For quite a while now, there has been a media focus (ironic considering the TV reporters and anchors are mostly 1 percenters) on an allegedly growing gap between the wealthiest Americans and those of more modest means. Unfortunately, this is only a partial picture since income is much more predicated on stock market growth and not related to many other facets of the economy.
Writing at the American Enterprise Institute, blogger James Pethokoukis highlights a very interesting report about tax laws and income distribution which shows that when looked at the broader context, it is incorrect to suppose that U.S. tax policy has somehow created a vast disparity of wealth in this country. Two charts from his post are worth reposting here at NB:
The conventional wisdom has emerged that in order to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff,” politicians in Washington must agree to some method of tax increases (“revenue”) – which will be real, even if low taxes are not the cause of our ills -- alongside some kind of promise of spending restraint on entitlement programs, which is our problem, and which no one believes Washington will restrain.
The American left and our “objective” journalists – same thing, I know – are not helping the nation balance its budget. As usual, these partisan hacks are obsessed with tearing the Republican coalition apart, limb from limb. By empowering the GOP moderates, they drive the conservatives into exile. These liberals are dishonest, but not dumb. They have no intention of honoring a pledge to curtail wasteful spending. What they want is GOP civil war.
CNN kept pushing for Republicans to abandon Grover Norquist and his anti-tax hike pledge on Monday evening. Piers Morgan belittled Norquist and ostracized him from the debate over tax hikes.
"Why are you so concerned about protecting the vast wealth of America's small percentage of increasingly rich people? Why do you care?" Morgan pressed Norquist, adding, "Everyone laughing at you from afar." [Video below the break. Audio here.]
Throughout the liberal media's ceaseless coverage of the impending fiscal cliff debacle, they have fixated on hiking taxes on the "rich," even though doing so would come nowhere close to solving America's fiscal woes. Whatever short term gain in revenue from tax hikes will not last the federal government for very long, and another credit downgrade is inevitable if entitlement reform continues to be ignored.
Nowhere is this 'tax the rich' and 'fair share' obsession more blatant than on MSNBC, where the Obama administration's message is amplified on a daily basis. Take Tuesday's Jansing & Co for instance. Host Chris Jansing set up Huffington Post contributor Ryan Grim to advise President Obama and Democrats on the Hill, which amounted to him reiterating that going over the fiscal cliff may not be such a bad thing after all. Democrats can appear to be the tax cutters as a result, by reinstating the Bush tax cuts on all but the top income earners. [ video below, MP3 audio here ]
Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist has suddenly become liberal Public Enemy #1 as the media pressures Republicans to accede to rising taxes. Frank Bruni devoted one of his excessively personal New York Times columns Tuesday to demonizing Norquist: "Is Grover Finally Over?" The text box: "Pledges are for purists, who have no place in a democracy." Is that how the paper feels about regulatory activists like Ralph Nader?
Norquist is evidently guilty of once regaling Bruni ("on a long train ride") with the case for Mitt Romney choosing the governor of Puerto Rico, Luis Fortuño, as his vice presidential nominee. Bruni used the tale to accuse Norquist of not being a serious policymaker.
In an interview with Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett on Tuesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer was puzzled by GOP opposition to the billionaire investor's call for higher taxes: "One of the ideas being pushed out there by the Right is that if you raise taxes on the wealthy it will have a chilling effect on hiring and investment in this country....Why do you think Republicans are clinging so tightly to that idea?" Buffett replied: "Well, I think they're worried about primaries next time, but I think you're seeing people peel away from that." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Earlier in the discussion, Lauer wondered: "...you favor a minimum tax rate for the wealthy....Do you see the political will in Washington right now to accomplish that and come up with a compromise?" Buffett replied: "I think there's a general feeling among the American public certainly, and even among many in Congress, that the rich like me have been getting away with low tax rates, and that it's time to make the tax rates more progressive."
