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CyberAlert -- 07/05/2001 -- Tax Cut Eating Into Surplus

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Tax Cut Eating Into Surplus; CBS Pushed Prescription Entitlement; PBS's Ifill: HMOs "Fighting Dirty"; Condit a "Right-Wing Democrat"

1) ABC marked the implementation of Bush's tax cut by trying to discredit its viability. Josh Gerstein warned that "budget surpluses this year may be much smaller than anticipated, raising doubts about whether there will be enough cash to pay for the tax cut." Gerstein relayed the usual liberal scaremongering: "The Senate's top Democrat said today that may force the government to tap Social Security or Medicare funds."

2) After marking progress toward one liberal goal, with Senate passage of a bill creating the right to sue HMOs, the CBS Evening News moved on to another. Diana Olick used an anecdotal victim to promote the Democratic vision of a new entitlement program for prescription drugs: "President Bush backs a plan that would target only the poorest and that leaves out middle income patients like Eva Baer-Schenkein."

3) PBS's Gwen Ifill accused the HMO industry of "fighting dirty" for daring to produce a TV ad which used humor to suggest that lawyers would get rich off the liberal Democratic/McCain version of a Patients' Bill of Rights.

4) To the recommendation that if the Senate rejects a conservative judicial nominee Bush should keep nominating conservatives until one is confirmed, NBC's Tim Russert countered with the liberal spin on Jim Jeffords: "Is that the same attitude that drove Senator Jeffords from the Republican Party?"

5) NPR's Nina Totenberg, a tool of the left who first publicized the uncorroborated charges from Anita Hill, denounced David Brock for being "a tool of the right." Instead of looking inward, she complained that Brock's book and "the stuff in the American Spectator, which is a propaganda sheet, was taken very seriously."

6) The Sunday CBS duo pressed RNC Chairman Jim Gilmore from the left on campaign finance "reform" and the more liberal version of a Patients' Bill of Rights. Bob Schieffer demanded: "But what's wrong with trying to get these enormous, almost obscene sums of money that we saw pour into the campaign the last time around, what's wrong with putting some limit on that?"

7) When is a Democratic Congressman labeled "right wing"? When a network reporter is doing a story on a Congressman linked to a victim of a probable crime.


>>> A Holiday Week Video Treat: See and hear Dan Rather look goofy singing a train song, "The Wreck of the Old Ninety-Seven," on the Late Show with David Letterman back on June 22, 1994. He really did try to sing and even imitated the sound of a train whistle. MRC Webmaster Andy Szul posted the RealPlayer video clip and it will stay up through Monday. The volume level was a bit low on our tape, so just turn up your RealPlayer volume to hear it. Go to: http://www.mrc.org <<<

1

ABC News marked the July 1 implementation of the tax rate cuts by rolling out the usual liberal arguments about how there's not enough money to "pay" for them and that they will reduce the surplus, as if the federal government would starve with slightly less revenue. "Administration officials are increasingly worried about the deteriorating budget picture and about Democratic efforts to blame the tax cut for the shrinking surpluses," ABC's Terry Moran announced Monday night after Sunday's World News Tonight had furthered that very Democratic effort.

Reporter Josh Gerstein on Sunday night warned: "Just as the tax cut President Bush championed begins to take effect, administration officials say budget surpluses this year may be much smaller than anticipated, raising doubts about whether there will be enough cash to pay for the tax cut." Gerstein even highlighted Tom Daschle's usual spin as if it were fresh news: "The Senate's top Democrat said today that may force the government to tap Social Security or Medicare funds."

MRC analyst Jessica Anderson took down the two ABC stories which only acknowledged the role of spending hikes after first blaming the tax cuts.

-- ABC's World News Tonight/Sunday. Anchor Carole Simpson opened the July 1 broadcast:
"The first of President Bush's tax cuts took effect today. The four top tax rates dropped by one percentage point. For about 35 million taxpayers that means less money will be withheld from their paychecks. In a few weeks, the IRS will also begin mailing refund checks to many taxpayers. As ABC's Josh Gerstein reports, the tax cuts have cut deeply into the surplus, far deeper than the White House expected."
Josh Gerstein: "Just as the tax cut President Bush championed begins to take effect, administration officials say budget surpluses this year may be much smaller than anticipated, raising doubts about whether there will be enough cash to pay for the tax cut."
Thomas Mann, The Brookings Institution: "His tax cuts are unsustainable as now written and will almost certainly be revisited over the next couple of years."
Gerstein: "Due to slumping corporate tax revenues, the White House now projects the surplus may be a significant $56 billion lower than previously estimated. The Senate's top Democrat said today that may force the government to tap Social Security or Medicare funds."
Senator Tom Daschle on This Week: "We know those funds have already been committed. We know we're going to need them. So to use them for any other purpose is a deceit, is a shell game that we can't afford."
Gerstein: "The President's top economic advisor issued a statement today saying that Senator Daschle is mistaken and promising that 'Medicare dollars will be used only for Medicare.' The top House Republican said any shortfall would require spending cuts."
Dick Armey: "If we have to make up that difference we must make it up on the spending side, and that means everyone of us is going to have to be willing to make some trade-off decisions in this budget process."
Gerstein: "But so far, Congress has shown little interest in reining in spending. Budget bills passed by the Republican House are already billions of dollars above what President Bush requested. Mr. Bush said recently he'd use his veto pen to control excess spending, but Democrats say the President will have a hard time vetoing bills supported by Republicans and that eventually members of Mr. Bush's own party will be forced to unravel the tax cut."

