New York Times's Sheryl Gay Stolberg profiled White House chief of staff and "fiscal cliff" negotiator Jacob Lew (who may be the next Treasury secretary) on Sunday's front page, calling liberal Lew "a policy nerd" who "morphs into a warrior" when it comes to helping the poor. Yet he's also a "pragmatist," just like his boss Barack Obama, and also makes "a mean potato kugel."
Former Newsweek editor Howard Fineman apologized on Monday for his "inadvertent smear" against Grover Norquist. First reported on NewsBusters, Fineman appeared on the December 3 Hardball and slammed the President of Americans for Tax Reform. The journalist railed, "A long time before the Tea Party existed or had a name, Grover Norquist, the famous anti-tax lobbyist in Washington, was running around beginning to enforce, ayatollah-style, his edict about taxes."
Four hours after the comment, Fineman tweeted an apology, allowing, "Apologies to Grover Norquist and his Muslim wife for inadvertent slur on #MSNBC #Hardball, calling him 'Ayatollah' of GOP anti-tax movement."
During the panel discussion on Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, CNBC Mad Money host Jim Cramer launched an assault against Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist for holding Republicans to a pledge not to raise taxes: "What this is about is avoiding a recession which is going to happen....You're going to sacrifice that on the cross of two percent. Is that what you want?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Norquist, a fellow panelist, shot back: "I'm supportive of the Republican position, which is we need to have economic growth, not higher taxes. If we grew at four percent a year instead of two percent a year, Reagan levels instead of Obama levels, for one decade we'd net five trillion in additional revenue. That would pay down the debt that Obama has run up with the Solyndra stimulus stuff."
New York Times Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt appeared on The Diane Rehm Show on NPR Friday and purveyed Washington's conventional wisdom about how Republicans were losing the battle of the "fiscal cliff." Leonhardt also foresaw "the end of the great era of American tax cutting."
After Laura Meckler of the Wall Street Journal brought up Republican Rep. Tom Cole taking Obama's position, Leonhardt responded: "And that is a very big deal because while the fiscal cliff talks at most have been happening behind the scenes, what President Obama has talked about the most in public is pushing Congress to vote on this extension of the Bush-era tax rates for, he says, 98 percent of the American people. The fact that Tom Cole is a powerful Republican in the House, has said, yeah, let's go ahead with that and then deal with the top 2 percent later. It would be a big victory for President Obama and something that I think many Democrats and outside observers did not expect him to get quite as easily is it looks like it might be on the verge of happening."
[UPDATE: Fineman apologized. For more, go here.] MSNBC contributor and Huffington Post editor Howard Fineman on Monday smeared Grover Norquist as "ayatollah"-like for his opposition to higher taxes. Talking to Hardball's Chris Matthews, Fineman fumed, "...A long time before the Tea Party existed or had a name, Grover Norquist, the famous anti-tax lobbyist in Washington, was running around beginning to enforce, ayatollah-style, his edict about taxes." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
According to Fineman, this Middle Eastern-style pledge "has really become the core identity of the modern conservative Republican party." Anchor Matthews ludicrously described GOP fidelity to Norquist as "human bondage."
But in fact, most Americans in 2010 paid far less in total taxes -- federal, state and local -- than they would have paid 30 years ago. According to an analysis by The New York Times, the combination of all income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes took a smaller share of their income than it took from households with the same inflation-adjusted income in 1980.
ABC News continued to hype the Democratic position on the fiscal cliff, Sunday. World News Reporter David Kerley touted the White House as "confident with the stronger hand in talks with House Republicans, demanding and believing tax rates for the wealthy are going up."
The reporter did play a clip of Boehner rejecting tax increases, but Kerley made sure to point out the Speaker "hasn't outlined possible cuts." In one of multiple clips of Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary lectured, "They have to come to us and tell us what they think they need. What we can't do is to keep guessing. "
Appearing on Monday's MSNBC Morning Joe, NBC chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd shared some inside information: "So I threw the Lincoln analogy at a close aide to the President last week, and he said, 'You know, with this Republican – with the way politics of Washington are today, there'd still be slavery.' That Lincoln wouldn't have been able to navigate the polarization..." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Rather than dismiss such a nasty partisan attack, Todd observed: "It was an interesting and depressing observation from this very smart White House aide."
