Prescription Plan Too Small Last Year, Now Blame It for Deficit --1/30/2004
2. ABC's Ross Shows How Saddam Bought Off Politicians with Oil $
3. At ABC, "People Say 'Conservative'" Same as 'Child Molester'"
The bill for the media's spending push comes due. Last year, the spending and deficit implications of massive new spending on a proposed prescription drug benefit in Medicare did not concern network reporters who argued the plan was too stingy, as they rolled out anecdotal elderly victims, and were much more worried about how much the tax cut would increase the deficit. But on Thursday night, CBS and NBC acknowledged how, as conservatives had warned to an oblivious media, that the prescription entitlement would cost much more than the claimed $400 billion over ten years.
"The red ink keeps rising," Dan Rather lamented on Thursday's CBS Evening News, "the Medicare overhaul and prescription drug benefit haven't taken effect yet and President Bush is already upping the ten-year price tag. First pegged at $400 billion, the Associated Press says the new estimate is $540 billion."
Over on the NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw cited "a stunning new number on the cost of the new Medicare prescription drug bill....It turns out it will cost at least a third more than the original estimates, and maybe even more than that, which means the budget deficit is going up even more as well." David Gregory labeled the prescription program as a "budget buster." Gregory blamed the White House without mentioning how NBC also ignored warnings from conservatives: "The White House sold the ten-year measure to skeptical conservatives in Congress with a $400 billion price tag."
How times change. Back on May 21 of last year, Rather insisted upon referring to the compromise $350 billion over ten years tax cut as "President Bush's big tax cut plan," but on June 10 he didn't mention the cost of the prescription plan or refer to it as big, though at $400 billion over ten years it was predicted to cost more than the tax cut and, since it would not end in ten years, much more beyond that. Instead, Rather portrayed it as long overdue:
Chen chronicled how paying for prescriptions is a "daily concern" at senior center before she trumpeted how "some badly needed help may be on the way, a $400 billion plan outlined today would give all seniors a prescription drug benefit."
Minutes later, Rather tied the tax cuts to a rising deficit without noting how a new entitlement will surely also do so: "The Congressional Budget Office is upping its projection of the federal budget deficit by 33 percent, largely because of the Bush tax cut. The CBO now estimates a record American deficit of more than $400 billion."
Economists Andrew Rettenmmaier and Thomas Saving of Texas A&M and the National Center for Policy Analysis, reported in a June 24 Wall Street Journal op-ed that the cost will be a lot more than $400 billion for the drug plan: "The new benefits will create an unfunded liability of $7.5 trillion, or almost twice the current debt held by the public." For an explanation: www.ncpa.org
But that night, Rather worried about inadequate spending: "The plan may wind up falling far short of what Medicare recipients were hoping for." Joie Chen proceeded to find a victim of "the donut hole. That's the point at which there's no coverage." And why the so-called "donut hole"? Because of a lack of spending: "Well, with only $400 billion to spend, there just isn't enough money to fix it, at least not without cutting into some other part of the plan."
The night before, on the NBC Nightly News, Norah O'Donnell similarly focused on how "the AARP argues the plan in Congress, backed by President Bush, will short-change seniors." She too found of victim who would actually have to pay for some of her own expenses before targeting the tax cut as the culprit: "Some Democrats charge the recent tax cuts killed off any hope of closing the benefit gap."
Jumping forward to this week, full renditions of what viewers heard on Thursday night, January 29, followed by links to CyberAlert items from last year documenting how the networks complained that the proposed $400 billion wasn't big enough.
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather read a short item: "The red ink keeps rising. The Medicare overhaul and prescription drug benefit haven't taken effect yet and President Bush is already upping the ten-year price tag. First pegged at $400 billion, the Associated Press says the new estimate is $540 billion. What's more, the AP says, President Bush is raising the estimate of this year's overall national deficit to a record $520 billion. Some independent experts argue that the actual figure's probably much higher."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw set up a full story: "And from the White House tonight, a stunning new number on the cost of the new Medicare prescription drug bill, which the administration worked so hard to get Republicans to support. It turns out it will cost at least a third more than the original estimates, and maybe even more than that, which means the budget deficit is going up even more as well. NBC's David Gregory tonight at the White House where the new math could bring on some big problems."
Gregory began, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "The new budget buster is the President's prized prescription drug benefit for Medicare. The White House sold the ten-year measure to skeptical conservatives in Congress with a $400 billion price tag. Turns out the estimates were wrong. Administration officials now say the drug benefit will cost at least $540 billion. All this means the 2005 budget, which the White House submits to Congress Monday, will show a larger than projected deficit of $520 billion. The budget deficit and the President's tax cuts have come under heavy attack by Democrats on the campaign trail. Former President Clinton joined in today. During a meeting with Democrats on Capitol Hill, he criticized the President for taxing less and spending more."