For the second time in less than 24 hours, ABC's Jon Karl on Tuesday hyped a "newfound willingness" by Republicans to compromise on raising taxes and a possible abandonment of "anti-tax enforcer" Grover Norquist. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Yet, this didn't appear enough for Karl who lamented that "even Republicans who say they are willing to violate the pledge say they will only do so by closing loopholes, not by doing what the President wants to do, which is raising tax rates." Talking to Norquist on Good Morning America, the journalist quizzed the founder of Americans for Tax Reform on pledges his organization encourages politicians to sign: "If somebody signed this 10 years ago, 18 years ago, 20 years ago, are they still bound by it?"
Billionaire Warren Buffett said Monday that there should be a minimum tax on the wealthy.
Appearing on CNN's Piers Morgan Tonight, low tax advocate Grover Norquist responded, "If he wants to write a check, he should write a check and shut up about what everybody else should do" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
ABC anchor Diane Sawyer and correspondent Jonathan Karl on Monday night salivated over Republicans breaking Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. “We did see a sign the paralysis may be ending,” Sawyer relayed over “Tax Revolt?” on screen, touting “a Republican mutiny against a man who had convinced them to take a pledge.” She soon trumpeted the “new sign of flexibility.”
As if that’s a bad thing, Jonathan Karl fretted “the pledge is the biggest obstacle to any deal that would raise taxes.” But he saw hope ahead in how “with a budget crisis on the horizon and a re-elected President insisting on tax increases, some Republicans are now thinking the unthinkable: Ditching the pledge.”
After smiling on Republicans who stepped away from Grover Norquist's no-tax hike pledge, CNN pressured the GOP House Majority Whip to raise income tax rates on Monday's The Situation Room.
Anchor Wolf Blitzer suggested a tax hike on those making over $250,000 a year, noting "those families and those small businesses did quite well during the years of the Clinton administration when the rate was 39.6. Why not go back to that?" [Video below the break. Audio here.]
On the November 25 broadcast of ABC's This Week, former Bush advisor Matthew Dowd continued his shift away from the Republican Party by bashing conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, saying he’s a impediment to good government. For good measure he childishly drew the connection to the name of a Muppet character on Sesame Street.
"Grover Norquist is an impediment to good governing…and the only good thing about Grover Norquist is he’s named after a character from Sesame Street…and that’s the last I hope we hear of him,” according to Dowd. It’s sad that some on the Right feel that fighting for the American taxpayer is “an impediment to good governing.”
Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell sung from the same liberal sheet music on Monday's CBS This Morning as they tried to get Republican Senator Bob Corker to commit to higher federal taxes. Rose wondered if the Corker was "prepared, as others are doing, to...say, I'm going to forgo the [anti-tax hike] pledge because it is outdated and the country's problems are too big." O'Donnell asked the Tennessee politician if he was "willing to also raise the capital gains rate."
O'Donnell also cited "independent analysis" by the Tax Policy Center, but omitted that it is a project of two liberal organizations - the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution.
CNN broke out the pom-poms on Monday and cheered the Republicans who reneged on Grover Norquist's no-tax hike pledge. CNN contributor John Avlon lauded them as "profiles in courage."
Avlon quipped that now "people don't fear the Grover. And that's a good thing, you know." Anchor Carol Costello clearly liked the GOP mutiny, asking "how excited should we really be by all of this talk of throwing Grover Norquist under the bust [sic]?" [Video below the break. Audio here.]
Deck the halls! The Obamas were Christmas shopping on "Small Business Saturday," and spurring economic growth with their consumer spending. Economic activity that may come to an abrupt end if we take the plunge off the fiscal cliff.
CBSNews.com reporter Lindsey Boerma wrote on November 24 about the outing detailing how, “accompanied by his daughters Sasha and Malia, the president journeyed across the river to One More Page Books, which the White House described as an "independent, neighborhood bookstore." After consulting his Blackberry for an apparent holiday wish list, he purchased 15 children's books before even browsing the store.” But is President Obama really pro-small business?
