By Liz Peek
How much will President Obama's handshake with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez cost the U.S.? Despite Chavez' bombastic rhetoric about his socialist revolution, the reality is that Venezuela is going broke. While the president's overtures to Chavez at the recent Summit of the Americas have been greeted ecstatically by many in the media, there has been little attention as to why Chavez may so desperately crave rapprochement. (And guess what? It appears to have nothing to do with Obama's politics.)
These days Chavez has a problem. Sinking oil revenues have left him saddled with whopping budget deficit (estimated by the Economist Intelligence Unit at 5.2% of GDP). Denied access to overseas borrowings, Chavez will likely have to increase domestic borrowing by as much as $16 billion, according to The Economist magazine. He may also be forced to cut spending, in real terms, by over one third. Recently, the government has hiked the VAT to 12% - up from 9% - but other revenues will also be needed. Monies that were purportedly saved for a rainy day, some $57 billion in a National Development Fund, appear to have vanished.
Failing economic policies, such as nationalizing industries, subsidizing price controls on gasoline (which costs locally just $0.17 per gallon) and artificially supporting currency levels have led to inflation of better than 30% and declining growth rates. A recent 20% hike in minimum wage will only add to the economic disaster that looms, though it should also protect Chavez' popularity among his loyalists. Desperate measures earlier this year included expropriating food companies to mandate higher levels of (unprofitable, price-controlled production).
Short of a miraculous recovery in oil prices, Chavez is facing a crisis. Without surpluses quieting his opponents and funding his popularity campaign, he may not survive. His out? Befriend the new president of the United States, who is so desperate to distinguish himself from his predecessor that he will doubtless jump at the chance to buy Chavez' friendship. What will be the price of that handshake? $16 billion?
Andrea Tantaros overstated support for tax day "tea parties," falsely claiming that a Fox News poll found that 47 percent of respondents are willing to participate in them. In fact, 36 percent of respondents said they would "be willing to join a symbolic tea party."
In a March 6 news article headline, Bloomberg referred to the "Obama Bear Market," and The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed on the same day with the headline "Obama's Radicalism is Killing the Dow." In fact, the market has been on a decline since October 2007, and, as the Financial Times' Dan McCrum said, "it's the economy which is driving the market down here" and that "what's important is that President Obama doesn't try to address that in the short term. He's quite right that short-term market movements aren't -- shouldn't be driving government policy. What he needs to do is concentrate on fixing the economy, and the market will sort itself out."
The Hill's Jared Allen repeated the false claim that ACORN is, in Allen's words, a "beneficiar[y] of the stimulus package," and uncritically reported NRCC communications director Ken Spain's false suggestion that the stimulus bill includes "a $4.2 billion bailout" for ACORN. In fact, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding. Additionally, the bill requires that the $4.19 billion it allocates for "neighborhood stabilization activities" be distributed through competitive processes.
On The O'Reilly Factor and in a FoxNews.com article, Bill Sammon suggested that Rep. Barney Frank allowed his relationship in the 1990s with Herb Moses, a Fannie Mae official at the time, to improperly influence his conduct as a member of the House Financial Services Committee. However, in his article, Sammon cited only an anonymous Republican congressional staffer and a member of the conservative Media Research Center. Sammon also misrepresented Frank's record by reporting that Frank "spent years blocking GOP lawmakers from imposing tougher regulations" on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac without noting that during the period in question, Frank supported legislation to increase regulation of Fannie Mae and create a government regulatory agency that would oversee some aspects of the company.
A FoxNews.com article reported that allegations against the Clintons made by Peter F. Paul -- a lawyer and businessman who has been convicted of fraud -- in the purported documentary "Hillary Uncensored" include an accusation that the Clintons "made sure Paul was kept in a Brazilian prison for 25 months, including 58 days in a maximum security cellblock nicknamed the 'Corridor of Death,' while the Justice Department waited to extradite him." In the trailer, Paul is not shown alleging that the Clintons "made sure" he "was kept in a Brazilian prison," but he does suggest a connection between his filing of a civil lawsuit against the Clintons and his detention in a Brazilian jail. In fact, Paul was indicted after Bill Clinton left office, and, according to the U.S. attorney's office that indicted him, Paul was arrested in Brazil because he refused to return to the United States.
Several media outlets seized on an article in The Atlantic that mentioned that former President Bill and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton gave their family cat, Socks, to Betty Currie -- with one outlet questioning whether Currie's adoption of Socks reveals Hillary Clinton to be "cold and calculating." But these media outlets made no mention of Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's reported treatment of his own family pet, Seamus, an Irish setter, whom Romney reportedly placed "in a dog carrier" that was "attached ... to the station wagon's roof rack" during the Romney family's "annual 12-hour family trek from Boston to Ontario."