"Still Paying Bill" for '81 Cut; AM Shows Pounded at Size and Skew of Bush's "Controversial" Plan; Clinton Furniture Removal Skipped
1) CBS's John Roberts distorted history as he maintained
"America is still paying the bill" for Reagan's 1981 tax cut.
NBC's Tom Brokaw obsessed on the size of Bush's plan, referring to it as
"big" and "massive." David Gregory ominously concluded with
how critics claim: "What helps individual families today...may actually
hurt the country down the road."
2) Dan Rather promised a "Real Deal" look
"beyond the photo-ops and spin" at how the tax cut plan "could
effect you." Instead, Bob Schieffer said nothing about the impact on the
tax bill on viewers as he delivered only the Democratic spin about how
"they fear" the tax cut will lead to 1980s-style deficits.
3) Morning hosts pounded away at Larry Lindsey over the size
and skew of the tax cut. CBS's Jane Clayson: "Isn't it true though that
43 percent of Bush's tax cuts go to the wealthiest one percent of
Americans?" ABC's Antonio Mora called it "massive and
4) The Clintons removed from the White House several pieces of
furniture donated to the White House, not to them personally, the Washington
Post revealed. Not a word about it aired on the morning shows on Monday and
neither ABC or CBS touched the matter Monday night. But CNN, FNC and the NBC
Nightly News found it newsworthy.
soundbite of the broadcast networks on Monday night? This blast from Senate
Minority Leader Tom Daschle: "You know, if you make over $300,000 a year,
this tax cut means you get to buy a new Lexus. If you make $50,000 a year, you
get to buy a muffler on your used car." All three evening shows used the
clip in their February 5 stories on Bush's week-long effort to promote his
tax cut plan.
ABC's World News Tonight folded it into a balanced
presentation by Terry Moran of the "first big political test for the Bush
administration" as he showed Bush with some families at the White House,
outlined the basics of the plan, relayed how Democrats call it too big and
complain it would help the rich (Daschle soundbite), allowed Bush economic
adviser Larry Lindsey to counter that people want their fair share not jealousy
and concluded by showing Bush joking, in response to a question from a reporter
about how no family at the White House was from the top bracket, that he
represents the top income bracket.
CBS and NBC viewers weren't so fortunate. CBS's John
Roberts distorted history as he stressed how an unlabeled "Bob McIntyre of
Citizens for Tax Justice can't forget the last time Congress went on a tax
cut spree in 1981. America is still paying the bill." (Has CBS ever
portrayed Congress as "going on a spending spree?") Roberts
emphasized how Democrats "voiced concern" that Bush's "hands
off" philosophy to let Congressmen make suggestions "may give
Republicans a green light for a tax cut free for all."
NBC anchor Tom Brokaw obsessed on the size:
"President George W. Bush began his big push for a big tax
cut....President Bush made the massive tax cut a centerpiece of his
campaign." While reporter David Gregory did counter the liberal canard
that the plan mostly benefits the rich, as he relayed how "some
experts" say "as a percentage of their tax liability, the rich
actually get a smaller cut than many others," he nonetheless portrayed the
tax cut as dangerous. "Opponents argue that Bush's tax cut is so large
it will force the government's budget back into deficits, impacting its
ability to save Social Security or improve Medicare," Gregory warned as he
ominously concluded: "What helps individual families today, they argue,
may actually hurt the country down the road."
Now the details about CBS and NBC on Monday night,
-- CBS Evening News. John Roberts began his piece, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "President Bush was locked in
full campaign mode today parading before the cameras families he claims will
benefit from his tax cut."
Following a clip from Bush, Roberts continued:
"Democrats, collaborating on a smaller tax cut proposal, have vowed to
fight the Bush plan, targeting it as a budget buster that caters to the
Tom Daschle: "You know, if you make over $300,000 a
year, this tax cut means you get to buy a new Lexus. If you make $50,000 a
year, you get to buy a muffler on your used car."