Summaries of CyberAlert articles from last year documenting how the networks were a lot more concerned with blaming the tax cut for the deficit and portraying the prescription plan as not going far enough than in examining the true cost of adding yet another entitlement program:
-- June 12, 2003 CyberAlert: Every time the tax cut debate arose over the past couple of years network reporters were most concerned about its high "cost," who would most benefit and who would not. But with talk this week of a bi-partisan compromise agreement to create a new prescription drug entitlement, the networks have not displayed any interest in outlining who pays (those at lower incomes still working) and who benefits (the elderly, the wealthiest age group), and when they mention the cost it's in the context of how it's not high enough ("The cost of the plan, $400 billion. But advocates for seniors...say it's still not enough"), as reporters campaign in favor of Congress "finally" creating the new program which will give "new hope" and "badly needed help" to struggling seniors. www.mediaresearch.org
Picking up on a document discovery in Iraq, on Thursday's World News Tonight Brian Ross outlined how Saddam Hussein bought off many politicians around the world: "Some 270 prominent individuals, political parties or corporations in 47 countries were given Iraqi oil contracts instantly worth millions of dollars." Ross pointed out how "individuals in France were the second-largest beneficiary, with tens of millions of dollars worth of oil contracts awarded to a close associate of French President Jacques Chirac, a harsh critic of U.S. policy in Iraq."
After anchor Peter Jennings set up the January 29 "A Closer Look" segment, by explaining how an Iraqi newspaper had published what it learned in a document found at the Ministry of Oil, Ross filled in the details:
Online, ABC News has posted the list of beneficiaries, which includes the PLO: abcnews.go.com
During a stop on Washington to promote his new book with a title which matches his weekly segment on 20/20, "Give Me a Break," ABC's John Stossel asserted that "where I live in Manhattan and where I work at ABC, people say 'conservative' the way people say 'child molester.'" As reported Wednesday by Robert Bluey of CNSNews.com, at the Cato Institute on Tuesday, Stossel lamented how "leftist thinking is just the culture that I live in and the culture the reporters who populate the mainstream media live in."
An excerpt from Bluey's January 28 story, which FNC's Brit Hume highlighted in his "Grapevine" segment on Wednesday night, "ABC's Stossel Rips Network for Hostility to Conservatives," posted on CNSNews.com, a division of the MRC:
ABC News correspondent John Stossel, the co-anchor of 20/20, said most mainstream journalists, including those at his network, are leftists who view conservatives as "selfish and cruel" for embracing capitalism.
Stossel was in the nation's capital Tuesday to promote his new book, "Give Me a Break," at the libertarian Cato Institute. Although he praised ABC News for letting him present free-market viewpoints on 20/20, he criticized his peers for their hostility toward those ideas.
"Where I live in Manhattan and where I work at ABC, people say conservative the way people say child molester," he said. "[Conservative] is the worst thing for a reporter to be called. And I'm a little puzzled why they call me a conservative."
Stossel said, for instance, that he has libertarian views when it comes to drug use, prostitution, homosexuality and flag burning. Regardless, liberal media watchdogs like Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting have attacked him for aligning with conservatives....
"Leftist thinking is just the culture that I live in and the culture the reporters who populate the mainstream media live in," he said. "Everybody just agrees -- more safety regulation, gun control, higher taxes. Who could not want that? Everybody around here wants that. Anyone who disagrees is seen as not just wrong but selfish and cruel. If I try to discuss this with my peers, I get blank stares."
He added, "The press is so filled with hatred for capitalism that someone who advocates for free markets rather than government control is a conservative and a problem."
Stossel's book details some of the challenges he has encountered because of his free-market perspective. He told the crowd of libertarians that one of his "worst battles" with ABC News' legal review department happened when he did a feature on rent control.
"Everything I do has to be read by two liberal ABC lawyers and at least two liberal ABC producers," he said. "In this case, an economically illiterate lawyer kept blocking it. He demanded we interview more economists that would soften the piece and put it more in perspective because he was convinced it would be a disaster for poor people if rent control was abolished. Turned out he lived in a rent-controlled apartment."...
"ABC, God bless them, they don't always agree with me," he said, "but they let me do most of the things I want to do."...
When a member of the audience later asked Stossel why he had not joined a network with "journalistic integrity," such as Fox, the ABC newsman defended his employer.
"I'm going to stay with ABC," he said. "ABC has 10 million viewers typically, Fox has 1 [million], so the three networks can say, 'Fox is not doing good journalism, and the proof is that nobody's watching. We have 30 [million]; they have 1 [million]. Those are all right-wing nuts.'"
Stossel also used the occasion to take a swipe at The New York Times and The Washington Post. While the newspapers reach only a fraction of people compared to the television networks, he said radio and television producers rely heavily on their contents.
"The reason the Times, and to a lesser extent the Post, are so important, and they are, is because the TV and radio -- all of the media -- copy it sycophantically," he said. "That's how bias at the Times becomes bias in other media."...
END of Excerpt
For the CNSNews.com story in full: www.cnsnews.com
The ABC Web site lists nine of them:
For Stossel's supporting information for each, see: abcnews.go.com
For an excerpt from his book: abcnews.go.com
-- Brent Baker