AIM Report August-B
With the country in a heightened state of economic uncertainty, at times appearing to be in a free-fall, and with the price of gold rising to record levels, Congress and the President left Washington in August. The message: “Wait until Thanksgiving and we’ll have a plan to get ourselves out of this mess, and by Christmas we’ll vote on it.” Somehow, it wasn’t enough. The idea that our elected officials are going to play deadline politics once more is unacceptable to most Americans.
The week that President Obama left for his August vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, his Gallup Poll tracking number hit its lowest point, a 39% job approval rating. Shortly after the death of Osama bin Laden in May, the Pew Research poll found him with 56% approval. Thus, barely three months after this high point of his presidency, he has dropped to his lowest approval rating following his role in the debt ceiling debate and negotiations.
Obama will likely get a short-term bump in the polls after the fall of Tripoli, the capital of Libya on August 23rd, though its dictator of 42 years, Moammar Gaddafi, remains on the lam at this writing. But the day before, a new Gallup poll showed President Obama in a statistical dead heat when measured head to head against four of the Republican contenders for the nomination. They include Mitt Romney, who leads Obama 48-46 in the poll, Rick Perry who is tied with the President at 47-47, Ron Paul trails him by only two points, 47-45, and Michele Bachmann trails Obama 48-44.
Was the Country on the Verge of Default?
In the debate leading up to the vote on raising the debt ceiling, media coverage was nothing short of outrageous in their attempt to influence the outcome. For weeks there were constant references to August 2nd being the date we would default on our debt, but it was utterly false and they knew it. ABC kept showing on the screen a “Countdown to Default” clock, ticking away to August 2nd. CNN ran similar graphics, as did all the networks, including the Fox News Channel. MSNBC was, not surprisingly, the worst offender.
Default occurs only if and when the U.S. fails to make interest payments to the bondholders on the debt it owes. Not only was August 2nd not ever the day that the U.S. was going to default on its debt, but the issue could have easily be taken off the table, and President Obama could have calmed the markets by announcing that under no circumstances would he allow the U.S. to default. He could have made that assurance simply by saying that he would make that payment the highest priority until a deal was reached in Congress. Instead, he chose to have the debt ceiling “used as a gun against the heads” of Americans, which is exactly what he accused the Republicans of doing at his Twitter town hall meeting. This was language that was supposed to be no longer acceptable after the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson last January.
Obama and other members of his administration threatened Social Security beneficiaries that they might not get their checks, and active military duty personnel were even told that they couldn’t necessarily count on their pay.
It turned out, however, according to Charles Gasparino of Fox Business News, that the Obama administration had called major Wall Street banks to assure them that the U.S. wouldn’t default on its debt. The idea, presumably, was to assure the banks, while keeping the pressure on Congress, and in addition, to get the banks to lobby on the administration’s behalf. So it was the American people to whom his administration was being dishonest.
Another egregious falsehood revealed a lack of understanding, or willingness to deceive, about the difference between the deficit, the national debt and projected future debt. For example, from Jake Tapper of ABC News: “The president continues to push for a ‘grand bargain,’ buoyed by the bipartisan ‘Gang of Six’ proposal that would reduce the deficit by $3.7 trillion over the next decade through spending cuts and tax increases.”
From Stephanie Condon of CBS News: “The deal would reduce the deficit by nearly $4 trillion…”
President Obama in his July 25th prime time address to the country said, “This balanced approach asks everyone to give a little without requiring anyone to sacrifice too much. It would reduce the deficit by around $4 trillion and put us on a path to pay down our debt.”
This misuse of the language has been the rule, not the exception. As explained on the Treasury Department’s own website, “The deficit is the difference between the money Government takes in, called receipts, and what the Government spends, called outlays, each year.” The same website says, “One way to think about the debt is as accumulated deficits.” This is basic economics, but astonishingly the President and most of the media consistently got it wrong. The question is, was this done on purpose, to mislead, or do they not understand the difference?
But what they were really talking about is that under President Obama’s ill-fated budget put forth in February of this year—the only one put forth by Democrats since April of 2009, in dereliction of their constitutional duties—he projected spending of some $46 trillion over the next 10 years. A $4 trillion cut means they would still be spending $42 trillion over that period. It’s not a reduction of anything other than the stated, but unrealistic, intentions of a 10-year budget with a four percent growth rate. It also assumes the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, passed in 2001 and 2003, which would supposedly generate $3.5 to $4 trillion in projected revenues, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimate, based on so-called static scoring, over that same period. If the Bush tax cuts were to expire, it would almost certainly be a huge blow to an economic recovery.
Obama’s budget proposal, which was defeated in the Senate by a 97-0 vote, contained assumptions that are unrealistic, and it assumed that while we are now spending $3.7 trillion a year, the annual budget will average $4.2 trillion over the next decade. However, the size of the deficits each year is completely unpredictable and unknowable, and Congress is supposed to pass new budgets each year. In other words, the numbers are meaningless.
Even if things went well, in terms of growth rates and spending cuts, we would still increase the total debt by $7 trillion during that period. The first quarter of this year, we grew at .9%, and there is little to indicate the economy is on the verge of a resurgence.
Though the liberal media rarely attempt to hold Obama accountable, even for his own words, CNS News discovered, or rediscovered, a sound bite from presidential candidate Obama that is a ready-made campaign ad against him for 2012. He criticized then-President Bush, and questioned his patriotism, based on the amount of debt increase on his watch:
“The problem is,” said Obama on July 3, 2008, “that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents – #43 [Bush] added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back—$30,000 for every man, woman and child. That’s irresponsible. It’s unpatriotic.”
Those words might well come back to haunt candidate Obama in 2012. With the recent increase in the debt ceiling, we are poised to climb to $17 trillion-plus in his first term in office, and that $30,000 figure is about to be $47,000 per person. The CBO announced in late August that for the third straight year the annual deficit exceeded $1 trillion and is expected to be $1.3 trillion for the current fiscal year.
In the fourth quarter of 2009 gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annual rate of 5.7 percent after a 2.2 percent increase the previous quarter. So the economy had begun to rebound early in the Obama presidency. The Democrats continued to hold large majorities in both chambers of Congress until January of this year, so at what point does Obama have to take the blame, or the credit, for the current economic situation? Does he really expect to run all the way through the 2012 campaign blaming Bush for the bad economy? It certainly appears that way.
Once the House and Senate arrived at a debt-ceiling deal that no one was too happy about, Wall Street’s first response was quite negative, with the Dow down 265 points on the day the Senate sent the bill to the White House.
Doomsday Deal in Congress
To end the stalemate and leave for their annual summer vacation, the House, Senate and President came up with the equivalent of a Doomsday Machine straight out of “Dr. Strangelove,” the classic 1963 Cold War satire directed by Stanley Kubrick. A Super Committee of 12, with equal numbers of senators and representatives, and equal number of Democrats and Republicans, was formed. The committee is tasked with finding another $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. Their proposal has to be ready by Thanksgiving and voted on by Christmas. If the committee fails in its mission, the Doomsday Machine takes over, with supposedly equal cuts from defense and domestic programs.
The stock market continued to fluctuate dramatically over the following days. Soon after, Standard & Poor’s, one of three ratings agencies, announced a downgrade of U.S. long-term debt rating from AAA to AA+. The Obama administration reacted with a fury, claiming that S&P’s downgrade was based on calculations that were off by $2 trillion. Later in the month, a Federal investigation was announced into S&P’s rating practices in the run-up to the financial crisis of 2008. The administration said there was no correlation between the downgrade and the investigation, and that the investigation had been ongoing.
The Tea Party received the most vicious attacks of anyone involved. Sen. John Kerry and Obama chief-of-staff Bill Daley came on the weekend talk shows and called what happened a “Tea Party downgrade.” But in fact this is a downgrade based on President Obama’s policies, and Congress’s inability, or unwillingness, to stop this train we’re on that’s headed for the cliff.
Chris Matthews said the Obama administration “gave in to hostage taking.” As ridiculous and offensive as all this left-wing talk of terrorists and hostages is when characterizing people who wanted to see the country moving toward fiscal sanity rather than off the cliff, the Tea Party people don’t feel victorious at all. A front-page Wall Street Journal article says, “Tea Party sees no triumph in compromise,” with plenty of quotes to back it up.
But in the end, like them or not, the Tea Party activists are the ones who applied sufficient political pressure on Washington to force it to at least pretend to start cutting spending.
Matthews said the Democrats “gave away the store” and “turned over the wallet to the mugger.” You see, to Matthews, those who fought to end the reckless financial path we are on are terrorists or muggers or hostage takers. Supposedly this happened in an environment in which popular opinion was on the Democrats’ side, because some polls showed that a majority wanted a “balanced” solution, meaning revenue increases as well as cuts.
Conservatives are deeply divided over this. Talk show hosts Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh were quite unhappy, along with many Tea Party activists, while The Wall Street Journal, Ann Coulter, Charles Krauthammer and others said that this was a good deal for conservatives and Republicans, at least as good as they could have hoped to get, while only controlling the House, just one chamber of Congress, and certainly not the White House.
Other than the fact that a deal was finally reached, no one seems too happy with this deal, The question for all sides is whether this battle was pivotal and will dictate the direction the country is headed, or whether it was just one fairly minor battle in a much larger ideological war that will be decided in the House, the Senate and the White House in 2012.
Then there are polls. A CNN/ORC poll found that 66% approve of Cut, Cap and Balance, which passed in the House with five Democrats voting for it. The same poll found that 74% favor a balanced budget amendment, also called for in the House bill that passed. Yet a Reuters/IPSOS poll taken about the same time claims to show that by a margin of 56% to 19%, the public prefers President Obama’s combination of tax hikes and cuts to the Republican’s cuts only plan. What this proves is that polls are easily manipulated to promote an agenda, depending on who is asked, what they are asked and how they are asked.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) addressed the “myth” that “our current budget crisis is the result of two wars and a tax cut. Let’s consider that claim. The total cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, over the entire last decade, is $1.3 trillion…The total amount of money spent since the President took office is $8.5 trillion dollars. By the end of his first three years in office we will have added $5 trillion to our gross federal debt.”
While there is no question that both sides share in the blame for where we stand today, it is way past time for our media to attempt to shed some light on these crucial issues that confront our nation’s economic health going forward. Instead, the media, when not getting their facts and terminology completely wrong, continue covering for President Obama and the Democrats who are trying to preserve business as usual while pretending to be fiscally responsible.
The Tea Party: Terrorists or Patriots?
Instead of the media calling the Tea Party terrorists, or hijackers or muggers, and worst of all, racists, when there is nothing to support any of these charges, they should acknowledge that if it wasn’t for the Tea Party, there would be no talk of cutting spending. A recent Gallup poll showed that the Tea Party has more than double the approval rate of Congress.
The Tea Party has changed the terms of the debate. There is a strong mood in this country that out-of-control spending and deficits must end before we end up like Greece. While the Tea Party is promoting a form of civil unrest, in the sense that Congress and the White House had better start doing the right thing or the pressure will intensify and the turnover will be even greater than the electoral gains they were partly responsible for in 2010—the Tea Party protests remain peaceful.
I believe that this modern day Tea Party movement will be judged, not as today’s liberal media maliciously attacks and characterizes it, but as a true, patriotic movement, that rose up, without a single, charismatic leader, and was able to apply the brakes to a government that had lost all control and fiscal sanity. Whether this train was headed off the cliff because of ideology, indifference, or incompetence, history will judge that too. But for now, the important thing is to put the brakes on out-of-control government, and return this once-great country back into the constitutional republic it was meant to be, and was, so successfully, for more than two centuries.•
Dear Fellow Media Watchdogs:
Hurricane Irene came to the East coast of America the weekend of August 27, and raised some important questions about this country and the news media that cover it. Do we really want both local and national news focused nearly exclusively on one single story, at the exclusion of practically everything else? It had all the makings of a summer movie thriller. A monster hurricane, barrelling straight up the coast, hitting major cities along the way, on its deadly path toward New York City. Let’s face it. It was the potential hit on New York that made this story so compelling. But even as the force of the hurricane was downgraded to a category one, or even a tropical storm, the story had taken on an unstoppable life of its own. And don’t get me wrong. The storm was responsible for more than 40 deaths, and much damage up and down the East coast. It was tragic and left millions without power, and cost many billions in damaged or lost property, and lost income to businesses. It proved devastating to states like landlocked Vermont. But it shouldn’t have been treated as the only story taking place.
President Obama stepped forward to try to take credit for the government response to the situation with a photo-op at a disaster command center in Washington. An AFP article was titled, “Obama Takes Command at Hurricane Command Center.” He rarely misses an opportunity to take credit for something, justified or not, especially when he thinks he comes out looking good in comparison to President Bush.
The coverage of the storm reflects the pack media mentality, the taking of what amounts to many state and local stories, and turning them into a major national story. It raises questions about the kind of nation we are and should strive to be. Do we want to be mandatorily evacuated, and have the federal government there to protect each and every one of us, and stand good for the damage? Or shouldn’t that be primarily between property owners and their insurance companies? The people best equipped to respond to the problems are the first responders at the state and local level. The federal government generally wastes massive amounts of money, distorts markets, overreacts, plays favorites, orders people to leave their property, and in general, makes things worse.
One story that got displaced, for example, was the situation in Libya. While fighting continues, as of this writing, Gaddafi loyalists still control a few places inside Libya. Though they haven’t found Gaddafi, his reign appears to be over. That has to qualify as good news. He was a bloody terrorist with a lot of American blood on his hands. But there is much concern that Libya’s Arab Spring will bring another Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaeda backed government to power, which could even be worse.
For Accuracy in Media Roger Aronoff
Communist-Created Statue to Honor King
By Cliff Kincaid
A Washington Post columnist has criticized the new Martin Luther King, Jr. monument, while his paper is publishing a 24-page special supplement hailing the unveiling of the “Stone of Hope” in the memorial that includes the 30-foot tall statue of the civil rights leader.
Black columnist Courtland Milloy writes, “Let’s face it: There really is something peculiar about having an artist from communist China sculpt the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial statue. And, yes, it would have been fantastic had an African American sculptor been chosen instead.”
He adds, “The sculpture is based on a 1966 photograph of King taken in his office in Atlanta, standing at his desk, with a picture of Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi on a wall in the background. In it, King has soft eyes and an open face that conveys the blessed assurance of a man who walks by faith. Lei Yixin has turned those eyes into something of a steely squint. The result is a stern colossus, dressed no less in a style of suit similar to ones found on many statues of Stalin.”
Milloy goes on to complain about the fact that the sculptor and the monument are from China. He writes, “…the fact remains that Lei hails from a country that oppresses ethnic minorities, exploits its workers, and jails human-rights activists and the attorneys who try to defend them. In their day, King and civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall would likely have been taken by the Red Guard and never heard from again.”
The Red Guards were Mao’s representatives who would beat and kill people and destroy property in the name of revolution. One of their slogans was, “Smash the old world; build a new world.”
Interestingly, the 24-page special supplement in the paper quotes Yixin as saying that he recited King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in college in China. However, one article about King’s global influence, “In many cultures, his message resonates,” actually does note that “In China’s Tiananmen Square, student leaders held up signs that read, ‘We Shall Overcome,’ a key anthem of the civil rights movement.” The article, by Emily Wax, doesn’t explain that estimates of the number of dead peaceful protesters at the hands of the regime in that 1989 demonstration for human rights range from several hundred to thousands. Thousands more were injured or arrested.
Back in 2008, another Post columnist, Marc Fisher, complained that the planned monument depicted King “in the arrogant stance of a dictator, clad in a boxy suit, with an impassive, unapproachable mien, looking more like an East Bloc Politburo member than an inspirational, transformational preacher who won a war armed with nothing but truth and words.”
Fisher reported that Harry Johnson, president of the King Memorial Foundation, had “argued that hiring a sculptor from China, even if he is a Communist Party member whose works include tributes to Mao Zedong, is ‘no different from the Houston Rockets working with Yao Ming, or Jackie Chan in Hollywood movies.’”
But Fisher didn’t buy it. He wrote, “It is simply wrong to have outsourced both the sculpting and quarrying of the granite—and especially to China, a country whose government during King’s lifetime called him a ‘reactionary running dog’ for his advocacy of nonviolent protest. China even now stands firmly against King’s vision of an open, free society in which power flows from below and people are cherished as individuals, not defined by group identity.”
