NPR anchors are sometimes not subtle about where they stand on the issues. On Monday's edition of Tell Me More, host Michel Martin explicitly informed former RNC chairman Michael Steele that she agrees with freshman Rep. Frederica Wilson (the lady who loves wearing hats) that you can't balance the budget on the backs of the poor:
MARTIN: You add in your piece that it takes an audacious stroke -- like House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan's proposal on Medicare, which we were talking about just a few minutes ago -- to break what you call the bait-and-switch of budget politics. One of the things I'm curious about, though, is how does a proposal like that help break the logjam, when so many Democrats are just viscerally opposed to it? Like you just heard congresswoman Frederica Wilson say we're not going to solve this problem on the backs of the most vulnerable. And that's how I see this.
STEELE: Well, you got to get off of that.
MARTIN: So how do you break that -- do you know what I'm saying? How do you break that logjam?
STEELE: With all due respect to the congresswoman, I would agree with her that yes, you know, a lot of the heavy spending that we see, and a lot of the deficit growth that we've seen, began in the Bush years. But it went through the roof over the last two years, in terms of the spending side of this. And the reality of it is, we've got to focus more in terms of the amounts of cost that these programs - whether it's a Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security program, a defense program, whatever it happens to be - to see: Is that dollar that we're spending really returning to us some real value?
Having announced her position as a liberal Democrat, Martin then pressed on with Frederica Wilson's (and her) point of view:
MARTIN: Let me just press you on one point, which is -- that congresswoman Wilson made. She says that the reason that the country is in the debt situation that it's in now -- reminding us that in January of 2001, the budget was balanced; there was, in fact, a surplus; and that the reason that we are in the position we are in now is that there were two large tax cuts, that there were spending increases. But for the first time in U.S. history, there were two wars waged solely on borrowed funds-- which were then followed, of course, by the recession, which of course drove - and it - so...
STEELE: She's absolutely right. I mean, the prescription drug program - totally unnecessary spending. And a lot of fiscal conservatives had deep heartburn about programs like that, that came along. I like to call it big government Republicanism that spent a lot more than the nation was taking in. Anytime you're cutting taxes and continue to spend more, that's an automatic deficit. I mean, just do the math.
But the reality of it is, you know, you can talk about what Bush did, but you also need the - the congresswoman also has to be honest about what President Obama has done. The trillions of dollars that have been spent in the last two years - on stimulus money that hasn't stimulated anything, on a health-care program that has a lot of due and payable, that was not paid for.
In her interview with Frederica Wilson (one in an ongoing series), Martin suggested conservatives had an electoral mandate, and that there was a "logjam" on a spending agreement before raising the debt ceiling, but didn't press Wilson on how refusing to touch entitlement spending in any way is a "solution" to the long-term debt problem:
WILSON: We cannot - we must not tamper with Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. And I think to do so would be giving the Democrats a new majority in the House on a silver platter. So I think that the seniors in our community, and even the children of seniors, and people in our nation will fight this Medicare overhaul, and this Medicaid overhaul, that the Tea Party people are trying to push down the throats of the American people. They have gotten beat up about it. And I think that's what's going to be the logjam. I think that's going to break the logjam.
MARTIN: But people who, well, as you know - you're only one of nine freshmen Democrats in your class -- the reason that the House changed hands is that a lot of people who were, in fact, backed by the Tea Party were elected in the last election cycle. So their argument is that they have a mandate to do this. What do you say to that?
WILSON: I say to them that the mandate is not to destroy Medicare. The mandate is not to destroy Medicaid. And the mandate is to leave - is not to destroy Social Security. So that's where we have a problem. This is all about choices and values and priorities. And all people need health care. And all seniors need the same kind of understanding and humane treatment - whether they are Republican, Democrat, independent, black, white, fat, skinny, whatever you are. They need Medicare. And we should not be tampering with Medicare to balance a budget while giving tax breaks to the very rich and to oil companies.
MARTIN: And finally, before I let you go -- and we're going to hear from Michael Steele in a minute, as I just mentioned -- in a piece for The Root, he wrote that part of the problem here is that what he calls, quote-unquote, establishment types are just not willing to get off the dime. They're not willing to move off their positions in order to come to an agreement, and that that's what's going to have to happen if this problem is going to be solved. So what would you say to that?
WILSON: Well, what people need to remember is that the debt exploded under President Bush, and that's what Michael Steele needs to understand. Through two wars that were not paid for; prescription drug deal that gave away billions to insurance companies that was not paid for; and massive tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent. He has to be real. We have to get behind closed doors and hammer these issues out, and come back to the table with a solution to help all people.
And I think once the word gets out to Republicans, and to Tea Party people, about Medicare and Medicaid - they had town hall meetings here in Florida, Republican town hall meetings. And they were booed when they talked about Medicare and Medicaid, all up and down the coast of Florida. So that's going to be the breaking point.
Martin also failed to press Wilson that repealing corporate tax breaks for oil companies doesn't exactly raise trillions in revenue. Martin was balanced in her guests, but not in her questions (or her proclamations).