Roberts: "On the Republican side, Mr. Bush faces a
different problem. Already they're talking up adding more tax cuts to his
plan. And then, there's the lobbyists who wonder why Mr. Bush gave nothing to
corporate America. Critics charge the bill could eventually top $3
Bob McIntyre, Citizens for Tax Justice: "Well, I'm
afraid that we're going to see Congress bidding against each other to try to
add things to this tax bill to please favorite contributors or constituencies.
If that happens, gee wilikers."
Without ever identifying McIntyre as a liberal, Roberts gave
credibility to his re-writing of history: "Bob McIntyre of Citizens for
Tax Justice can't forget the last time Congress went on a tax cut spree in
1981. America is still paying the bill. And while those magnificent surplus
projections make it seem like anything is possible, even the man who took the
lid off the tax cut punch bowl cautions they are only a best guess."
Alan Greenspan, January 25: "The errors that have been
made in these long-term projections are really quite extraordinary."
Roberts concluded: "The Democratic leadership today
criticized the President for trying to lock in a tax cut before he even has a
budget, and they also voiced concern that his 'hands off' philosophy to
make suggestions and let Congress work it out may give Republicans a green
light for a tax cut free for all."
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw liked to employ the terms
"big" and "massive" as he set up two NBC stories:
"President George W. Bush began his big push for a big tax cut, as he put
it, 'tax relief for all.' President Bush made the massive tax cut a
centerpiece of his campaign, of course, and a combination of a sagging economy,
but with strong surpluses, has only strengthened his resolve."
First, new White House reporter Campbell Brown, who has
replaced Claire Shipman who is on her way to ABC News, reviewed Bush's case
and the Democratic arguments against it. Second, David Gregory examined the
plan's impact. He began by noting how "Middle class married couples with
children like what they see." He profiled a St. Louis family with a
husband who works and a wife and three kids at home. They like the plan because
of the boost in the child credit.
Gregory outlined how "Bush would reduce all tax
brackets: 15 percent to 10 percent; 28 percent to 15 percent; 31 percent to 25
percent; and, 36 and 39.6 percent, to 33 percent." He then asked, as
transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Who loses under the Bush plan?
Mainly single taxpayers without children. And what about the charge that the
plan mostly benefits the rich? Not so, say some experts. As a percentage of
their tax liability, the rich actually get a smaller cut than many others. But
while the President maintains tax relief is the best way to immediately revive
the economy, many economists aren't so sure."
Paul Christopher, economist: "Any policy that the
government undertakes, whether it's monetary policy by the Fed or fiscal
policy, all of those are going to work with some lag and 12 months is probably
a pretty reasonable rule of thumb."
Gregory ominously concluded: "In fact, opponents argue
that Bush's tax cut is so large it will force the government's budget back
into deficits, impacting its ability to save Social Security or improve
Medicare. What helps individual families today, they argue, may actually hurt
the country down the road."
As for the size of and who benefits from the Bush tax cut
plan, Monday's USA Today offered some basic numbers skipped by the networks:
-- The rich would continue to pay more than their fair
share, the lower classes much less than their fair share. USA Today reporter
Jonathan Weisman relayed in his February 5 cover story:
"The most affluent would gain a remarkable cash
windfall from both the rate cuts and the estate-tax elimination. However, the
share of total federal taxes that the wealthy pay would remain the same,
according to an analysis by the non-partisan congressional Joint Committee on
"For example, a corporate vice president earning
$800,000 and her husband, who makes $150,000 heading a non-profit organization,
would reap a $43,517 tax cut once the plan was fully phased in, according to
Deloitte & Touche. But the family would still be left with a tax bill of
nearly $258,000 a year.
"Families like this one, earning more than $200,000 a
year, make up 2% of taxpayers, but they fork over 27.4% of all federal taxes --
and would continue to pay that percentage even after Bush's tax cut.
"Poorer families, who already pay a tiny fraction of
federal taxes, would also continue to pay the same small share, according to
the committee analysis. Families earning $20,000 to $30,000 -- about 14% of all
taxpayers -- would pay the same 3.4% of taxes after the Bush plan is enacted
that they do now.