ABC News producers sure seem to hope so.

-- ABC's World News Tonight on Monday July 2. Peter Jennings, the only broadcast network anchor to work the holiday week, cautioned: "The first phase of President Bush's tax cut goes into effect today. After several years of piling up surpluses, the government is going to give some of it back. If you make enough money to qualify, the federal government is reducing the amount it takes out of your paycheck -- it won't exactly be a windfall. If you are a single person who makes $2600 a month, you will pay about four dollars less in federal taxes a month, but the numbers add up, and we're going to start with the President today because his administration is beginning to feel the pinch. ABC's Terry Moran is at the White House. Terry."
Moran confirmed: "Well, Peter, you're right. Administration officials are increasingly worried about the deteriorating budget picture and about Democratic efforts to blame the tax cut for the shrinking surpluses....President Bush, out for a stroll at the Jefferson Memorial, greeting tourists on a picture-perfect afternoon, all part of a new White House effort to soften Mr. Bush's image as polls show voters feel he cares more about big business than ordinary people."
President Bush: "Good opportunity to say hello to some of our fellow Americans."
Moran: "But all the pretty pictures won't change a stark fact that is causing headaches for the administration, the budget surplus is rapidly dwindling. Why? The President's tax cut, congressional spending and a weakening economy."
Robert Reischauer, former CBO director: "All three of these things are coming together and transforming a very large and healthy-looking surplus into a fairly small one."
Moran: "In January, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the surplus at $96 billion in 2001, and rising. In June, it was down to $16 billion, and the estimates continue to shrink. Democrats, sensing a political opportunity, are pushing their case that the $1.35 trillion tax cut Mr. Bush signed last month is to blame."
Senator Daschle: "The ramifications of that are every bit as serious and problematic as we said they would be a couple of months ago. I hate to say I told you so, but we told you so."
Moran concluded: "The crimped surpluses will hamper Mr. Bush's efforts to boost defense spending, add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, provide more money for schools and partially privatize Social Security. But administration officials vehemently dispute the Democratic argument. They say congressional spending is the main culprit in the case of the shrinking surplus, and they say, Peter, that the tax cut will actually raise revenue by boosting economic growth."

2

After noting progress toward one liberal goal, with Senate passage of a bill creating the right to sue HMOs, the CBS Evening News on Sunday night moved on to another: creating a new entitlement program to have Medicare pay for prescription drugs. Diana Olick delivered the typical network news sob story which illustrated the supposed problem by highlighting an anecdotal victim, this time one left behind by a less-expansive plan: "President Bush backs a plan that would target only the poorest and that leaves out middle income patients like Eva Baer-Schenkein."

Substitute anchor Sharyl Attkisson set up the July 1 story which followed an update on Dick Cheney: "The Vice President's tiny heart device cost $25,000. Just another sign of the high price of health care in America. Rising prescription drug prices are another and now Congress is about to attack that problem, as Diana Olick reports."

Olick began the story, as transcribed by MRC intern Lindsay Welter: "No sooner had the winning gavel sounded on the Patients' Bill of Rights than Senate Democrats announced they would charge ahead on comprehensive health care reform when they return from the holiday recess."

Following a clip of Senator Bob Graham of Florida, Olick explained: "Last Thursday Democrats introduced a Medicare reform act which includes unlimited prescription drug benefits for seniors who have paid their deductibles. President Bush backs a plan that would target only the poorest and that leaves out middle income patients like Eva Baer-Schenkein."
Baer-Schenkein: "So now I'm not taking anything at all for my osteoporosis."
Olick helpfully chipped in: "Because she can't afford the three and half thousand dollars a year for the drug her doctor prescribed."
Baer-Schenkein: "When I was given this bill I almost passed out. The pharmacy was crowded so I felt embarrassed to give it back."
Olick: "In the last two decades prescription drug prices have increased 300 percent. Last year Americans spent $116 billion to get their medications."

Olick then ran a soundbite from Ron Pollack of the unlabeled Families USA before she concluded by stressing the agenda change made possible by the Democratic takeover of the Senate: "It was just two months ago that Senate Republicans said there was simply no time in this session to take up the issue of prescription drugs. Not so, now that the Democrats are in charge. They have the upper hand, but President Bush has the final word."

3

HMOs "fighting dirty"? Gwen Ifill, host of PBS's Washington Week in Review, denounced the HMOs for "fighting dirty." Their sin? Producing a TV ad which used humor to suggest that lawyers would get rich off the liberal Democratic/McCain version of a Patients' Bill of Rights.

The shot from Ifill, a former reporter for NBC News and the New York Times, occurred on the June 29 edition of the weekly PBS show. Seeming pleased, Ifill set up the segment: "Well we have a little bit of news. On Capitol Hill tonight, the Senate passed the Patients' Bill of Rights. Americans may be able to sue their HMOs but how much of a difference will this bill make in the end, ultimately, really, Ceci Connolly?"

A few minutes later Ifill introduced the ad clip: "Now, Ceci, today, big, big victory for the Democrats in the Senate but the next battle is in the House of Representatives and the HMO industry is already gearing up to fight back with this new ad."

PBS viewers then saw most of an ad created by the American Association of Health Plans. MRC analyst Ken Shepherd took down the words to the ad in which two croquet-playing British barristers, wearing wigs, discuss the windfall for lawyers across the lake:

First British barrister: "Our barrister chums in the U.S. are suing health plans for the sport of it."
Second British barrister: "Bloody genius, they'll make millions and send rates sky high!"
First British barrister: "And when employers can't afford to pay-"
Both in unison, laughing: "They'll sue them too!"
First British barrister: "Nigel, perhaps we should move to America?"
Voice of first British barrister as ad ends, the final line also shown in writing on screen: "Kennedy-McCain. Lawyers love it."

Back on the set, Ifill pounced: "So the HMO industry is back and they're fighting dirty. Where are we going to see that ad? Is it going to be targeted against House members running for re-election?"

4

NBC's Tim Russert on Sunday forwarded the liberal spin that Senator Jim Jeffords abandoned the GOP because the party was too conservative, not because he saw a chance for personal aggrandizement if he switched parties before Senator Thurmond died.

Russert's contention came during a July 1 Meet the Press exchange with conservative Wall Street Journal columnist Paul Gigot:

Russert: "What would happen to George W. Bush politically if there was a vacancy on the Supreme Court and he decided, and to take Senator Sessions' advice and put forward the name of a very strict constructionist, conservative justice in the tradition or philosophy of Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas?"
Gigot: "I think he's going to do that. I think he would be smart to do it. I think his base cares about two things principally. The economic conservatives really do care about taxes, and the cultural conservatives really do care about judges and the courts. And judging by what we heard from, from Senator Schumer, the Democrats look like they're going to oppose anybody to the left of, of, you know, Larry Tribe or Cass Sunstein or some of these liberal academics. So why not send up a judge who is conservative, if they're going to defeat anybody who has any real conservative leanings, send up a conservative. Send up another one if they defeat one. Send up a third, send up a fourth. Your base is going to like it and ultimately they can't defeat everybody."
Russert countered: "But is that the same attitude that drove Senator Jeffords from the Republican Party?"
Gigot: "I think there's something of a, no, I don't think so...."

5

NPR's Nina Totenberg, who by first running a story on the uncorroborated charges from Anita Hill advanced the political left's effort to destroy Clarence Thomas on a personal level, over the weekend denounced David Brock for being "a tool of the right." Instead of looking at her own sad record, she bemoaned how Brock's book on Hill and "the stuff in the American Spectator, which is a propaganda sheet, was taken very seriously."

Reacting on PBS's Inside Washington over the weekend to David Brock's new claim that he lied in his 1993 book, The Real Anita Hill, though he so far has only managed to cite one misstatement in a 1994 review of another book, Totenberg delivered this sermon:
"Well, you know, I don't quite know what to make of this. I would like to be able to say oh, well, gee, David Brock is now obviously telling the truth. It was clear to me that The Real Anita Hill was not a real journalistic exercise. It had little factual errors, you know, people's ages, where they worked, every kind of thing that you can think of."
Moderator Gordon Peterson: "This is Brock's first book."
Totenberg: "This is Brock's first book. And I'm not prepared to say, when he says now that I made it all up basically and I was covering for Clarence Thomas, I'm not prepared to say that that's the truth. What I am prepared to say though, that this is really a pretty serious commentary about journalism. Because, the first book, The Real Anita Hill, was taken very seriously. The stuff in the American Spectator, which is a propaganda sheet, was taken very seriously. David Brock admits that he didn't know anything about journalism when he wrote The Real Anita Hill, that he was a tool of the Right, that that's what he was doing. That he'd never had any journalistic training. And this is a pretty bad commentary on where we've come in our profession and where the public's come frankly and who they believe."

Totenberg added: "I think this is very seriously damaging for Justice Thomas. He's been on the Court for ten years, this seemed to be behind him, it clearly isn't now, to the point that his wife was calling up a radio station in tears this week."

Though nothing Brock has "confessed" in any way lends credence to Hill's claims, looking back now how "seriously damaging" could any of Hill's charges really be even if accurate? A few jokes about the fake names of actors in porno videos? Nothing she accused Thomas of doing even approaches the kind of behavior displayed by Bill Clinton during his White House years and before.

6

The Sunday CBS duo of Bob Schieffer and Gloria Borger pressed RNC Chairman Jim Gilmore, the Governor of Virginia, from the left on campaign finance "reform" and the more liberal version of a Patients' Bill of Rights.

A bewildered Schieffer demanded: "But what's wrong with trying to get these enormous, almost obscene sums of money that we saw pour into the campaign the last time around, what's wrong with putting some limit on that?" If President Bush vetoed a Patients' Bill of Rights, Schieffer asked, "would that hurt the Republican Party?"

MRC analyst Ken Shepherd took down many of the questions posed on the July 1 Face the Nation to Gilmore and Republican Congressman Chris Shays:

-- Borger to Shays: "On your issue of campaign finance reform, for example, there are lots of things about your bill that the president does not like. Do you fully expect him to sign a campaign finance reform measure?"

-- Schieffer followed up: "Governor Gilmore, as the Chairman of the party, do you, are you going to sign on to Congressman Shays's bill?"

-- Not hearing the affirmative answer he wanted, Schieffer argued: "But what's wrong with trying to get these enormous, almost obscene sums of money that we saw pour into the campaign the last time around, what's wrong with putting some limit on that?"

-- Schieffer wouldn't let go: "But Governor, don't you think that the fact that people see all this money pouring in has something to do with the fact that people don't really trust politicians anymore, they don't really believe them anymore? I don't know anybody who thinks that somebody who gives a half million dollars to a political party or to a campaign thinks that they're doing that 'cause they like good government. They want something in return."

-- Picking up on a Gilmore point, Borger allowed Shays to shoot down the argument: "Well, Congressman Shays, let me ask you this: Do you think this is the end of political parties as we know them? Is your bill going to kill both political parties?"

-- Instead of taking on Shays on the implications of his bill, Schieffer just wondered why one group of Congressmen would oppose it: "Let me, the point that the Governor raised is in fact accurate. It does seem that they are peeling off members of the black caucus to vote against the bill that you're now sponsoring. Why do you think that is?"

-- Following some questions about John McCain, Borger returned to campaign finance, but only to ask Shays about the chance of victory: "And very quickly, do you have the votes, right now, to pass your version of campaign finance reform?"
Shays: "It's going to be very close."

-- Schieffer turned to Gilmore: "One final word for you, Governor. The Patients' Bill of Rights bill that the Democrats sponsored has just passed the Senate. Democrats believe they have the votes to pass similar legislation in the House. If that happened and the president vetoed it, would that hurt the Republican Party?"
Gilmore: Well, I think we need to remember that the goal here is to get health care for people. There are 44 million people today that are without health care."
Schieffer: "I understand all that. I understand all that. But I'm asking, do you think from a political standpoint it would hurt the Republican Party?"

7

When is a Democratic Congressman labeled "right wing"? When a network reporter is doing a story on a Congressman linked to a victim of probable crime.

Most TV stories I've seen have studiously avoided naming the party affiliation of Gary Condit, the Democratic Congressman from California linked to Chandra Levy, the intern missing in DC since early May -- though I recall that in a June 21 CNN piece Candy Crowley identified his party. Tuesday night, July 3, for instance, NBC Nightly News ran back-to-back pieces on the Levy case -- starting with the Fox News Channel exclusive about how Condit supposedly asked a United Airlines flight attendant, with whom he had an affair, to offer misleading statements in an affidavit -- but neither story mentioned his party.

The morning before, however, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed how NBC tagged him as a "right-wing Democrat." In a piece on the July 2 Today about his district, George Lewis asserted: "Modesto, California, in the middle of the state's central valley. A major agricultural area with lots of farms and cattle. A politically conservative place where the average home goes for around $190,000. They call it 'Condit Country' around here and six-term Congressman Gary Condit, a 53 year old right-wing Democrat, has won re-election by huge margins."

That reminds me of how some have predicted that if Democratic Senator Zell Miller becomes a Republican the national media will then suddenly find it newsworthy to highlight what they have so far skipped over: his segregationist history. -- Brent Baker


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