Talking to chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd on Monday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie enthusiastically touted: "...we've seen a few Republicans peeling off from a pledge they signed to Grover Norquist, who, of course, is a lobbyist, an anti-tax lobbyist, who's been very powerful among conservatives. Is that a significant move?"
Todd replied by urging the rest of the GOP to similarly abandon core conservative principles: "I'll be impressed when you start seeing House Republicans do it....where it looks like Republicans are softening, it's Senate Republicans. If this deal could be cut between the Senate Republicans and the White House, we wouldn't even be talking about this...the fiscal cliff wouldn't be an issue."
This morning the Obama administration's "National Economic Council & Council of Economic Advisers" jointly released "The Middle-Class Tax Cuts' Impact on Consumer Spending & Retailers." Among the howlers in this non-economic political document: "Independent Economic Analysis Clearly Demonstrates Why We Need to Extend the 2001/2003/2010 Tax Cuts for the Middle-class." But not everyone else? Don't high income-earners spend money too?
The primary thrust of the administration's release is that, in regards to negotiations to avoid the "fiscal cliff," is the predictable class warfare clarion call, complete with kidnapping-related rhetoric: "There is no reason to hold the middle-class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the highest income earners." The word "hostage" appears three times in the first two pages of the document. The subtext, of course, is that the hostage-holders are the Republicans in Congress, particularly the House of Representatives. At the Politico, Byron Tau ignored this classless, tasteless partisan tack by supposed professionals:
Ah, Thanksgiving. A time for Americans to come together, be grateful for their blessings—and tell people with different politics to stuff it?
That's apparently Ed Schultz's take on the holiday. On his MSNBC show this evening, gloating over his presumption that taxes will be going up on the top 2%, Schultz sent this warm 'n fuzzy message to John Boehner: "think about it over your turkey and stuffing Speaker Boehner. And by the way, you can put some gravy on that--and you know the rest of the sentence." View the video after the jump.
CBS News political director John Dickerson all but crossed his fingers on Wednesday's CBS This Morning as he forwarded the idea of letting the country go over the looming fiscal cliff so President Obama could gain the political advantage: "There is an argument for actually...letting this happen. The President gets even more leverage."
Dickerson explained that "if the so-called fiscal cliff happens, taxes go up for everybody; then, you have a conversation about – not about raising taxes, but about, then, cutting taxes." So, the President and Congress will look good for supposedly cutting taxes after raising them?
It's been over a week since the Michael Bastasch at the Daily Caller exposed EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's use of alias email accounts to conduct official business. A Monday evening Investor's Business Daily editorial noted that this practice is more than likely illegal, because "Federal law prohibits the government from using private emails for official communications unless they are appropriately stored and can be tracked" -- something which can hardly be done if non-flagged Jackson accounts are under names like "Richard Windsor."
Despite the obvious journalistic hot buttons of government secrecy and stonewalling (the Competitive Enterprise Institute has been trying through freedom of information requests since May and a lawsuit filed a few months later to get the EPA to reveal the contensts of "certain correspondence on the secondary email account assigned to" Ms. Jackson), establishment press coverage has been virtually non-existent.
During Friday’s broadcasts of the PBS's NewsHour and NPR’s All Things Considered, liberals continued with their narrative about the fiscal cliff, and how it’s not all that bad. Previously, Mark Shields and E.J. Dionne agreed with New York Times-style Republican David Brooks that they would go off the cliff. The Washington Post's E.J. Dionne equated it with the “will of the people.”
But now, the Post’s Ruth Marcus and E.J. Dionne insist that the cliff isn’t a cliff. It’s actually a well-defined “slope." But in the words of Joe Biden, “this is a big f***ing deal.”
The media's preoccupation with tax hikes over spending cuts continued on Sunday's State of the Union, with CNN's Candy Crowley pitching a millionaire's tax hike while not mentioning spending cuts once.
