Accuracy in Media

The much talked about Stimulus package was approved by Senate last Friday and President Barack Obama made the bill a law Tuesday. The final amount of the stimulus package was 787 billion dollars. Almost one trillion dollars that tax payers will have to pay back. Pajamas TV held a symposium on the stimulus package and health care benefits. The meeting, which included Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher with opening comments and questions from the public, featured a financial panel and health care panel. The financial panel included Andrew Roth, Vice President for Government Affairs, Club for Growth, Brian Riedel, Senior Policy Analyst, Heritage Foundation and Dan Mitchell, Senior Fellow at the libertarian CATO Institute. Pajamas Media describes itself as a network of about 100 blogger’s that covers news and issues of the day in a thoughtful and civil way.

Roth said “it is reckless to spend this amount without knowing what’s in it.” Neither house of the U.S. Congress was able to preview the bill or know exactly what was in it. Roth continued, “the 2003 Bush tax cuts were a real stimulus, people are against the new stimulus and it will do more harm than good. Only a handful of liberals are for it.” Tax cuts are a popular alternative to the stimulus bill because they go directly into the economy and bring faster results than building roads and bridges.

Riedel said “the government is injecting money into the economy to create wealth.” Riedel continued, “Congress doesn’t have the money for the stimulus bill; they are just taking money out of one part and putting it in another.” Brian said checks from the government do not create growth and increase production. He believes cutting tax rates will make people more productive because they will have something to work for.

Mitchell was the last one on the panel to state his views on the economic stimulus package and he said “in the 1990’s Japan had stimulus after stimulus and it didn’t help. Japan suffered a lost decade.” From 1990-2000 Japan passed 10 stimulus bills, six spending plans that totaled $700 billion and in 1998 and 2002 they tried massive tax cuts. When nothing worked this period in Japan was termed the lost decade.

When each panel member was asked ‘how will we know if the economic stimulus plan is working?’ Roth said “the stock markets and unemployment rate.” If the stock markets are up and the unemployment rate has dropped then the stimulus plan is working. Riedel said “if the unemployment rate gets cut in half” and Mitchell said “the economy will recover but what we need to focus on is the growth rate.”

After the panel discussed the economic stimulus plan another panel was introduced to discuss how the stimulus plan could impact future health care coverage. The health care panel included Jim Capretta, fellow with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Andy Chasin, Health Policy Counsel, Senate Republican Policy Committee and Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Manhattan Institute.

Capretta said “the Obama health care plan will create a new public program similar to Medicare and anyone who doesn’t have coverage can have it.” Capretta feels that in order to control costs, the programs should be restructured to have stable coverage and provide incentives.

Chasin believes “there is 130 billion dollars in the economic stimulus bill for health care but it should be used for fundamental reform so we’re not in this same situation again.” He also said there is 86 billion [dollars] going to states for Medicaid programs and believes “Medicaid is one of the worst federal programs and it’s on Government Accountability Office (GAO) watch lists.”

Furchtgott-Roth said “change we believe in is not limited health care choices.” She said “Obama has already signed the State Children’s Health Insurance Program [SCHIP] bill that will provide insurance for children whose parents may not want to get it so government will provide it.” She continued, “the federal government is reimbursing states for providing health insurance for children whose parents make 100,000 dollars.” She believes the program is changing from a low income support program to a program that almost anyone can be entitled to. She said “employers could say you earn less than a certain amount and I know SCHIP will cover your children so I will not cover them and the private insurance market will dry out like when Medicaid drove out different programs for senior citizens.” She argues that the new plan will drive out private insurers and force everyone to public health care coverage. She believes it is better to have competition and not just one plan for everyone.

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