From Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason's August 20 "analysis" titled: "Obama's deficit woes linger despite rosier estimate":
A stabilizing U.S. financial sector may have freed the White House to trim its 2009 budget deficit projection but the still-record-breaking figure will not make it easier to sell healthcare reform.
President Barack Obama's administration will lower its budget deficit forecast next week for the current fiscal year to $1.58 trillion from $1.84 trillion after removing $250 billion set aside for bank bailouts, officials said.
The decision shows the administration has enough confidence in the financial sector's strength to forego an option to ask the U.S. Congress for further rescue funds.
But the lower figure's release, which comes at a convenient time for Obama as he tries to overcome critics' concerns about a nearly $1 trillion overhaul of the healthcare system, does not change a key problem: it is still in the trillions of dollars.
"The size of the deficit remains large and most Americans will see it that way," said Julian Zelizer, a history professor at Princeton University.
"In this case, the devil is not in the details but rather it is in the trillion dollar figure."
In May, the White House pushed up its budget deficit estimates for the fiscal year ending September 30 to $1.84 trillion -- representing a huge 12.9 percent of gross domestic product.
The latest number, which represents 11.2 percent of GDP, still marks the highest deficit as a percentage of GDP since 1945.
Obama, a Democrat, has pledged to halve the deficit by the end of his four-year term and is eager to remind constituents that he inherited a $1.3 trillion budget hole from his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
Audiences at town hall-style meetings often boo when Obama emphasizes that fact and critics have gained traction by arguing that expensive plans to revamp healthcare, improve education and alter U.S. energy usage do not mix well with budget shortfalls.
From G. Gordon Liddy's Twitter account:
Here's Chris Matthews, purported political expert, offering his take on the prospects for health care reform:
The way I see it, he's [President Obama] got three ways to go at this point.
One: They can challenge the Senate rules and ram through a bill with just 50 votes with the help of the Vice President to break the tie. That's what today's lede in the New York Times suggested they're threatening to do. [Matthews later made clear he was referring to using the reconciliation process]
Number Two: They can go for a moderate bill, politically sellable to a few Republicans and get the 60 Senate votes needed for regular passage.
Three: They can go back and build a dramatic rock-'em-sock-'em liberal bill, stand ready to take the loss and blame Republicans for the failure.
Matthews is forgetting something: 60 votes are not needed for "regular passage." Sixty votes are needed to invoke cloture, at which point 50 votes (plus Biden) are all that is required for passage.
What this means is that a health care bill with a public plan could pass if some of the conservative Senators who have made noises about opposing such a plan prove unwilling to filibuster the bill, even if they don't plan on voting for it. Joe Lieberman, for example.
The obvious meaning of this is that when a Joe Lieberman or a Ben Nelson expresses skepticism about the public plan, reporters should ask them if they will filibuster it, or allow it to come to a vote. But that rarely happens. Instead, reporters let those Senators off the hook, allowing them to get away without taking a strong stand.
Which, of course, is exactly what some of them want: to avoid taking a stand. Joe Lieberman may not want to vote for a public plan -- but he probably doesn't want to tell Connecticut voters he'll filibuster, either. He's probably hoping he never has to; that his statements of opposition will ensure it never comes to a vote. That's a perfectly valid, if not terribly brave, approach for him to take. But there is absolutely no reason reporters should play along with it. It's their job to press politicians to take a stand, not help them avoid doing so.
Following Media Matters' item, NBC's Tom Costello corrects his report on the tax proposals in the House health care reform bill.
From Costello's August 19 post on NBC's The Daily Nightly blog:
On NBC Nightly News Tuesday, we tried to provide answers on how much the Health Care Reform proposal in the House would mean to American taxpayers. In short, how much will taxes go up?
As it stands, a House proposal would tax family incomes over $350,000 at one percent, with a maximum of $1,500 in additional tax. Family incomes over $500,000 would be taxed at 1.5 percent, up to $9,000. And family incomes over $1 million would be taxed at 5.4 percent, or $9,000+.
The tax rate climbs if certain savings are not realized.
The math is easy enough, but a simple mistake cascaded into a series of errors on our broadcast.
We applied the tax hike numbers to the entire income, rather than income over a certain threshold.
No political bias, just a simple, silly mistake. My mistake!
We'll set the record straight on NBC Nightly News tonight, as Lester Holt sits in.
If you were to take Fox News host Andrew Napolitano's word for it, Rep. Barney Frank was just being rude to his constitutents when he had a heated exchange with a voter last night.