"Senator, there has been some thought on your side as well that perhaps $250,000, that if you could get the House to go along with something, that perhaps $250,000 is too low to be raising taxes, that maybe you could make it a genuine millionaires' tax that might be more palatable. What about something like that?" Crowley pressed Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). [Video below the break. Audio here.]
Schlockumentary filmmaker Michael Moore had some straight talk for Barack Obama Monday.
In a letter to the President published at the perilously liberal Huffington Post, Moore advised Obama to "DRIVE THE RICH RIGHT OFF THEIR FISCAL CLIFF" while putting an end to "the s***ting on the poor."
In a Friday report at the Associated Press on Friday with a celebratory headline ("2 YEARS AFTER IPO, GM IS PILING UP CASH"), Auto Writer Tom Krisher described bailed-out General Motors as "thriving," but didn't identify one of the important reasons for that characterization.
In paragraphs about the company's profitability and cash stockpile, Krisher failed to note that the company still hasn't paid any U.S. income taxes since emerging from bankruptcy, or why that's the case (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Two ABC News stars have proven, once again, the media’s obsession with raising taxes over any effort to cut a cent of spending. Two days after the election, anchor Diane Sawyer repeatedly pushed House Speaker John Boehner to move away from a conservative position and agree to President Obama’s wish to hike income tax rates, but on Sunday’s This Week, Martha Raddatz refused to press House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi about getting Democrats to shift from their position and accede to any reduced spending.
Instead, she quizzed Pelosi about getting Republicans to accept a tax hike and how to get around such intransigence: “Have you seen any indication that the Republicans are open to raising rates?”
Nuns on the Bus tour leader Sister Simone Campbell appeared on MSNBC's The Cycle on Thursday afternoon to discuss her ministry, which predictably led to her left-wing agenda becoming the focal point of the conversation. The only host to take issue with her talking points was token conservative S.E. Cupp, who was armed with facts and figures that the good sister could not rebut except by adamantly insisting they were "really wrong." That's when it started getting a little tense. [ video below, MP3 audio here ]
Despite CNN correspondent Dana Bash's claim that "neither side has a really clear mandate" from the election, CNN anchors went ahead on Tuesday and Wednesday and pushed Republicans to admit that President Obama has a mandate to raise taxes by virtue of his party's election gains.
On Tuesday night, Piers Morgan called Paul Ryan's denial of a mandate "ridiculous, given President Obama was re-elected, he's got the perfect mandate. The American people have spoken and they've said, we're re-electing you. He can raise taxation if he wants to, can't he?" [Video below the break. Audio here.]
Well, there's one little bit of good news in Martin Crutsinger's final report on yesterday's release of the federal government's October Monthly Treasury Statement (I did a review of his initial take yesterday [at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog]). The good news is that Crutsinger, unlike in most months during the past several years I have reviewed such reports, actually identified the single-month amount of money the federal government spent in October, namely $304 billion. We'll see if he continues the practice of reporting single-month spending amounts in future months.
The rest of Crutsinger's coverage is typically pathetic and predictable. He failed to correctly define what the deficit really is for his readers, understated the impact on fiscal 2013 of any tax or spending decisions the President and Congress might agree on, ignored the likelihood that receipts in teh coming year are likely coming back to levels last seen in fiscal 2007 (meaning that virtually the entire problem facing the country has to do with spending, not collections), and engaged in the seemingly required exercise of blaming George W. Bush for running deficits (not disclosed as far smaller) and conducting wars Congress agreed to fight before Obama came into office. As I said, typically pathetic and predictable.
Unless today is a total surprise and runs contrary to most of what we've seen during the past four years, President Obama will go through another "news conference" without a great deal of difficult or aggressive questioning from the assembled press corps.
Carrie Budoff Brown and Josh Gerstein at the Politico seem to think otherwise, and have produced a lame list of seven questions they think Obama will be asked -- so lame that one of them has to do with recently passed marijuana-legalizing initiatives in the states of Washington and Colorado: