As the debate over taxes has heated up during the lame duck session of Congress, the media invariably have failed to ask the tough questions of the Democrats, and regularly mischaracterized the positions of the Republicans while trying to keep them on the defensive.
The debate went something like this: How could the Republicans demand that extending unemployment benefits be paid for, while not demanding that “tax cuts for the rich” are paid for? The media were all too eager to side with the Democrats.
President Obama called for PayGo back in June of 2009, and in February of 2010 he signed it into law. He said, upon signing the bill, “Now, Congress will have to pay for what it spends, just like everybody else.” The idea was that in the future, after the so-called stimulus bill, and other large increases in spending without finding offsetting cuts in other programs, any future spending other than entitlements would have to be paid for.
So what about the issue regarding the unemployment benefits? Most states provide people who have lost their job, and who are looking for work, unemployment benefits, usually totaling somewhere over $300 a week, for 26 weeks. Once the 26 weeks run out, that is when the federal government has stepped in, and with several extensions, has gone to 99 weeks of benefits. Now many of those people have reached that limit. So the question was framed, that going into the holidays, how could Republicans be so cruel as to cut off these peoples’ only means of support? Republicans answered that they were willing to extend them again, but wanted to see it paid for, as called for in PayGo, or perhaps take the money from the $800 billion stimulus bill’s unused funds. The Democrats and their allies in the media said this is outrageous and cruel. What this was really about was political theater, to portray the Republicans as evil and heartless.
But a question for the Democrats and their liberal supporters in the media—at what point is it okay to end the unemployment benefits? Is $300 really enough, or should it be, perhaps, a thousand a week? Does subsidizing unemployment create more of it, or, is it stimulative for the overall economy, as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats argued? Maybe we want the government to give weekly checks to everyone who is unemployed, for as long as they say they need it. Is that the compassionate thing to do? And can we afford it? Is it good for the economy?
The next question is the question of fairness and consistency. How could the Republicans demand that the unemployment benefits be paid for, but not the supposed $700 billion over the next decade that the government would collect if the Bush tax cuts were ended for those making more than $250,000 as a couple, or more than $200,000 as an individual? Which brings up another question that the media ignored. Why didn’t they ask the Democrats why they were okay with not paying for the estimated $3 trillion that the government won’t collect over the next decade by permanently extending the Bush tax cuts to the “middle class?” Any hypocrisy there?
The rules of Congress require that tax cuts should be viewed as static, meaning that it assumes that raising or lowering tax rates doesn’t change behavior, only the amounts of money collected. Franklin Roosevelt had that idea when, in 1941 he advocated taxing 99.5% of everything made above $100,000 a year. When that went nowhere he decreed by Executive Order that everything over $25,000 would be taxed 100%. Yes, 100%. Congress rescinded it, but it perfectly illustrates the point. Clearly there is a point in rising tax rates in which the tax revenues will start to decrease, the higher the rate is. In other words, why would anyone work to make more than $25,000 a year if it was all going to be taken by the government.
There is a great story from Ronald Reagan’s autobiography that illustrates this concept. “At the peak of my career at Warner Bros.,” he wrote in his 1990 book, An American Life: Ronald Reagan, “I was in the ninety-four percent tax bracket; that meant that after a certain point, I received only six cents of each dollar I earned and the government got the rest. The IRS took such a big chunk of my earnings that after a while I began asking myself whether it was worth it to keep on taking work. Something was wrong with a system like that: When you have to give up such a large percentage of your income in taxes, incentive to work goes down. You don’t say, ‘I’ve got to do more pictures,’ you say, ‘I’m not gonna work for six cents on the dollar.’ If I decided to do one less picture, that meant other people at the studio in lower tax brackets wouldn’t work as much either; the effect filtered down, and there were fewer total jobs available.”
This logic was perhaps the inspiration for the Laffer curve, and supply side economics. Investor’s Business Daily (IBD), in a December 3 editorial, made the point loud and clear. They cited the argument of the Democratic senator from Ohio, Sherrod Brown, one of many who has argued that if the Bush tax cuts were really going to create jobs, why has it failed so miserably in doing so. Brown said that “these tax cuts for the rich that Bush did twice … resulted in very little economic growth. We saw only 1 million jobs created in the Bush years, 22 million created in the Clinton years, when we reached a balanced budget with a fairer tax system.”
According to IBD, Brown’s figures are “false,” out of context and misleading. “From 2002, the last year before the cuts, to 2007, the last year before the financial meltdown, the real economy expanded by $1.77 trillion, or 15.2%… Jobs increased by 7.77 million, business investment surged 38%, and personal net worth soared 56%. Brown is wrong on every point.”
They pointed out that “gross domestic product did fall sharply in 2008 as the financial meltdown hit. But no reputable economist maintains the financial panic was a result of the Bush tax cuts.
“Laughably, Brown talks about how ‘we’ reached a balanced budget during the Clinton years. What do you mean ‘we,’ senator?,” IBD asks. “Since budgets are written and passed by Congress, and only approved by the president, Brown must know that it was Republicans who balanced the budget—not Democrats.
“That’s right, a GOP-led Congress controlled the spending that led to the surpluses of the late 1990s. It also proposed welfare reform and pushed through cap-gains tax cuts that helped the economy boom. To his credit, President Clinton signed these initiatives into law—but only after much political arm-twisting.”
IBD then cited the history from the past century of tax cuts on “highincome earners”: Starting with “the 1920s (Coolidge), 1960s (Kennedy), 1980s (Reagan) and again in the 2000s (Bush). These cuts benefited the rich and everyone else. In all these cases, jobs boomed after tax cuts. In fact, history shows that the best way to boost jobs is to cut taxes on the rich.”
The editorial concluded by noting that “If we want a strong expansion, business investment must grow. It won’t as long as Brown and his colleagues continue to believe that extending jobless benefits to boost consumption, and raising taxes on the ‘rich’ would create economic activity.”
Thomas Sowell, the economist and journalist, made a similar argument, writing that “facts do not ‘speak for themselves.’ In terms of facts, the Republicans have the stronger case. But that doesn’t matter, unless they make the case, which they show little sign of doing.”
By all accounts, the Democrats wasted a precious week of their lame duck session in early December so they could hold votes to appease their base and achieve headlines, like this one on the CBS News website, saying that “GOP Senators Reject Tax Cuts for Middle Class.” In fact, CBS knew that the GOP doesn’t oppose the tax cuts for the middle class, rather they want to extend all of the Bush tax cuts. But if they had voted for this legislation, the Democratic controlled Congress wasn’t about to vote to extend current tax rates on those earning more than $250,000 a year, or what the Democrats call “the rich,” or “the millionaires and billionaires.”
On CBS’s Face the Nation on December 5, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) had to correct host Bob Schieffer and the other guest, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) on multiple occasions that Republicans weren’t advocating for tax cuts, but rather for the extension of rates that had been in effect for nearly a decade. This was probably the most misreported fact of this whole debate.
And what about this lame duck session of Congress? Should a Congress that was in essence fired really be back in session trying to pass all sorts of legislation that they should have and could have taken up before the November election? Either they didn’t have the votes then, or didn’t want to have to vote on them prior to the election, maybe because they knew their positions weren’t popular. Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York, wrote a piece for The Wall Street Journal pointing out that the 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933, was largely intended to end lame duck Congresses by moving the Congressional swearing-in date from March back to January 3rd. For the next half century, there were no attempts to use the shorter lame duck period to pass significant legislation.
Back in July it was becoming apparent that the Democrats were holding back on passing a budget, and dealing with Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, cap and trade, immigration legislation and other big agenda items. Republicans were calling them on it, asking them to renounce the possibility that this was what they had in mind. Chris Van Hollen, the assistant to the Speaker who also headed up the House Democrats’ campaign committee, said that “[N]o one should think there’s some secret plan for after the election on big issues. There’s no secret or overt plan to do something like that.” Maybe not, but it certainly played out that way.
President Obama recognized his weakened position after the November elections, and agreed on a deal regarding an extension of all the Bush tax cuts, with the rates for higher income people and small businesses being extended for a limited period. What he got in return was that Republicans agreed to the extension of unemployment benefits without having to pay for it, in other words by adding to the deficit. What made this more awkward for Obama was that his appointed Debt Commission had called for significant lowering of the tax rates for individuals and corporations, a nod to supply side economics as being the engine to help grow our way out of this economic mess, at the same time that his party in Congress was trying to raise rates.
