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CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday December 2, 1999 (Vol. Four; No. 182)

How to "pay" for Bush Tax Cut for the Wealthy; Tipper Not Pressed on Homeless

1) ABC and NBC worried how to "pay" for Bush's tax cut as NBC stressed how it's "even more expensive" than the House plan. CNN's Brooks Jackson fretted over how it doesn't aid those who don't pay income taxes with "no relief at all for millions at the bottom."

2) Clinton delivered the usual partisan rant about "risky tax cuts" that would have destroyed the Social Security surplus. The Washington Post cited the quote as evidence that Clinton avoided "sharp partisan rhetoric" and was "rather dispassionate."

3) Andy Rooney espoused Jesse Ventura-like views of religion, writing in his new book that people only believe in God "because they're insecure."

4) Today and The Early Show featured looks at Tipper Gore's photos of the homeless, but neither show asked her about the Clinton-Gore record on reducing it. CBS's Jane Clayson asked: "What do you think that your legacy will be as the wife of the Vice President?"

5) The media are biased against Hillary Clinton, Jonathan Alter argued in Newsweek, citing "right-winger" Rupert Murdoch for the New York Post's bias against her and complaining there's no "countervailing tabloid" in New York for balance. Really?


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)How to "pay" for George W. Bush's tax cut idea and does it help everyone, or as CNN argued, did Bush ignore "millions of Americans at the bottom"?

    Violence in the streets of Seattle and the WTO meeting led all the network evening shows Wednesday night, but all also ran pieces assessing George W. Bush's tax cut plan. ABC and NBC assumed all the money in America belongs to the government and so a way will have to be found to "pay" for any tax cut. ABC anchor Jack Ford referred to "paying for the cut," while NBC's David Bloom warned "Bush's plan is even more expensive than the Republican tax cut President Clinton vetoed last summer" and suggested Bush not only has raised a lot of money, he's trying to show he has the "best ideas about how to spend it."

    CBS's Bob Schieffer described Bush's plan as more reasonable than what his opponents are pushing, asserting: "Bush's plan follows fairly mainstream Republican thinking and avoids the more exotic flat tax plans." CNN The World Today anchor Wolf Blitzer offered the oddest introduction of the night: "The Republican race for the White House turned nasty in Iowa today."

    While NBC's David Bloom declared the Bush cuts are "targeted especially at middle and lower income families," CNN's Brooks Jackson pushed class warfare by implying the tax cut is unfair since it doesn't cut income taxes for those who don't pay income taxes: "What Governor Bush doesn't mention is that his cut would give no relief at all for millions at the bottom."

    (Bush's plan would reduce the rate paid by those now in the 39.6 and 36 percent brackets to 33 percent, move those now paying 31 or 28 percent to 25 percent and have those now at 15 percent only pay at a 10 percent rate. Plus, he'd phase out the inheritance tax and double the child credit to $1,000.)

    Here's a rundown of how the three broadcast networks, CNN and MSNBC handled the Bush tax cut proposal on Wednesday night, December 1:

    -- ABC's World News Tonight. Anchor Jack Ford announced:
    "Republican candidates are always trying to make tax cuts a core issue. In political circles Governor Bush's sweeping plan is seen as an attempt to shore up his conservative credentials while also appealing to Democrats. Paying for the cut, and getting voters to buy it, are another matter altogether."

    Dean Reynolds noted that Bush "unveiled a plan that gives a tax break to virtually everybody." Reynolds ran through the basics of Bush's plan, including reducing the income tax rates to three at 10, 25 and 33 percent, as well as phasing out the inheritance tax and doubling the child credit. Reynolds then offered reaction from Steve Forbes. Over video of Bush and Forbes meeting each other at a gathering in Iowa, Reynolds reported:
    "This morning, after he'd shaken Bush's hand, GOP rival Steve Forbes was eager to pounce."
    Steve Forbes: "I think it's a small tax cut designed to get through the election, it's more political expediency and I'm very surprised that his tutors couldn't have come up with something better than this."
    Reynolds concluded: "And the Democrats say Bush's plan to use the U.S. budget surplus to pay for his tax cuts is way too risky. But if Bush's bothered by all this criticism, he isn't showing it so far."

    Jack Ford then added: "Speaking in Iowa today, Vice President Gore responded to Governor Bush's tax plan. He said it's astonishing that Governor Bush can't keep himself from using up the budget surplus."

