to lessen democracy in America.
In a piece entitled, “The Price of Loyalty is Incompetence,” Alter states, “The same president who seeks democracy, transparency and dissent in Iraq is irritated by it at home.” The premise of the article is that Bush and Company require rubberstamps of approval from all who work in the administration without any dissent if one wants to continue to be part of the team:
Left-wing pundit Eric Alterman, in today's installment of his MSNBC blog, reports a conversation with Bill Clinton in which the 42nd President indicated yet again that he thinks the media are slighting or shortchanging him.
On Saturday, Alterman -- who's probably best known to NewsBusters readers as the author of What Liberal Media? -- attended a ceremony at the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park, N.Y. at which Clinton was awarded the Four Freedoms Medal. (Tom Brokaw was awarded the Freedom of Speech Medal.) Alterman notes that he had a "nice chat" with Hillary Clinton, and then
caught up with her (perennially mobbed) husband for a minute as he was walking out and told him, politely but pointedly, that it was “nice to see him giving the guy [Bush] a little bit of hell for a change.”
When, on this weekend’s Inside Washington, host Gordon Peterson recited a list of issues Democratic congressional candidates could use against Republican incumbents -- “you've got Iraq, you've got Harriet Miers, you've got Katrina, you got Tom DeLay being indicted. You've got a lot of ammunition” -- NPR reporter Nina Totenberg jumped in to shout: "And you've got the tax cuts!" She soon offered her recommendation on how Democrats should campaign: “One of the other things is you say, 'look, we're in this mess fiscally and they want to increase the tax cuts for the most wealthy people in the United States,’ the top one half of one percent would get a hundred thousand dollars, people who make over a million dollars or something like that." (Still shot of Totenberg and John Harwood.)
Totenberg’s been on a crusade. On the same show last month, as detailed in a September 24 NewsBusters posting, she dismissed the idea of cancelling $24 billion of transportation bill earmarks, to pay for Katrina recovery, as small change and suggested that “if you canceled the tax cuts, you'd get $225 billion." A week earlier, she asserted that President Bush’s New Orleans speech “would have been a great opportunity to say, 'look, I'm for tax cuts, but we need a Katrina tax, we need to really pay, to do this and to pay for it.’" And two weeks before that, as recounted with a video clip on NewsBusters, Totenberg blamed tax cuts for the levee breakage: “For years, we have cut our taxes, cut our taxes and let the infrastructure throughout the country go and this is just the first of a number of other crumbling things that are going to happen to us.”
Spending federal money without raising taxes? Broadcasters have been incredulous at the thought, especially since Hurricane Katrina hit – so much so that 59 percent of their tax-related stories have suggested tax hikes. Reporters turned to everyone from Bill Clinton to the man on the street to fellow journalists to make the case for taxation.
A typical question from a network reporter showed annoyance at the president’s tax policy and implied that anything but raising taxes is irresponsible, sounding something like this: “The last thing in the world that George W. Bush wants to do is raise taxes, but the amount of money that we’re talking about here, we’re talking about many, many, many tens of billions of dollars. Can that be done without raising taxes?” That was ABC’s Ted Koppel following Bush’s address to the nation on September 15.
Journalists made sure the audience didn’t forget several things – namely, that Americans are paying for military operations in Iraq and that the United States has a deficit. As the Free Market Projecthas shown reporters frequently refer to deficits as if they are inherently bad, though they are actually a small percentage of a multitrillion-dollar economy and should not inspire panic.
No matter how much she gets for her state, it’s never enough.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) was unhappy last Friday night. After sparring with Senate Republicans, including her counterpart from Louisiana, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), she didn’t get what she wanted – $15 billion in hurricane-related loans to her state without any strings attached.
Now, don’t get me wrong, she did get some money -- $750 million to be exact. But the recipients are going to have to pay it back, and that’s not what Landrieu wanted. She felt that given everything Louisianans have gone through, these loans should have been totally forgivable, meaning that if the recipients didn’t want to reimburse America’s taxpayers, they didn’t have to.
A week after NPR’s Nina Totenberg, on Inside Washington, urged imposition of a “Katrina tax,” on the same show this weekend she dismissed the idea of cancelling $24 billion of transportation bill earmarks as small change and suggested that “if you canceled the tax cuts, you'd get $225 billion." She rejected the contention that would hurt the economy and forwarded the standard liberal class warfare argument that “if people who are richer in this country don't pay more, we can't take it out of the hides of poor people, which is what the conservative group that is actually in Congress that's put out earmarks of what they think we ought to cut -- Medicaid, Medicare.”
