CyberAlert - September 27, 1996 - Clinton Credited for Income Rise

Two items today:

1. ABC's World News Tonight, which didn't report poverty and income statistics when they were bad, highlighted them Thursday night when they helped Clinton. And their one expert credited the President.

2. What's wrong with liberalism, CNN's Bernard Shaw asks plaintively.

1) Bad news is news, not good news. Right? Not at ABC when the good news benefits Clinton.

On October 6, 1994 the Census Bureau reported poverty had risen to a three-decade high. ABC's World News Tonight: No story. On October 5, 1995 the bureau reported a slight drop in poverty, but the gap between richest and poorest grew. ABC's World News Tonight: No story.

On September 26, 1996 the Census bureau reports median income up and poverty down. ABC's World News Tonight: Big story crediting Bill Clinton.

Peter Jennings opened the show Thursday night: "On World News Tonight this Thursday, a bloody day between Israelis and Palestinians. The Census Bureau says that Americans are earning more for the first time in six years. Family income is up."

Barry Serafin reported in his story that median household income was up 2.7 percent, but still lower than 1989. Serafin's story continued:
"The number of Americans living in poverty fell. There were 36.4 million people below the poverty level, 1.6 million fewer than the year before. The poverty rate for African-Americans dropped to its lowest level since 1959, 29.3 percent. What does it add up to?"
Professor Frank Levy, MIT: "Things are slowly getting better and the people feel OK about it. It's not nirvana, but it's certainly not doom and gloom either."
Serafin: "And there was certainly no gloom and doom at the White House where the President pounced on the new figures." Clinton: "The news is remarkably good, and I'd like to share it with you."
Serafin: "Citing the income gains the President declared that the country is on the right track. He heralded progress on narrowing the gap between the richest and poorest Americans"
Clinton: "We have had the largest decline in the inequality of incomes in America in 27 years."
Serafin: "Census Bureau officials, however, said that decline was so small it was statistically insignificant. Still, there was praise for today's generally upbeat report."
Levy: "Well I think the credit is shared between the President and Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve."
Serafin: "All in all the new numbers added to a very good day for Bill Clinton."

The New York Times reported June 30 that "the share of national income earned by the top 5 percent of households grew at a faster rate than during the eight years of the Reagan administration, which was often characterized as favoring the rich." ABC's World News Tonight that night: No story.

Immediately following Serafain, Jim Wooten reported on Bob Dole in Florida. Wooten noted that Dole correctly pointed out that poverty rose in Florida, then reported: "Still, the Senator had much less to say about the numbers than about a President he says is lying to older Americans, telling them Republicans will cut Medicare, trying to frighten them into voting Democratic."
Following a Dole soundbite, Wooten continued: "Then Senator Dole tried to raise a bit of fear himself about Mr. Clinton's plans for a second term."
Dole: "He'll raise taxes again on the America people if he's re-elected." Wooten: "The Senator insists that his principle campaign themes - his bad news message about a limping economy, stagnate wages, high taxes and heavy deficits - will eventually change the shape of this election. So far they haven't, but he keeps trying."

They might have a better chance if ABC weren't endorsing Clinton's claims while countering Dole's by saying he's also employing fear.

2) On the September 25 Inside Politics CNN's Bernie Shaw took up the Dole charge that Clinton is really a liberal. To put Shaw's question in context, here's how the exchange went with Republican strategist Charlie Black and Democratic strategist Frank Greer:
Charlie Black: "People don't mind name calling if you call them conservatives, which is what Bob Dole is. Teenage drug use has doubled because Bill Clinton reduced the size of the White House drug office 83 percent. How can you say he's had a good record on drugs? Bernie, here's the problem. Bill Clinton wants the federal government to run your life. He wants to take more and more of your hard-earned money and then he wants to reward you a tax credit if you behave the way he wants you to behave."
Frank Greer: "It's the same worn-out rhetoric that they tried to use in Congress and it didn't work."
Bernard Shaw: "I understand the desire to talk about issues. I understand that. A very innocent question. What's wrong with being a liberal?"
- Brent Baker