    -- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather stressed divisiveness in the ranks instead of what Bush proposed:
    "The politics of election year tax cuts erupted today inside the ranks of Republicans seeking the presidential nomination. The flashpoint: A huge tax cut trial balloon being floated by George W. Bush the younger. Some of his rivals shoved back hard."

    Bob Schieffer began by claiming "It's starting to get tense among the Republicans." After explaining how Forbes has produced an ad attacking Bush for thinking about raising the Social Security retirement age and that Bush's tax cut would be bigger than the one vetoed by Clinton this year, Schieffer went through the basics of the proposal.
    CBS viewers then heard Bush proclaim: "There are only two things that can be done with the surplus. It can be used by government as the President proposes or it can be used by Americans to save and build and invest."
    Schieffer picked up: "Although Democrats denounced the plan as irresponsible, Bush's plan follows fairly mainstream Republican thinking and avoids the more exotic flat tax plans advocated by Forbes and some of the other candidates, whose reaction ranged from tepid to dubious."
    John McCain: "I want to make sure that it doesn't take from the Social Security trust fund."
    Forbes: "I'm very surprised that his tutors couldn't have come up with something better than this."
    Schieffer concluded: "So, the Republican candidates have plenty to chew on as they head for the debate in New Hampshire tomorrow night where they'll all be on the same stage for the first time. And this puts the focus on domestic issues where frontrunner Bush especially seems most comfortable."

    -- CNN's The World Today. Anchor Wolf Blitzer intoned:
    "The Republican race for the White House turned nasty in Iowa today when George W. Bush outlined $483 billion in tax cuts. Conservative rival Steve Forbes attacked Bush's five year plan as being in his words, 'something only the timid could love.' The Texas Governor shot back: 'I think he likes to campaign by tearing down other people.'"

    CNN then ran two stories: Bruce Morton summarized the plan and the usually better than this Brooks Jackson offered a slanted story assessing its impact on income groups. Jackson began from the left:
    "What Governor Bush doesn't mention is that his cut would give no relief at all for millions at the bottom. Working families, who earn too little to pay any income taxes now, but who do pay payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, which the Bush plan doesn't touch. No help for roughly 20 million working families -- about one in every five. But above the lowest income levels, Bush would help everybody."

    If you don't pay income taxes why would you get an income tax cut? And if all "people at the bottom" are paying is the FICA tax then in a sense they've already gotten a 100 percent income tax cut.

    Jackson moved on to note that Bush contended his plan would cut to zero the income tax for 6 million families: "A family of four now starts paying income taxes on income above $24,900 a year. Bush says under his plan, taxes would start at $36,500."

    Jackson correctly noted that "the rich would get a smaller percentage cut in tax rates," but then returned to liberal class warfare to make the insipid point that those who pay more in taxes would get a bigger tax cut. Without labeling Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) as liberal, he relayed their rhetoric about the rich:
    "In dollar terms they pay more now and would get more from Bush's plan. An analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice shows taxpayers averaging about $30,000 a year would get an average cut of $501 when fully phased in. But those making an average of $837,000 a year, would get an average cut of more than $50,000 a year."

    Jackson concluded by assuming someone must "pay" for tax cuts: "Would there be money to pay for such huge cuts? Bush's plan assumes the economy will grow 2.7 percent per year, which is not unreasonable. The Congressional Budget Office predicts 2.5 percent growth and the economy actually grew at a rate of 5.5 percent growth in the last quarter. So the Bush tax plan is based on mainstream economics, but such a massive cut would delay paying down the national debt, and, by design, leave little or no room for other new spending."

    -- NBC Nightly News. Plugging the upcoming story, anchor Tom Brokaw uniquely reminded viewers of how George H.W. Bush broke his tax pledge: "And when we come back here, NBC News In Depth tonight: Read his lips. George W. Bush outlines his economic plan, including a huge package of tax cuts."

    David Bloom opened the subsequent story: "Saying the times demand a substantial tax cut, and preaching what he calls the economics of inclusion, Governor Bush today offered as the centerpiece of his economic plan a more than one trillion dollar tax cut, targeted especially at middle and lower income families."

    Bloom never explained how he got to a "more than one trillion dollar tax cut" when other stories referred to it as $483 billion one over five years, so Bloom was probably making it sound bigger by going out ten years.