Evan Thomas, Assistant Managing Editor of Newsweek, soon chimed in to point out how “there's no law in the Bible that says a Republican can never raise taxes." He recalled how “Ronald Reagan raised taxes, you know, he cut taxes, but then he raised taxes. George Bush, the father, raised taxes.”
Complete transcript of the remarks by Totenberg and Thomas follow. UPDATE: On another weekend TV talk show, the McLaughlin Group, Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift also looked to undoing tax reductions to pay for Katrina.
In its September 19 editorial entitled “Taking Full Responsibility” – an altogether too obvious reference to President Bush’s hurricane mea culpa - the New York Times continued what appears to be a full-court press on Congress to raise taxes in order to pay for the future costs of New Orleans reconstruction. In the view of the Times editorial staff, the economic health of the nation is at stake.
To drive the point home, the Times relied heavily on some rather tired cliches about tax cuts only helping the rich and budget deficits causing interest rates to rise, while swirving in and out of sound fiscal reasoning whenever it was necessary or convenient.
On the one hand, the Times is not opposed to the government borrowing money:
“Don't get us wrong. In the main, it makes sense to borrow for huge, vital and unexpected projects (World War II comes to mind). Such borrowing spreads the immense costs over generations, all of which presumably benefit from the extraordinary spending.”
Colorado will consider a major tax increase this fall, loosening the tight taxing and spending restrictions known as the TAxpayers' Bill Of Rights, or TABOR. Some of the money raised in Referendum C will be earmarked for roads in Referenum D. As part of its attempt to influence - er, inform - the public, the Denver Post today ran the first of a four-part series, "The Truth About TABOR."
This fall, Coloradans will choose whether to give up about $500 each in tax refunds over the next five years so the state has more money for roads, schools and health care.
Under TABOR, growth in state spending is limited to population + inflation. Any money raised beyond that must be refunded to taxpayers. Each year uses last year as its baseline, meaning that should revenue fall as a result of a downturn, there's a permanent reduction in tax rates as a percentage of state GDP.
Tax cuts have been the latest craze in gas price management, but CNN’s Miles O’Brien suggested on the September 8 “American Morning” that raising taxes might be the way to go.
“I think there’s a lot of people who’d tell you long-term, raising the gas tax would be a good idea,” O’Brien said. Andy Serwer replied, “Oh yeah. That’s right. But it’s politically suicidal to suggest that, as we’ve seen.”
Serwer was reporting the amount of federal and state taxes factored into consumers’ gasoline costs, noting that Georgia had temporarily cut its gas taxes. His report on “stubbornly high” gas prices was filled with economic malfeasance:
It’s their money anyway: Serwer said other states were considering gas tax cuts. “But there’s some downside,” he said. “Number one, the states lose hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue, and number two, it may discourage conservation. On the other hand, maybe we all need a break.” The idea that tax relief is a loss to the government is the standard media approach – ignoring the fact that consumers get to keep more of their hard-earned money.
Sounding like a parody of a liberal, but in all seriousness, NPR and ABC reporter Nina Totenberg charged on Inside Washington, at the end of a discussion about how National Guard equipment deployed to Iraq is supposedly impairing rescue efforts, that “for years, we have cut our taxes, cut our taxes and let the infrastructure throughout the country go and this is just the first of a number of other crumbling things that are going to happen to us.” An astounded Charles Krauthammer pleaded: “You must be kidding here.” But Totenberg reaffirmed: “I’m not kidding.”
In fact, under the Bush administration domestic spending has soared much faster than inflation, a trend illustrated by the huge transportation bill this year packed with spending on infrastructure projects. And if infrastructure spending has suffered in some way, massive new spending on such things as a prescription entitlement program are just as responsible.
Well, we all knew this was coming. A New York Times editorial quite strongly suggests that income tax rates in our nation should now be raised as a result of Hurricane Katrina:
Congress and the president had better get the message: an extraordinary time is upon the nation. The annihilation in New Orleans is an irrefutable sign that the national tax-cut party is over. So is the idea that American voters cannot be required to accept sacrifice or inconvenience, no matter how great the crisis. This country is better than that.
Yep. With higher fuel prices, along with what are sure to be higher heating and electricity bills this winter, what all those suffering from hurricane damages definitively need is higher federal income taxes.