CNN: Dems Acting Like 'Conservative Republicans' In Payroll Tax Debate

In its Monday afternoon coverage of the Congressional battle over extending the payroll tax cut, CNN repeatedly emphasized a Democratic advantage and claimed that the Democrats are acting like "conservative Republicans." Political analyst Gloria Borger even gave the Democratic talking point that the party roles on tax cuts have been switched.

"You know, if you're a true believer, and you're a Republican who believes that the tax cuts will pay for themselves, the question really is not how do you pay for it, but why do you pay for it, right? I mean, why pay for it at all?" CNN's Borger asked of the Republican insistence that the cuts be paid for without raising taxes elsewhere. "The Democrats, ironically, are acting much more like the conservative Republicans here," she boldly added.

"It's kind of an odd alliance, but they're actually saying we want the tax cuts but we also believe we need to pay for them," Borger said of the Democrats. "And that's where the surtax on the millionaires comes in."

Borger's colleague Wolf Blitzer immediately added that the Democrats wanted to pay for the cuts with a surtax on millionaires -- something most definitely not supported by conservative Republicans.

Although some Republicans are content with letting the payroll tax cut expire, arguing that it failed to stimulate jobs in the past year and will impact the deficit and Social Security benefits, members of both parties in Congress wish to extend the tax cut but are divided on how to pay for it.

CNN also pushed multiple times the Democrats' confidence in the debate, while noting Republican uneasiness and lack of party unity on the matter.

"[T]he President believes that he's on the right side of this issue," sounded Borger, who added that "it's clear...that the Democrats believe that they have the better side of this argument. Our polling shows that the American public is really with them, Wolf, when it comes to raising taxes on millionaires."

Correspondent Kate Bolduan followed that up with her assessment that even Republicans admit the Democrats have an advantage.  

"But I will tell you there is acknowledgment here amongst Republicans that Democrats have – seem to have a winning message here. Politically – if we can talk politically, as things often are up here – they do seem to have the upper hand," she reported.

 


CNN contributor Will Cain provided the conservative view of the matter:

"I think it's a tough argument for Democrats to make as well in we want to extend this payroll tax cut, but we don't have any room anywhere within the government spending budget to cut anything back to pay for that. And Republicans on their side had suggested just freeze government wages to pay for this. You know, why is that not a legitimate thing?"

A partial transcript of CNN's coverage of President Obama's payroll tax cut speech is as follows:

CNN
NEWSROOM
12/5/11
1:28 p.m. EST

[1:28]

GLORIA BORGER: So the Republicans are the ones who are really right now trying to figure out how to come to terms with this, and ironically it's the Democrats who are saying okay, let's extend the tax cuts. So the parties have kind of reversed roles, in an odd way.

WOLF BLITZER: Yeah. Because everybody remembers the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. They weren't offset by spending cuts elsewhere. They were just tax cuts.

(...)

BORGER: But it's clear Wolf, that the Democrats believe that they have the better side of this argument. Our polling shows that the American public is really with them, Wolf, when it comes to raising taxes on millionaires.

BLITZER: This whole notion – it – it's fascinating – this is really important. Because they have to resolve this by the end of this year. Otherwise, it will lapse, and that $1,000 per middle class family or $1,500 tax cut will simply disappear and it'll go up to the higher levels.

BORGER: Right, and then you also have a Republican presidential primary going on, don't forget Wolf. And you have most people participating in that primary saying, you know what, we ought to extend these tax cuts, but some say you need to pay for them.

BLITZER: It's not going to be an easy thing, as you point out, in the middle of a presidential race right now. It's going to be fascinating to see how the Republican candidates deal with a obviously very sensitive issue, raising taxes on the middle class.

BORGER: Which they don't – which they don't want to do. And you know, it's hard for them to make the argument that we want to keep the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but we don't want to keep these tax cuts for the middle class. That's why the Democrats believe they've got the better part of this argument, and that's why we're going to hear from the President.
 


(...)

[1:31]

BLITZER: It's always important when a President decides to add his weight, because a lot of the Republicans, at least, have been accusing President Obama of being MIA on so many of these issues. He's busy campaigning around the country. He's not getting his hands dirty, if you will, on these negotiations that are obviously involved with the Congress.

BORGER: And this is one of those situations, Wolf, where the President can really use the bully pulpit, because when the President goes into the briefing room, he makes a statement to reporters, all eyes are upon him. He's not on the campaign trail. And clearly, don't forget, the argument of the wealth gap in this country is going to be the key argument playing out in the upcoming presidential race. And this is something that's going on in Congress right now that's about to expire, and the President believes that he's on the right side of this issue. So he can take to the podium today and make an awful lot of news without having to be out on the campaign trail. It's one of the advantages of incumbency, obviously.

(...)

[1:34]

WILL CAIN, CNN contributor: Now I think, to respond to one thing Gloria said, I think it's a tough argument for Democrats to make as well in we want to extend this payroll tax cut, but we don't have any room anywhere within the government spending budget to cut anything back to pay for that. And Republicans on their side had suggested just freeze government wages to pay for this. You know, why is that not a legitimate thing?

(...)

[1:38]

BORGER: You know, if you're a true believer, and you're a Republican who believes that the tax cuts will pay for themselves, the question really is not how do you pay for it, but why do you pay for it, right? I mean, why pay for it at all? The Democrats, ironically, are acting much more like the conservative Republicans here. It's kind of an odd alliance, but they're actually saying we want the tax cuts but we also believe we need to pay for them. And that's where the surtax on the millionaires comes in.

BLITZER: But what the Democrats are doing, Gloria, and I want to take a quick break – the Democrats, they want to pay for it by raising taxes on rich people, on people earning a million dollars a year or more. A couple hundred thousand people fit into that category, and the Republicans are saying they're not going to be increasing taxes on even millionaires or billionaires, as the President likes to say.

(...)

[1:44]

BLITZER: It certainly would be a bitter pill for a lot of American families to have to swallow coming on the eve of Christmas. It's a tough political time to go ahead and tell tens of millions of American families you know what, your taxes, effectively, are going to go up next year, and here's why. It's going to be a potent political argument in this presidential election season as well.

(...)

[2:20]

KATE BOLDUAN: But I will tell you there is acknowledgment here amongst Republicans that Democrats have – seem to have a winning message here. Politically – if we can talk politically, as things often are up here – they do seem to have the upper hand. I mean, when you hear the President be able to say that Congress should keep your word to the American people here and don't raise their taxes – being able to – for a Democratic President to be targeting that message to Congressional Republicans is quite a change of fortune if you will.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014