This had his left-wing base upset, “livid” in the words of a story in The Hill. Paul Krugman, the left-wing columnist for The New York Times urged Obama to not make the deal with the GOP. He acknowledged in one column that “raising taxes when unemployment is high is a bad thing,” but added, “there are worse things. And a cold, hard look at the consequences of giving in to the G.O.P. now suggests that saying no, and letting the Bush tax cuts expire on schedule, is the lesser of two evils.” And with Obama’s pledge to freeze the salaries of federal employees for two years, Krugman further expressed his frustration. “Whatever is going on inside the White House, from the outside it looks like moral collapse—a complete failure of purpose and loss of direction.” You get the idea.
The left was upset not only with Obama’s willingness to give in on the tax issue, but also because he has increased the number of troops in Afghanistan and has announced that it will be the end of 2014 at the earliest before we’ll be leaving there. They have kept assuming that Obama is one of them, and would show some backbone. But what they fail to, or hate to, realize is that Obama is taking them for granted. He is on to the 2012 campaign, and needs independents to win re-election. He can always reassure them that he is one of them, and that they need to be patient and wait till after he gets re-elected in 2012. And while the media are still working hard for Obama’s agenda, and are always eager to play the class warfare card against the Republicans, they are losing their patience with what they see as Obama’s lack of leadership.
NBC Ignores Obama’s Jobs-killing Agenda
By Cliff Kincaid
The NBC Nightly News devoted over two minutes on Wednesday night to sad stories of Americans without jobs and the controversy over passing another extension of unemployment benefits. Republicans were portrayed as villains for insisting that the benefits be paid for through federal budget cuts in other areas.
But only 30 seconds was allotted—in the very next story in the newscast—to the Obama Administration’s latest decision to ban oil drilling for five years or more. At a time of massive unemployment and a growing economic and financial crisis, this is a decision that Democrats and Republicans agree will cost Americans thousands of good-paying jobs.
One obvious answer to unemployment—besides unemployment benefits— is jobs. Yet NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams portrayed the decision by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar as having no impact on jobs at all. In his summary of the decision, viewed as protective of the environment from big bad oil companies, Williams decided NOT to include any comments from critics of the Obama Administration decision. These critics included:
• Senator David Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, who said, “This alarming announcement is further proof that this administration doesn’t know the first thing about creating jobs. Cutting off access to American resources from American businesses will only send more of our money and jobs overseas while we watch energy prices continue to rise. As they’ve demonstrated with the de facto moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf, this administration will stop at nothing to advance its agenda to reduce—or even completely end—offshore drilling everywhere.”
• Senator Mary Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, who said, “Today’s announcement by Secretary Salazar to limit areas in the Atlantic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico is [a] major step backwards for our nation’s energy security.”
• Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who said, “As a candidate President Obama promised to work to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. But the Obama Administration’s announcement of a moratorium on offshore drilling in the Pacific, Atlantic, and eastern Gulf is only the latest in a string of policies designed to make us more dependent on foreign oil by reducing domestic production. President Obama is dishonestly pursuing policies that are the opposite of what he promised and that are against America’s economic interests and opposed by a strong majority of Americans. The United States is the only country in the world with potential major offshore oil resources that is not actively exploiting them. The Obama Administration has decided that it is better for Cuba to bring in China, Russia, and Venezuela to drill a few miles off the Florida Keys than to allow American companies to drill in American waters.”
• Rep. Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana, who said, “While OPEC will certainly love today’s announcement, unfortunately this purely political decision by President Obama will cost thousands more American jobs and increase our dependence on Middle Eastern oil. This retreat away from domestic energy sources will jeopardize America’s energy security and does absolutely nothing to make energy exploration and development safer, nor does it ensure that we work to a more energy independent future, and I am incredibly disappointed that the only result of this decision is the guarantee that we will become more dependent on Middle Eastern countries to satisfy our energy needs.”
The New York Times: ClimateGate vs. WikiLeaks
A little over a year ago, the so-called “ClimateGate” scandal erupted. Thousands of emails from climate “scientists” were leaked and what those emails showed was incriminating. Respected climate researchers had been collaborating to falsify information and intimidate dissent, all with the express purpose of promoting global warming alarmism. The information in those emails and other documents was devastating to the environmental movement—or rather, it would have been, if any major news media had accurately covered the story. However, The New York Times did not consider the details of the story fit to print.
When the recent WikiLeaks documents were released, however, The New York Times sang a different tune. Blogger Ace at Ace of Spades HQ found the contradictory quotations below.
On November 20, 2009, Andrew Revkin, The Times’ Environment Editor, wrote:
“The documents appear to have been acquired illegally and contain all manner of private information and statements that were never intended for the public eye, so they won’t be posted here.”
Yet, on November 29, 2010, The New York Times editorialized the following:
“The articles published today and in coming days are based on thousands of United States embassy cables, the daily reports from the field intended for the eyes of senior policy makers in Washington. The New York Times and a number of publications in Europe were given access to the material several weeks ago and agreed to begin publication of articles based on the cables online on Sunday. The Times believes that the documents serve an important public interest, illuminating the goals, successes, compromises and frustrations of American diplomacy in a way that other accounts cannot match.”
The New York Times is publishing these confidential documents at the same time that Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is pressing Hillary Clinton and the Obama Administration to declare WikiLeaks a terrorist organization. “I am calling on the attorney general and supporting his efforts to fully prosecute WikiLeaks and its founder for violating the Espionage Act. And I’m also calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare WikiLeaks a foreign terrorist organization,” Rep. King has stated on WNIS radio. Perhaps CyberTerrorism woud be a more accurate description.
Regarding Pfc. Bradley Manning’s allegedly stealing these classified documents, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton has stated, “I believe treason is still punishable by death, and if he were found guilty, I would do it.”
Looking at The Times’ track record, it seems that if illegally leaked documents damage a far-left environmentalist agenda, then they are too sensitive to be posted for the “public eye.” But if illegally leaked documents damage the security of the United States—possibly even constituting treason—then they “serve an important public interest” and deserve publication.
Once again, the Times has shown itself to make decisions based on its political agenda rather than on principle.
Dear Fellow Media Watchdog,
As we round the bend, at the two-year mark of the Obama administration, change is in the air. Not just in Congress, but here at Accuracy in Media as well. Cliff Kincaid, who has been the Editor here for most of the past decade, following AIM founder and chairman Reed Irvine who passed away in 2004, is about to take on a very important new role here at AIM as Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism. A graduate of the University of Toledo with a B.A. in Journalism and Communications, Cliff interned at the National Journalism Center, and has been associated with Accuracy in Media since 1978. We are all very excited to have Cliff heading up this new project at AIM. More on that later. He has left some big shoes to fill.
I have been given the honor and opportunity to become the next Editor at AIM, both of the website and the AIM Report. It is a culmination for me of many years as a writer, journalist, producer, director, and media analyst. I was a subscriber to the AIM Report almost since its inception in 1972. After graduating from the University of Texas with a B.A. in History, I worked as a columnist and freelance journalist for about 25 years. I have produced and directed a number of TV shows, from public affairs shows on PBS, to nationally syndicated musical/variety shows, including six documentaries. My AIM documentaries have included “Confronting Iraq: Conflict and Hope,” about the media coverage and what really led us into the war; “TWA 800: The Search for the Truth,” and “The Clinton Legacy.” I hope, with your support, that we can produce more films for the general public. AIM has led the way in using the media to take on the media, through films, talk radio, and blogs, and we plan to continue and expand on that work in the future.
After doing some TV work for AIM, Reed offered me the opportunity to work at AIM back in 1997. For the next seven years I worked closely with him on a daily basis, participating in nearly all of his meetings, proofing and/or editing all of his writings, columns and letters, and I consider him as a mentor and a hero to me.
I am honored that Cliff and Don Irvine, AIM’s chairman and Reed’s son, have asked me to step into this position. I am excited, and view it as the stewardship of an important perch that has been established in order to confront the media and hold them accountable. I look forward to bringing you my insights and analyses, and those of my colleagues. Cliff will continue his columns and commentary. He has been a good friend, and an outstanding Editor. Former New Hampshire Senator Bob Smith has recently joined AIM as a Special Contributor. Don is our New Media maven, who is becoming an important voice as well. AIM is moving boldly ahead by adding new and provocative programs. So, here’s to a new year, new adventures, and challenges. And remember, we welcome your moral and material support in order to continue our vital work of educating America’s media consumers to think critically about the news.
For Accuracy in Media,