    After mentioning the tax rate reductions, Bloom got to its "expense," explaining: "Bush would double the child tax credit to $1,000, meaning a typical family of four, making $50,000 a year, would see their federal taxes cut in half. But Bush's plan is even more expensive than the Republican tax cut President Clinton vetoed last summer. And Vice President Gore calls it risky, quote 'reckless tax scheme that would immediately put our country back into deficits.' Bush counters that the budget surplus should be returned to taxpayers, not spent by the government."
    Bush: "What is risky is when politicians are given charge of a surplus. There's a strong temptation to spend it and in Washington that temptation is overwhelming."
    Bloom, indirectly labeling the CTJ, relayed static analysis assumptions, as if a tax cut would not generate any additional economic activity that would create more tax revenue:
    "But liberal critics say the numbers don't add up. Why not? Because the Congressional Budget Office projects total surpluses of only $463 billion over the first five years of Bush's plan. But his tax cut alone would cost $483 billion, leaving no money for higher defense or education spending."
    Robert McIntyre, Citizens for Tax Justice: "You'd need to either raid the Social Security Trust Fund or you'd have to have gigantic cuts in everything else the government does."
    Bloom concluded: "But Bush, using rosier economic numbers, projects there'd be $100 billion left for extra spending, a debate he relishes, hoping to prove he's not just the candidate with the most money but the one with the best ideas about how to spend it."

    MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams also carried Bloom's piece, followed by some standard liberal analysis from Chris Matthews. While Matthews may have been tough on Clinton during the Lewinsky scandal, Wednesday night he showed he hasn't yet grown out of the redistributionist beliefs espoused by his former boss, the late Tip O'Neill. Matthews told Brian Williams:
    "It does help the middle class, but this is a very good tax for well off people. It means that in your top bracket people are going to drop seven points. That means you're going to get, if you make a million dollars you're going to get $70,000 more back from the government at the end of the year. It also means that you're not going to pay any estate tax at all when you pass away, which is very good for wealthy people like the Bush family."

    Three comments: First, going from 15 to 10 percent is a far greater percentage reduction in tax rate than going from 39.6 to 33 percent. Second, since when did the government create the wealth to give to the rich at the end of the year? Third, dead people don't pay any inheritance tax now because it's hard to pay taxes when you're dead.

cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)Clinton's partisan liberal rhetoric seen as "dispassionate" by one reporter. Signing the $390 billion spending bill Monday, the last of the $1.8 trillion budget for 2000, President Clinton delivered the usual partisan rant about how the budget "avoids risky tax cuts" that would have destroyed the Social Security surplus and "drained our ability to advance education."
    Nothing remarkable about that, but the Washington Post cited the quote as evidence that Clinton avoided "sharp partisan rhetoric" and was "rather dispassionate."

    Check out this two paragraph sequence in the middle of reporter Charles Babington's November 30 story. (At the end of the first paragraph he advanced another canard about how the House-proposed tax cut would have forced "steep" spending cuts when it actually only would have cut taxes by 0.4 percent in 2000 and 0.9 percent in 2001.):
    "The budget bill's most important feature is something it lacks rather than contains. In September, Clinton vetoed the Republicans' biggest fiscal initiative, a $791 billion, 10-year tax cut, which would have triggered steep spending cuts.
    "Eschewing the sharp partisan rhetoric that had colored much of the budget debate, Clinton yesterday was rather dispassionate, saying simply that the budget bill 'avoids risky tax cuts that would have spent hundreds of billions of dollars from the Social Security surplus and drained our ability to advance education and other important public purposes.'"

    I guess when you agree with the rhetoric it seems "dispassionate."


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)Jesse Ventura, meet Andy Rooney. A USA Today item last week revealed that the 60 Minutes commentator has as little respect for religion as does Jesse Ventura.

    In his Inside TV column on November 23 USA Today's Peter Johnson looked at Rooney's new book of letters he's written, Sincerely, Andy Rooney:
    "He's merciless with lawyers ('I think they blow an awful lot of smoke'), dismissive of people who ask for his autograph ('I'm not someone important enough to have his autograph saved'), and skeptical, at best, about religion. People look toward God, he says, 'because they're insecure. They don't think they're smart enough to handle their own lives. If their life depends on some other force other than their own intelligence, they think they're more apt to live happily and successfully.' But the majority of letters are, like Rooney, funny."


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes)tgore1202.jpg (12859 bytes)Photos of the homeless taken by Tipper Gore are now on display at a Washington art gallery, prompting appearances by Mrs. Gore on NBC's Today and CBS's The Early Show this week, but on neither program was she asked about the Clinton-Gore record over seven years in addressing homelessness even though NBC's Matt Lauer called it "a very serious problem."