"Families with incomes $30,000 to $40,000 -- about 12%
of all taxpayers -- would continue to pay 5.3% of all federal taxes after the
Bush plan is phased in. But those families would get something from the
-- A chart accompanying the cover story listed tax
analysis provided by Deloitte & Touche. They determined that after five
years, a married couple earning $70,000 with two children would have their
income tax burden reduced by 40 percent. Someone much wealthier, such as
couples making $280,000, $520,000 or $950,000 wouldn't fair nearly so well,
getting only a 14 percent cut.
-- As for Tom Brokaw's worry about its
"massive" size, Weisman observed that "when measured in today's
dollars, Ronald Reagan's tax cut in 1981 was more than twice as large as Bush's
To read the USA Today story while it remains up for a few
days, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/news/acovmon.htm
For the chart, go to: http://www.usatoday.com/news/washdc/2001-02-04-taxchart.htm
one thing Monday night, but delivered quite another. Setting up a report by Bob
Schieffer immediately following the John Roberts story quoted in item #1 above,
Dan Rather promised: "Looking beyond the photo-ops and spin, CBS's Bob
Schieffer has one of what we call his 'Real Deal' analyses for you tonight
on how this volatile mix of tax cut numbers and political equations could
Now compare that promise of a spin-free report about how
the tax cut will "effect you" with what Bob Schieffer delivered:
"Well Dan, to put it bluntly, Tom Daschle and Dick
Gephardt, the Democratic leaders at the Capitol, see this in a very different
way. They told us tonight that when the Bush tax cut is added to the
administration's projected spending plans the cost will not only eat up the
entire surplus, but even worse, government would have to dip into Social
Security surpluses to pay for it. They say that is because the Bush tax cut
will actually cost $2.3 trillion, not $1.6 when you add in interest and other
costs. By Democratic figuring that is 85 percent of the expected ten year
surplus, leaving only $400 billion to cover spending increases already
projected to run more than $700 billion on such programs as prescription drugs,
education and defense. Gephardt and Daschle want a tax cut too, something in
the neighborhood of $800 billion, but they fear anything larger could set off
the kind of red ink spending that produced the enormous deficits in the
(Yeah, their "fear" is deficits and not an
inability to spend more money.)
Not a syllable about the impact of the tax bill on
individual viewers. And which sentence was "beyond...the spin"? It
was only the Democratic spin.
conservative it must be "controversial" according to the media's
dictionary. On Monday's Good Morning America, ABC news reader Antonio Mora,
MRC analyst Jessica Anderson noticed, introduced an 8am story: "President
Bush is launching a major public relations campaign today. He's trying to sell
his massive and controversial tax cut plan to American taxpayers."
Mora's characterization followed 7am half interviews of
Bush economic adviser Larry Lindsey on all three morning shows in which he was
pounded from the left on the size and supposed skew to the wealthy of the Bush
tax cut proposal.
> ABC's Good Morning America. Charles Gibson set up
his interview: "Today President George W. Bush starts the rollout of a
centerpiece of his agenda, his $1.6 trillion tax cut plan. Now, his plan would
reduce the 39.6 and 36 percent brackets down to 33 percent, and the 31 percent
and 28 percent brackets would be reduced to 25 percent. Is it fair to give such
a large percentage of the tax break to upper-income people? Can this country
afford $1.6 trillion in tax cuts?"
-- He pressed Lindsey: "Well, with all due respect,
you have seen those estimates, haven't you, that a third of this tax cut goes
to the top one percent?"
Lindsey: "Well, I'm not sure. Again, it depends,
there's a whole range of estimates out there. What I follow is the joint
Gibson: "But that's about in the ballpark, isn't it,
that a very, very high percentage of this goes to the rich?"
-- "Overall, you've got an estimate now of a $5.6
trillion projected surplus over the next 10 years. Bill Safire in the New York
Times calls that 'faith-based economics,' but a large part of that, when you
take out Social Security, more than half of the estimates of surplus are going
to this tax cut, right?"
