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What The Media Tell Americans About Free Enterprise

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February 1997


Kudos: NBC'S Mike Jensen and Time's Nancy Gibbs

Is it possible that state and local sales taxes can get so high that they choke off growth and hurt local economies? NBC Nightly News, on January 23, used a New York experiment in abolishing the sales tax on clothing and shoes for one week during January to raise this question.

Chief Financial Correspondent Mike Jensen explained that the "one week elimination of New York's 8.25 percent sales tax on clothing and shoes" is part of "a national reexamination of skyrocketing sales taxes." Jensen reported that "the average combined sales tax -- city, state, and county -- just hit 8.2 percent nationwide. Fifteen years ago it was 6.5 percent."

Jensen explored the rationale for New York's move, explaining that New York Mayor Rudolph Guiliani "says New York stores will do more business, pay more income taxes, and hire more people." He also interviewed consumers burdened by sales taxes.

"All across America, city, and state, and county officials are looking over their sales taxes, trying to figure out how much is too much," Jensen told viewers.

Kudos to Jensen for spotting this national trend.

As MediaNomics reports this month on page one, most reporters are not spotting another trend -- the huge alliance of groups arguing that free speech is at stake in the campaign finance debate. There has, though, been an exception: Time's Nancy Gibbs. Without endorsing the view that restrictions on campaign advocacy equal restrictions on free speech, she at least reported that such a view exists.

She ran a quote from Senator Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican spearheading opposition to the McCain-Feingold bill, who said: "I like the debate about whether we ought to amend the First Amendment for the first time in history." She wrote that "McConnell and his allies challenge the very premise that the problem with American politics is that there is too much money in the system."

"We spent less in the 1994 election than consumers spent on bubble gum that year," McConnell told Gibbs. "We're not spending too much on campaigns; we're probably not spending enough."

More reporters should follow Gibbs' lead and report both sides of the campaign finance debate.


Rich Noyes


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