Budget Deal? What Budget Deal?
by L. Brent Bozell III
March 20, 1998
There's nothing reporters like more than bipartisan
agreement on new sky-high levels of federal spending. Nothing, of course,
except even higher spending. Perhaps this explains the deafening silence
coming from the press as both political parties prepare to break their word to
the American people on the budget.
Last summer, when both parties in the nation's capital
agreed to a budget deal which spends record sums of your money, network
journalists had found paradise.
They described the deal with remarkably similar language as
that used by the politicians they were covering. NBC's Tom Brokaw called the
agreement "a breakthrough deal on the federal budget. The best
demonstration of bipartisan spirit since the Gulf War in the capital."
CBS correspondent Paula Zahn also thought it was "a breakthrough
deal," while at ABC both John Cochran and Kevin Newman said the agreement
was "historic," with Newman mentioning the same "bipartisan
good will" Brokaw had spotted. And Dan Rather was nothing if not
consistent. The night before the deal was finalized he called it "a
possible legislative landmark." The next night he told viewers that
Congress and the White House had "reached a landmark deal today."
So how are network reporters responding now that many in
both Congress and the White House are trying to find ways to get out of this
supposedly historic, landmark, breakthrough deal? With outrage? Or at least
with a sense of journalistic responsibility to report the attempted
deal-breaking? No, their response to this betrayal has been more like a
collective yawn.The Cato Institute's Stephen Moore vividly describes the GOP's
abandonment of their budget deal in the March 9 National Review. "Just
nine months after approval of the much-celebrated budget deal of 1997,
Congress is already plotting to bust the expenditure caps for 1999,"
reports Moore. Speaker Newt Gingrich - who last summer told conservatives they
should support the budget deal because of the How many network news reports
noted Senator Domenici's complaint? None. The networks are instead busy
telling us there's a federal budget surplus on the horizon, as if the fact
that the government is also spending money at record levels isn't relevant
news. Massive new spending, by legislators from both parties who can't
fathom the notion that this money isn't theirs, will undermine last year's
budget deal. In Washington D.C., the media verdict is in: So what? But let
anyone suggest that the public deserves a tax cut - better yet, suggest also
that this tax cut will help expand the economy and generate greater federal
revenues - and those same pundits will scream bloody murder. And they'll
reference a budget deal forged in 1997.
What games they are all playing.
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