    Instead, NBC's Bob Faw focused on how her photos give the homeless "hope and dignity" and allowed her to claim she's "acknowledging their humanity." The Early Show's Jane Clayson told Gore "You have always said that your priority is your children and your family." Clayson asked such tough questions as: "You're a new grandma, how's it going?" And: "What do you think that your legacy will be as the wife of the Vice President, what do you hope it will be?"

    NBC's Today on November 30 played a taped piece about Tipper Gore by Bob Faw. As transcribed by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, Matt Lauer introduced the story:
    "As the wife of the Vice President there are many national issues that vie for Tipper Gore's time. But there is one issue that's quietly captured her attention for more than 20 years. Homelessness. And now she is using one of her great passions, photography, to grab the spotlight for this very serious problem."

    Bob Faw began: "We have never been richer and still they are everywhere. Huddled over steaming grates or curled up in their cardboard sanctuaries. This new exhibition at Washington's Corcoran Gallery intends to recast that image. That, at least, is why the Vice President's wife displayed ten photographs she has taken over the last 25 years."

    After showing some of the photos and getting comments from Gore about the people in them, Faw oozed: "Meeting them, capturing their struggles and their strength on film taught Tipper Gore a lesson then and now....Mrs. Gore says she's changed over the years but that her technique has not. That first she forges a bond with her subject and always asks permission to photograph."

    Faw continued: "At this exhibition, just a stone's throw from the White House, there is something ironic, even faintly absurd about people who have absolutely nothing being celebrated by a woman who has virtually everything. She lives in a splendid government mansion, fully staffed, always protected. She insists though that none of that changes the way the homeless relate to her."

    Faw's concluding sequence: "And the candidate's wife has an answer for cynics who grumble that she is exploiting the homeless. 'Unlike most people,' she says, 'I'm acknowledging their humanity.'"

    Gore, over video of pedestrians bypassing a beggar: "People don't look them in the eye. They tell me this. They say people act as if I'm not alive, as if I'm a non-person."
    Faw: "And ordinarily they are unless they make news in Denver where police now believe a crazed killer had decapitated seven homeless men or in New York City where Mayor Rudolph Giuliani ordered the arrest of homeless people who will not use shelters. In this gallery, which traditionally presents the grand masters, that image of the homeless is undergoing a change."
    Gore: "Photojournalism is the art of communicating a serious subject to the viewer."
    Faw: "It's not just to look at them and react to them it's to cause the viewer to do something?"
    Gore: "Exactly."
    Faw: "Here where the homeless are given hope and dignity."

    CBS's The Early Show on December 1 demonstrated that Bryant Gumbel is not the show's only liberal co-host who will go soft on liberal guests. As taken down by the MRC's Brian Boyd, here's every "question" Clayson posed to Tipper Gore:

    -- "It's a wonderful project with wonderful photographs. How did you come up with the idea?"
    -- Clayson: "Now, are some of your photographs in there as well?"
    -- "I know you yourself have gone out to the streets of Washington many times. I've heard in jeans and a T-shirt to help the homeless. Why is it so important to you?"
    -- "You have published your own book a few years ago. Some wonderful photographs in that as well. You say when you see something significant you just want to pick up a camera and take a picture of it. Where does that love of photography come from?"
    -- "I was on the campaign trail with the Vice President a few months ago in California and I'll never forget at one stop when he was giving a speech in a room full of dignitaries and guests, I looked up and there you were behind him at the podium snapping photos of him as he was giving his speech. I thought it was wonderful, but does it ever bother him or is he just used to it."
    -- "Most of the pictures that you take of your family and of the Vice President show a different side of him. Do you think most Americans know who Al Gore really is?" [CBS showed photos of Al without a shirt and playing in a pool]
    -- "And what do you think they should know that they don't?"
    -- "So many jokes are made, Mrs. Gore, of your husband being so stiff and formal. Why do you think that that perception still exists?"
    -- "This new Al Gore that we've been seeing lately in sweaters instead of the button-up suits, is that more of the Al Gore that you know?"
    -- "You have always said that your priority is your children and your family, if you had to do it all over again -- life in Washington -- would you do anything differently as it relates to your kids?"
    -- "I have to ask you about, you're a new grandma, and how's it going?"
    -- "And do grandma and grandpa get to see him [Tipper and Al's grandson] very often?"
    -- "Mrs. Gore, what do you think that your legacy will be as the wife of the Vice President, what do you hope it will be?"
    -- "And are you ready to get back on the campaign trail pretty vigorously now coming up?"
    -- "Well, we appreciate your coming in and best of luck with the exhibit in Washington. How long will that last?"