But if you were to look beyond the edited moment presented by Fox and Napolitano, you would learn something else:
"On what planet do you spend most of your time?" Frank retorted when a woman in the crowd compared President Obama's push for health-care reform to the policies of Nazi Germany while holding up a pamphlet depicting the president with a Hitler mustache, a LaRouche anti-Obama health reform campaign image.
"This policy is actually already on its way out. It already has been defeated by LaRouche. My question to you is, why do you continue to support a Nazi policy?" the woman had asked.
"You stand there with a picture of the president defaced to look like Hitler and compare the effort to increase health care to the Nazis," Frank, who is Jewish, blasted back.
"Trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table," he continued. "... I have no interest in doing it."
Oh, so the woman held up a sign of President Obama with a Hitler mustache then asked Rep. Frank why he supported Nazi policies. I can't imagine why Rep. Frank might be upset about that. For the record, here's the exchange you wouldn't have seen if you were watching Napolitano's presentation on Fox:
Yesterday, a variety of progressives -- from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Health Care for America Now to this blog -- criticized NBC and the Wall Street Journal for a change in the wording of their poll questions about the public plan for health care reform.
As I explained last night, the NBC/WSJ poll dropped the word "choice," and shifted the focus of the question from the impact a public plan would have on consumers to the impact it would have on insurance companies.
NBC's Chuck Todd claimed that the word "choice" made the original question "biased," but didn't explain how.
Feeling the heat, NBC released a statement last night from the pollsters who conduct their poll. But that statement did not explain what was wrong with the original wording, or address the change in focus of the question.
Now NBC says its next poll will include both wordings:
NBC's White House correspondent Chuck Todd told the Huffington Post on Wednesday afternoon that pollsters Bill McInturf and Peter Hart will ask respondents two questions regarding the public plan for their September study.
Todd's decision to put both questions in the mix also should placate a host of progressive health care proponents who were critical of the NBC pollsters.
On Wednesday, Todd defended the decision to drop "choice" from the survey, calling the word a "trigger" that sent a certain "message" to respondents. And while he argued that the revised way of asking the question was "very neutral" he admitted that the idea of putting both options side by side was "something we wanted to test."
So far as I've seen, neither Todd nor the pollsters nor anybody else connected with the poll has yet explained how describing a plan that gives people a choice as giving people a "choice" is "biased" -- or why the new wording was better.
Given the decision to reinstate the choice wording, it seems safe to assume we'll never see such an explanation.
Tom DeLay on Hardball: "I would like the president to produce his birth certificate."
MSNBC's Monica Novotny: "Confusion in the health care debate: Should the WH blame town halls, the GOP, conservative media outlets, or itself?"
Notice what's missing from that list of possible culprits? Yep: MSNBC and other media outlets. Lousy health care reporting hasn't been limited to just conservative media outlets.
Even today, MSNBC has told us over and over again that there is confusion, and speculated about why there is confusion. What hasn't MSNBC done? Spent any significant time giving people detailed, factual explanations of health care. Instead, we've gotten stuff like this.
Last week, Media Matters for America documented that JC Penney was one of several companies that recently advertised on Rush Limbaugh's hate-filled radio show, despite having been included on a 2006 list of advertisers that reportedly requested that none of their ads be broadcast during Air America programs.
According to a tip from a Media Matters reader, JC Penney is now stating that its "company policy is to run no advertising on any programming that is political or religious in nature - and that includes the Rush Limbaugh show."
Media Matters has the audio of a JC Penney ad that aired on New York's WABC-AM at the beginning of Limbaugh's May 29 show at 12:06 p.m. ET.
Here's the text of the email JC Penney reportedly sent:
Thank you for contacting us online.
Our company policy is to run no advertising on any programming that is political or religious in nature - and that includes the Rush Limbaugh show. We have a record of supporting candidates ? Democrat and Republican -- that have an interest in issues that are important to the retail industry.
We welcome comments and suggestions from our customers that call matters to our attention and enable us to address each issue. Customer concerns are always forwarded to the proper areas responsible for the issue. Your comments are a great help toward increasing satisfaction of all JCPenney customers.
As a company servicing half of America's families for over 100 years, our customers have come to know JCPenney as their trusted retail partner.
At JCPenney, what matters to you, matters to us. Customers like you are our most valuable resource for creating the optimal shopping experience.
Thank you for taking the time to share your input. We look forward to
serving you in the future.
JCP.com Customer Service
Every Day Matters
On Monday, we posted the text of a similar email apparently sent by Home Depot asserting that Home Depot doesn't "support the Rush Limbaugh radio show." Media Matters posted audio of a Home Depot ad that did, in fact, air during Limbaugh's show.