CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight and Fox News' Hannity advanced the claim that the economic recovery bill contains $30 million to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse in San Francisco. In fact, the bill does not contain any language directing funds to San Francisco wetlands or the salt marsh harvest mouse in the San Francisco wetlands. Even the GOP aide who originated the claim has reportedly said that "[t]here is no language in the bill that says this money will go to this project."
Imagine how much more illuminating the 'debate' over the stimulus package would be if the press ever bothered to put the partisan sniping in context. Here's one example.
The press today continues to focus on the GOP doomsday scenarios about what Obama's economic initiative will mean to America and how it's going to gut the economy. How it will put America on the road to "financial disaster," as Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) declared last weekend. And of course, his dire rhetoric generated headlines. ("We're taking an enormous risk -- an enormous risk -- with other people's money," added Sen. Mitch McConnell this week.)
The press takes these swipes very seriously, in part because the press always treats GOP rhetoric about the economy and finances seriously. Why? Because Republicans know economics. Everybody inside the Beltway understands that CW.
Just like the GOP knew economics back in 1993 when the new Democratic president Bill Clinton struggled to get his centerpiece economic legislation passed. Back then the GOP was sure the bill was a recipe for disaster. At the time Newt Gingrich announced "The tax increase will kill jobs and lead to a recession, and the recession will force people off of work and onto unemployment and will actually increase the deficit." He was positive a recession would ruin America's economy within the "next year," or even "over the next 60 days."
And Newt wasn't alone. The whole GOP crew was in Chicken Little mode and the press back then, just like today, made sure to record and amplify every dire warning: "A recipe for economic disaster," warned Phil Crane of Illinois. "It is going to lead to a Clintastrophy, an economic Clintastrophy," added Indiana's Dan Burton.
That rhetoric, which clearly failed to foresee the 1990's decade worth of prosperity under Clinton, is eerily similar to the GOP rhetoric today. But the press can't, or doesn't want to, note the connection. Instead, the media opt for context-free coverage of the stimulus 'debate.'
Rush Limbaugh falsely claimed that Democrats "have reformatted the [economic recovery] bill -- they've made it a PDF file when they posted it. ... And, so, you can read every page, but you cannot keyword search it. It's not a text file as legislation normally is as posted on these public websites. They don't want anybody knowing what's in this." In fact, as Adobe Systems notes of PDFs: "You can run a search using either the Search window or the Find toolbar. In either case, Reader searches the PDF body text, layers, form fields, and digital signatures."
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough falsely suggested that Rep. Barney Frank is only now, in the wake of the mortgage crisis, taking the position that the government should focus on the expansion of affordable rental housing, rather than enacting policies geared toward universal home ownership. In fact, Frank has long advocated that the government focus on expanding affordable rental housing.
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Fox News' Glenn Beck aired an on-screen graphic with the headline, "THEN ... WAGNER ACT," which falsely asserted that if 30 percent of employees want a union, "it gets established." In fact, the Wagner Act, which was passed in the 1930s, required that for union representation to be established, a majority of employees in a bargaining unit within a company had to "designate or select" a union to represent them. The National Labor Relations Act as it stands today also contains a majority requirement.
A McClatchy article asserted that "a range of economists" believe that the economic recovery bill "is short on incentives to get consumers spending again and long on social goals that won't stimulate economic activity." But the only person identified as being associated with Democrats or progressives in the article did not criticize the bill; rather, as the McClatchy reporter noted, he called it "a necessary condition for economic stabilization and recovery."
Continuing with the media's beloved yes/but angle regarding the pending passage of the Obama stimulus bill, and how yes it represents a victory, but there are oh so many troubling things to report, Politico focuses on negatives with article, "Early setbacks test Obama's cool."
Writes David Rodgers:
The $789 billion recovery package is a major accomplishment less than a month after his Inauguration. But it's smaller than Obama had hoped it would be just days ago...
Note the language. Obama just passed his centerpiece economic legislation less than one month after being inaugurated. A "major accomplishment"? Technically, that's true. But a more accurate description would have been "unprecedented" or "historic" or "unheard of" accomplish. When you consider it took then-new president Ronald Reagan until July to pass his economic legislation and Bill Clinton until August and George W. Bush until May, the fact that Obama was able to shepherd his through in a matter of weeks is an unprecedented, historic and unheard of accomplishment for any modern day president.
But you're not going to hear that kind of language, because the Beltway press is more interested in the "but" part of the yes/but angle.
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Fox News reported as fact the reportedly false claim that the economic recovery bill contains $30 million to protect the salt marsh harvest mouse. Fox News hosts continued to do so even after the spurious claim had been debunked.
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Bloomberg columnist Caroline Baum asserted that "[a]s the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee," before he became chairman in 2007, Rep. Barney Frank "consistently opposed stricter regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac." In fact, Frank has supported legislation to strengthen oversight over Fannie and Freddie, both as ranking member and as chairman. Further, Frank advocated for "a bill that would have enhanced the regulatory structure for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac" during a hearing from which Baum quoted in the column.
Ann Coulter and Glenn Beck further advanced the false claim that the economic recovery package will allow the federal government to control or interfere with doctors' treatment decisions, echoing an assertion by Betsy McCaughey in a Bloomberg commentary. In fact, the provisions McCaughey referred to in her commentary address establishing an electronic records system such that doctors would have complete, accurate information about their patients "to help guide medical decisions at the time and place of care."
WSJ headline today: "Merrill Gave $1 Million Each to 700 of Its Staff"
According to the newspaper:
Merrill Lynch & Co. "secretly" moved up the date it awarded bonuses for 2008 and richly rewarded its executives despite billions of dollars in losses, giving bonuses of $1 million or more apiece to nearly 700 employees, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said.
Sorta makes you wonder about that media microscope that was used late last year to scrutinize the pay of middle class autoworkers, doesn't it?