-- "If, if you get those kinds of surpluses, but
those surpluses are projected on no growth in overall spending, and if we're in
for tough economic times, the amount of government revenue will go down."
-- "People always worry when tax cut bills are going
through Congress that it'll get loaded up with all kinds of other things that
perhaps you don't want. If this begins to get bigger than $1.6 trillion, will
you oppose any additional tax cuts?"
-- "You want this as a stimulus, obviously, against
any concerns about a recession that could be in the offing, but the full effect
of this doesn't take place until 2006. Are you going to alter this to make it
more immediate, to get more money in the hands of people immediately so that
perhaps they can spend more and avert a recession?"
> CBS's The Early Show. MRC analyst Brian Boyd took
down these questions to Lindsey from Jane Clayson, which actually began with
one from the right:
-- "The President is suggesting this $1.6 trillion
tax cut plan over the next decade. If we need immediate tax relief now, why
draw it out over the next ten years?"
-- "But will this tax cut come in time to really
help this slowing economy?"
-- "Let's take a look at some of the components of
President Bush's plan, we saw a few of them in Bill Plante's piece. He wants to
double the child tax credit to $1,000 per child, he wants to cut tax rates
across the board, eliminate the marriage penalty tax and the Social Security
tax. Based on those proposals you say the average family of four making $50,000
will see about a $1,600 cut a year?"
-- "Isn't it true though that 43 percent of Bush's
tax cuts go to the wealthiest one percent of Americans?"
-- "There's a lot of talk about this tax cut being
retroactive to the first of the year, will it be?"
-- "Democrats say a responsible tax cut would be
somewhere between $700 and $900 billion, is there compromise in here
-- "Let's listen to President Bush talking about all
this during his weekly radio address, then I'll ask you about that after....Mr.
Lindsey, in our last ten seconds how likely is it that this Bush tax cut plan
> NBC's Today. Matt Lauer handled the interview with
Lindsey as transcribed by MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens:
-- "President Bush is kicking off tax week by saying
not only does he want the full scope of the cut he talked about in the campaign
but he also wants to accelerate this plan. He wants the money to get into the
hands of taxpayers this year. How likely is that?"
-- "How does that happen though? I mean you are
actually going to take fewer deductions out of those paychecks?"
-- "We talk about $1.6 trillion. That again is the,
is the whole ball of wax that President Bush says he wants. You know Democrats
want something less than that. They are talking in the neighborhood of $800 to
$900 billion. As an economic adviser what's wrong with a tax cut of $900
-- "I guess what I'm asking you is if it, if it
comes down to $900 billion, the Democrats or certain Democrats proposal do you
not think that would help the economy?"
-- "Critics of the plan are saying, you know, the
biggest problem they see is, is who's getting this tax relief. And I know
you're cutting rates all across the board. But they're concerned that the
richest people in this country, the top one percent of wage earners are gonna
get the biggest benefit from that. How do you argue those numbers?"
-- "What would be the problem with some triggers in
this Mr. Lindsey? In other words you do this more gradually than President Bush
has suggested and you look at some predetermined economic indicators and say if
these numbers show us certain, certain things over the next ten years then we
bring in more of a tax decrease."
-- Lauer actually snuck in a conservative concern:
"Why no reduction in capital gains taxes?"
-- "If you get a final bill that looks something
like $900 billion or as some are saying even higher than $1.6 trillion,
something around $2 trillion would you suggest the President veto it?"
-- Lauer: "But is this about what he promised in the
campaign or what's best for the economy?"
removed from the White House several pieces of furniture donated to the White
House, not to them personally, during a 1993 redecorating project, the
Washington Post revealed on Monday. Not a word about it aired on the CBS and
NBC morning shows on Monday, while ABC's GMA gave it a sentence, and neither
ABC's World News Tonight or the CBS Evening News touched the disclosure
Monday night. But three networks did find the development worthy of a full
story Monday night: CNN ran a piece on Inside Politics, FNC covered it during
Special Report with Brit Hume and NBC Nightly News aired a story by Lisa Myers.