On today's Morning Joe, asked by substitute host Willie Geist how much of the tough talk by Republicans and Dems over the fiscal cliff was posturing, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele said that 80% was posturing, then added "a lot of it is, let's see how big yours is versus mine."
Steele was careful to suggest he was simply talking about the size of the two parties' respective . . . plans. But between the smirks, raised eyebrows—and an immediate intervention from Geist—it seemed obvious that Steele was making a macho allusion to something else. View the video after the jump.
In a colorful demonstration of the Washington press corps’ disdain for Grover Norquist and his anti-tax pledge, on Sunday’s This Week, a flustered ABC News/NPR veteran Cokie Roberts blurted out: “It’s...politically smart to cut the knees out from under Grover Norquist. I mean this guy is, you know, who is he? He’s an unelected lobbyist.”
She soon urged that “a certain amount of saying ‘the emperor has no clothes’” about Norquist is helpful. “To say that, I think is very useful.”
"A massive tax increase, no entitlement reform, and no restraint on borrowing," is what President Obama is demanding Republicans sign off on, Fox Business Network's Stuart Varney noted on Friday's Varney & Co. That's precisely why the Democratic plan is not in any way a serious plan, NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell agreed. The only thing is the media absolutely refuse to paint the president as intransigent and bullheaded for his opposition to spending cuts, much less entitlement reform.
Over the past two years we've heard ad nauseam that we need spending cuts and tax hikes as a "balanced" approach to the budget. But now, the Media Research Center founder noted, "we've got the Senate saying that the one problem, entitlements, is now off the table" while the "White House [is] saying we don't have any plans to cut anything." "In other words, there is no plan, that should be the story," Bozell added, not this phony meme that Republican opposition to tax hikes is to blame for a stalemate. [watch the full segment below]
CNN's Ali Velshi labeled anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist a "dangerous man" on Friday for blocking a fiscal cliff compromise between Democrats and Republicans.
"Hey, speaking of the fiscal cliff, there's been all this focus on one dangerous man who stands in the way of a deal that could avert it, Grover Norquist. He is neither elected, nor has he ever run for office, so why is Washington so scared of him?" Velshi introduced his segment on Norquist. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
One bright spot of Barack Obama's re-election was knowing that unemployment rates were about to soar for the precise groups that voted for him -- young people, unskilled workers and single women with degrees in gender studies. But now the Democrats are sullying my silver lining by forcing Republicans to block an utterly pointless tax-raising scheme in order to blame the coming economic Armageddon on them.
Democrats are proposing to reinstate the Bush tax cuts for everyone ... except "the rich." (Why do only tax cuts come with an expiration date? Why not tax increases? Why not Obamacare? How about New York City's "temporary" rent control measures intended for veterans returning from World War II?)
Congress returned to "work" this week (now there's a laugh) to complete its lame-duck session before taking another holiday. Spending other people's money is a taxing experience.
Their task is to avoid the "fiscal cliff," a geological construct of their own making. It doesn't take a genius to predict both parties will try to do two things: (1) reach an agreement that will allow each side to take some credit and (2) require those who work for a living to pay government more while they come up with phony, or inconsequential spending "cuts."
A search at the Associated Press's national website on Warren Buffett's last name at about 5 p.m. ET returned two recent items which are still present there. Each item (here and here) mentions the Obama Fan of Omaha's idea to "impose a minimum tax of 30 percent on income between $1 million and $10 million, and a 35 percent rate for income above that." Neither mentions the pathetically small amount such a tax would raise while seriously impacting the ability of high income earners who own or run businesses to expand them -- or in some cases causing them to shrink.
It's the same at other establishment press outlets. Two recent New York Times items found in a search on Buffett's full name (here and here, the latter item being Buffett's own op-ed on Sunday) fail to note how little money Buffett's proposed tax hikes would raise. So how little is "little"?
NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell appeared on the November 28 edition of CNBC's Kudlow Report, in his capacity as chairman of For America.
Kudlow brought the Media Research Center founder on to discuss the fiscal cliff and the need for Republicans to stand firm on opposing tax hikes, especially in light of the liberal media's tag-teaming with Democrats. "I can't hardly pick up a newspaper or website and not see anybody blaming [anti-tax-hike activist] Grover [Norquist]," Kudlow observed. You can watch that full segment below the page break. You can also find a transcript courtesy of Media Research Center intern Ryan Robertson below ( MP3 audio here):
New York Times White House reporter Jackie Calmes celebrated President George H.W. Bush's 1990 budget deal "achievement" in her "Debt Reckoning" column Thursday, part of a new feature on the debate over the "fiscal cliff": "Looking for Lessons In the 1990 Budget Deal." The deal was blasted by conservatives as a disaster which failed to close the deficit as promised, because the proposed spending cuts never came, while income tax rates dutifully rose.
Calmes, who almost always takes the Democrats side in budget disputes, even took sides in her descriptions, calling former Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley "genial" while pronouncing former Republican White House chief of staff John Sununu "pugnacious."
On Thursday's CBS This Morning, new White House correspondent and former Fox News journalist Major Garrett bucked the "militantly non-partisan" label he gave himself over a year ago when he hyped the President's supposed populist stand in the fiscal cliff negotiations with top leaders in Congress: "President Obama is adamant about protecting existing income tax rates for middle-income earners and raising them on the wealthy."
Garrett later spotlighted how Obama "warned Republicans not to ignore his calls to protect middle-income households from higher taxes."
Once again, CNN pressed a Republican to support income tax hikes. On Thursday, Starting Point co-hosts Brooke Baldwin and John Berman tried to paint GOP opposition to tax increases as at odds with the American people and a financial expert.
"So here is one of the biggest guys in finance on the planet saying that maybe a tax rate increase should be part of a deal. Does he have a point? Can't it be part of a deal?" pushed Berman. He cited the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, who said he "wouldn't preclude" the President's plan to raise tax rates. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
In an interview with CBS News anchor Scott Pelley last week, Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein immediately brought up a highly sensitive subject that liberals in the media and highest levels of government refuse to acknowledge: entitlement spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are unsustainable at their current rate and need significant reform to ensure those programs exist in the future.
In response to the clip, MSNBC host Ed Schultz and Teamsters President James Hoffa were beside themselves on Tuesday night's Ed Show -- offended that Blankfein would voice such a "misinformed" view on national television. The only son of the notorious Jimmy Hoffa was ardently opposed to the idea that there is anything currently wrong with the system as is, to suggest otherwise is just "outrageous" he thundered. [ relevant video & transcript below ]
On Tuesday, Piers Morgan lashed out at "intransigent" Republicans and lectured RNC chair Reince Priebus that now is the time to compromise and increase taxes "to the benefit of the American national interest."
"But you Republicans led by Grover Norquist areabsolutely intransigent about allowing any raise in taxation, and yet the American public want you to do it," Morgan lectured Priebus. Later on in his show, he smacked "implacable" GOP opposition to tax increases. [Video below the break. Audio here.]
It’s the Republicans who are in a bind. They’re beholden to the will of the evil genius Grover Norquist. They’re scared to death of The Club for Growth. That's the trite liberal media narrative that CBSNews.com's Brian Montopoli furthered earlier this morning in a piece in which he forecast that the Republicans, and only Republicans, are in for a bruising in the coming weeks should a "fiscal cliff" deal not be finalized. But in doing so, Montopoli conveniently forgets that Democrats have their pressure groups that hold their feet to the fire against any significant spending cuts and/or entitlement reform.
Perhaps Montopoli doesn't watch his own network's evening newscasts. On the Tuesday Evening News, correspondent Nancy Cordes noted that Democrats and President Obama are digging in their heels against any proposed deal which addresses entitlement spending. In fact, forty-two Democratic members of the House have signed on to a bill that explicitly prohibits cuts to the welfare state.
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 ]