    Not quite the approach the media took during the Reagan and Bush years when they were quick to blame them for homelessness. As a 1996 MediaWatch study by the MRC's Tim Graham found, media interest in the homeless fell upon Clinton's inauguration. The February 1996 study of 1989 through 1995 coverage on the ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC evening shows, "The Incredible Shrinking Homeless," revealed:

In the Bush years (1989-1992), the number of homeless stories per year averaged 52.5, but in the first three years of the Clinton administration, the average dropped to 25.3 stories a year.

During the Bush administration, the story count grew from 44 in 1989 to a peak of 71 in 1990, followed by 54 stories in 1991 and 43 in 1992. By contrast, stories on America's homeless dipped slightly to 35 stories in 1993, and 32 in 1994. In 1995, the number fell dramatically to just nine....

While the stories in the Bush era regularly blamed Republican administrations, not one of the 75 homeless stories in the last three years has placed any blame on the Clinton administration.

    END Excerpt

    To read the full study, go to:

     +++ Thursday morning the MRC's Eric Pairel and Andy Szul will post on the MRC's Web site, in RealPlayer format, a portion of the Clayson interview of Gore so you can see some of the photos.


cyberno5.gif (1443 bytes) In this week's Newsweek Jonathan Alter inveighed against "right-winger" Rupert Murdoch for his newspaper's bias against the First Lady without a "countervailing tabloid" for balance.

     Here's part of the lead item from this week's MagazineWatch, about the December 6 issues, compiled by Mark Drake and edited by Tim Graham:

In Newsweek, Jonathan Alter's "Why It's Time to Let Loose" warned readers not to count Hillary out and complained about media bias against the first lady: "The last four months have been miserable for Hillary, and she has mostly herself to blame. But it's not too late. To overcome bias against her in the press -- and to take the edge off the monumental chutzpah it took to run in the first place -- she needs to look beyond merely correcting her political tone-deafness."....

Alter rebuked the New York Post and its publisher Rupert Murdoch for their coverage of Hillary: "To turn every miscue into a fiasco, Hillary can always depend on the New York Post. The Post is now a Gotham City symbol -- as New York as a bagel with a shmeer. While the tabloid, owned by right-winger Rupert Murdoch, has a circulation of only 437,000, it sets the tone for the rest of the media. News magazines (including Newsweek) and cable networks use the clever screaming headlines to represent the pulse of the city; local TV swims in currents created by the paper's coverage. Almost everyone usually fails to mention that the paper is biased against the Clintons. And there's no countervailing tabloid. When the Post ran its SHAME ON HILLARY headline, the New York Daily News, a more objective paper, did not cover a crackdown on street people with GIULIANI TO HOMELESS: DROP DEAD."

No countervailing newspaper? Millions of New Yorkers read the liberal dailies: The New York Times, the Daily News, and Newsday. But Alter complained they're "more objective." Here's two actual headlines from last week's Daily News on Giuliani and the homeless. On Tuesday: "RUDY PLOWING AHEAD WITH PLAN TO ROUST HOMELESS." On Friday: "THE MAYOR TARGETS US LIKE PREY SAY NEEDY."

This is more objective?

     END Except

     Other items in this week's edition:

     -- Newsweek remarkably stressed Hillary's "disastrous" kiss of Mrs. Arafat and the political ties between Hillary and racial demagogue Al Sharpton.
     -- Newsweek presented an excerpt from their reporter Bill Turque's new book Inventing Al Gore, which tenderly cast doubt on the Vice President's claim he never received any special treatment during the Vietnam War, since he was advised by Army Chief of Staff William Westmoreland.
     -- Columnist John Leo noted his U.S. News editors wanted to remove the word "pro-lifers" from a recent column and replace it with "abortion opponents."
     -- U.S. News reporter Franklin Foer looked at the relationship between religion and politics in American life and portrayed Al Gore as a "centrist Democrat" with a "social conservative streak."

     To read these items, go to:

     Thursday night's debate in New Hampshire, the first in which Bush will show up, will be shown nationally live from 8 to 9:30pm ET on the Fox News Channel, which is co-sponsoring it with WMUR-TV. C-SPAN will show it on tape at 5:30am ET Friday morning. -- Brent Baker


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