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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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August 1996


Kudos: NBC's Lisa Myers and Andrea Mitchell

One of the encouraging recent trends on the evening newscasts is the development of regular segments in which reporters explore how the government often misspends taxpayers' money. As recent coverage has demonstrated, NBC Nightly News' version, "The Fleecing of America," has proven to be one of the best.

The July 10 "Fleecing of America" segment told viewers how the Social Security Administration spends tax money for union representatives who, as Tom Brokaw said, "do no work on Social Security matters." According to correspondent Lisa Myers: "Taxpayers are paying the salaries of 146 full-time employees who do not work on Social Security matters and instead spend all of their time on union activities," as well as another 1,800 who spend part of their work time engaged in union tasks. Myers reported that "under President Clinton, the cost of these union activities has doubled to almost $13 million a year."

She interviewed former SSA employees who told of the union workers' using their jobs, and therefore tax money, to promote the Democratic Party, and confronted an SSA official about such partisan ties. "This is not happening just at the Social Security Administration," she concluded, "but in virtually every other federal agency."

Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, for the August 7 segment, told viewers about an "expensive new Medicare handbook, courtesy of the U.S. Government." According to Mitchell: "The handbook is supposed to describe Medicare benefits and where to get help, basic information. It cost $2.1 million to distribute last year. But this year, an election year, it cost nine times as much -- $18 million."

Mitchell pointed out that "critics wonder, was the chief reason for this year's big cost increase politics." One of those critics, Rep. Bill Thomas, (R-Calif.) said, "The primary goal was to create a positive, warm feeling in an election year with taxpayers' dollars."

Mitchell pointed out that "a separate copy went to every American over 65. That's 37 million copies," which went even to married seniors whose spouses received a copy. She pointed out that, despite the high cost, the handbook didn't even mention one of the new programs Medicare recipients are eligible for and concluded that to many, "it reads like another chapter in the fleecing of America."

Kudos to Myers, Mitchell, and NBC for holding government to the same standards reporters have long held the private sector.


Rich Noyes


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