The Washington Post listed these as the items with which
the Clinton absconded:
-- "$19,900 two sofas, an easy chair and an ottoman
from Steve Mittman, New York.
-- "$3,650 kitchen table and four chairs from Lee Ficks,
-- "$2,843 sofa from Brad Noe, High Point, N.C.
-- "$1,170 lamps from Stuart Schiller, Hialeah, Fla.
-- "$1,000 needlepoint rug from David Martinous, Little
"Gifts Were Not Meant for Clintons, Some Donors
Say," announced the headline over the February 5 story by George Lardner
Jr. which the Washington Post placed on page 3. Here's an excerpt:
Among the gifts that former President Bill Clinton says he is keeping as
personal presents he accepted last year are $28,000 worth of furnishings that
documents and interviews indicate were given to the National Park Service in
1993 as part of the permanent White House collection.
The Park Service serves as a steward for the White House and, according to
the White House curator's office, is the only unit with the legal authority to
accept gifts for the White House. A gift meant for the current White House
occupants, by contrast, is routed through the White House gifts office, a
Two of the furniture makers whose donations Clinton took with him on leaving
the White House last month say they gave them to the White House as part of a
widely publicized, $396,000 redecoration of the executive mansion and not to
"When we've been asked to donate, it was always hyphenated with the
words, "'White House,'" New York manufacturer Steve Mittman said
of his family-owned business, which gave two sofas, an easy chair and an
ottoman, worth $19,900 and listed by Clinton as part of the gifts he took with
him. "To us, it was not a donation to a particular person."
A spokesman for the Clintons, Jim Kennedy, rejected the notion that the
gifts in question had been made to the White House rather than to the Clintons.
He said it was his understanding that the furnishings in question were on the
White House gifts office list and that the Clintons were entitled to rely on
that in deciding each year which gifts they were going to keep.
In the case of the furnishings, Kennedy said, the Clintons postponed a
decision until 2000. He said "all of the items" listed on Bill
Clinton's final financial disclosure report "were considered by the gifts
office to be gifts to the Clintons that they could keep or leave behind."
When the redecoration project was completed in the fall of 1993, the White
House distributed a four-page summary of the work, saying it had been
"financed by private donations of money to the White House Historical
Association, including a donation from surplus funds of the Presidential
Inaugural Committee, as well as donations of goods and services to the National
Attached was a National Park Service list of "contributors to the
National Park Service" and what they had given. In addition to furniture
from Mittman, the document listed "Mr. and Mrs. Lee Ficks, Cincinnati,
OH., furniture; David Martinous, Little Rock, AR., rug; Mr. Brad Noe, High
Point, NC., furniture; and Stuart Schiller, Hialeh, Tx., furnishings."...
Like Mittman, Joy Ficks, whose late husband headed the Ficks Reed Co., said
she thought the custom-finished rattan chairs and breakfast table installed in
the private quarters would remain there as government property. She was puzzled
when she learned the Clintons had taken the set with them.
"We gave it to the White House," she said. "I wondered what
happened to it."...
Two former Internal Revenue Service commissioners, one a Republican and the
other a Democrat, said that Clinton's taking the furnishings under such
circumstances would appear to be an improper "conversion of government
property" that could require the Clintons to pay taxes on them. They said
they were not suggesting criminal wrongdoing by the President....
Thank you notes to the Fickses suggest the gifts were understood to be for
the White House. In a June 28, 1993, note "on behalf of the President and
Mrs. Clinton," White House usher Gary J. Walters said he wanted to express
"my deep appreciation for the donation of a table and a breakfast set to
the Executive Residence at the White House."
In an Aug. 10, 1993, letter signed "Hillary," the then-first lady
expressed appreciation "for your generous contribution to the White
To read the entire Washington Post story, go to:
The Clintons are a scandal-providing machine which never
-- Brent Baker
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