The Post special section includes a full-page color poster of the memorial. Ads celebrating the memorial and highlighting the dedication ceremony on Sunday come from such companies and groups as AARP, Prudential, British Petroleum, Macy’s, Toyota, the National Council of La Raza, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Tommy Hilfiger.•
Did the Media Blow it on Vetting Obama?
By Don Irvine
On the August 21st edition of CNN’s Reliable Sources, The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman told Howard Kurtz that it was still way too soon to tell if the media blew it in vetting Obama when he was a candidate in 2008.
Kurtz: Given the limitations that we’ve seen in President Obama’s governing style, the fact that he comes in late and his—his critics would say he’s too much of a compromiser and what does he stand for and all that, did the media blow it in the portrayal of candidate Obama in 2008? Did we, were—were we swept along by the emotion of the Obama oration?
Friedman: Way too soon to tell that, I think—
Kurtz: Really? Almost 3 years in?
Friedman: Yeah, I think if — look, what have I been calling for, you know, the president to — and I think there is, we so desperately need a grand bargain that involves restructuring of debt, raising of taxes, cutting of spending and investing in the sources of our strengths, okay, as a country, from everything from infrastructure to government-funded research to education. It’s so clear that’s what we need. My personal frustration with Obama has been that while he—while he certainly tried that grand bargain for a little bit, it then, it just kind of went away. Well, it didn’t work. He said [House Speaker John] Boehner backed out. I don’t know who backed out. Whatever the point is—
Kurtz: Well, it takes two sides to negotiate—
Friedman: Exactly, there’s no question. But—but if I were Obama right now, I’d be out there with the American people every day on that bus tour: “I am for this grand bargain, here is what it means specifically, here is why it will work, here is why it’s the answer to our problems.” And my own frustration with Obama is that—is that—as a commentator now, who—who—who wants to get behind solutions, okay, and come out against obstruction, I don’t have a solution right now, okay, that I can say, “Here’s my guy who’s got my plan out there, I mean the plan I think will work best for the country.” And I think there’s a lot of voters who feel that way as well. A lot of Obama supporters who want to be supporting the president, but they don’t quite know what it is, you know what I mean?
Friedman just needs to admit that the media did blow the vetting of candidate Obama in 2008 and that thanks to a combination of Obama’s hopeful speeches, their hatred for George Bush and their liberal views, any chance for objectivity flew out the window once they realized that Obama could actually win the presidency.
Thanks in part to the media, we now have record budget deficits and national debt, higher unemployment and a credit- rating downgrade to boot.
Too bad we can’t sue the media for perpetrating a massive fraud on the voters.•
Piers Morgan Calls Keith Olbermann a “Coward in Twitter Feud”
By Don Irvine
CNN’s Piers Morgan fired back at Keith Olbermann on Twitter after the former MSNBC host took a shot at him for milking Christine O’Donnell’s walkout on his show last week.
Olbermann’s tweet that got the feud started:
“Who walks out on @PiersMorgan tonight? I’m betting on…the audience (as usual)”
Morgan then fired back:
“Come on and debate with me you big coward @KeithOlbermann – or are you too busy with your 40,000 viewers a night?”
As Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher pointed out, it’s odd that Olbermann chose to go after Morgan and his audience considering that even though Morgan’s show often finishes third or fourth in the ratings he easily beats Olbermann’s audience every night. Though, for the record, Olbermann’s audience is larger than 40,000.
Olbermann, who is not exactly known as a shrinking violet, then claimed that he had been banned from Morgan’s program which prevented him from appearing on his show to face Morgan in person:
“Just to wrap this up, most recent of 12 pleadings by @PiersMorgan that I appear on his show arrived 7/26. After he ‘banned me for life.’”
According to Christopher, Morgan told Entertainment Weekly that he did no such thing, but would ban Olbermann “Just because it would really annoy him. I think he’s a great broadcaster, but I know he gets wound up very easily. It’s not a lifetime ban, it’s a temporary ban, designed to confuse and bemuse him, and hopefully engender a violent reaction.”
What’s Olbermann afraid of? A face-off between two of the most annoying personalities on television would probably be very entertaining and provide a much needed lift for Morgan while reminding viewers that Olbermann still exists.
On second thought maybe that isn’t such a great idea after all.•