On the August 6 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, referring to the results of a July 27-30 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that found that a higher percentage of respondents thought the Democratic Party "would do a better job" than the Republican Party on the issues of "reducing the federal deficit," "controlling government spending," and "dealing with taxes," host Chris Matthews said: "I don't think it's fair, but it is public opinion right now. The people now think the Democrats are better at balancing the budget. The Democrats are better at reducing government spending. The Democrats are better at lowering taxes. Give me a break."
Matthews has long claimed that the Republicans have an advantage over Democrats on fiscal policy issues, even as polling showed that he was wrong. With this latest poll, he conceded that the public does not in fact favor Republicans over Democrats on issues of fiscal policy, but took the position that the public is simply wrong. Matthews provided no support for the position that Republicans are in fact "better at balancing the budget" and "reducing government spending," and recent history belies it -- the federal government ran a surplus in fiscal years 1998-2001 under budgets signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton but a deficit during fiscal years 2002-2006 under President George W. Bush, as Media Matters for America has noted. (On July 11, the White House Office of Management and Budget estimated a $205 billion deficit for fiscal year 2007.) Moreover, Matthews misrepresented the poll question -- respondents were not asked about "lowering taxes" but, rather, about "dealing with taxes."
As Media Matters for America has documented, Matthews has repeatedly asserted that Americans trust the Republican Party more than the Democratic Party on taxes, even though contemporaneous polling contradicted him:
- On the March 13, 2006, edition of Hardball, Matthews claimed that "people trust Republicans more than Democrats" to handle taxes, but as Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) noted: "[I]f you look at even your own data and your own polling, they don't."
- On the March 28, 2006, edition of Hardball, Matthews acknowledged that "the latest polling shows that people trust Democrats more" on taxes, but he still stated that the polls referred to "tax cutting" and suggested that the results were surprising because "nobody has ever accused the Democrats of tax cutting."
- During coverage of an October 11, 2006, press conference by President Bush, Matthews asserted that the "Democrats cannot match" Bush on taxes, as Media Matters noted. Two days later on Hardball, Matthews again asserted that "terror and taxes are the Republican strong points."
- On the October 19, 2006, edition of Hardball, Matthews claimed that "Republicans know from the polls they got two strengths right now" -- "terrorism" and "taxes" because "Republicans are good at cutting taxes" -- and then added: "whether the current polls back that up or not."
On August 6, Matthews also said: "I have been watching these polls for years. And I have never seen numbers like this." Yet the current NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll itself shows that he is wrong on recent polling history. In the previous three polls in which the question was asked (November 2005, January 2004, and December 2003), the Democratic Party had advantages of 19, 11, and 13 percentage points, respectively, over Republicans on the issue of which party would "do a better job" on "reducing the federal deficit." Democrats also had a 12-percentage-point advantage in the last poll in which the question was asked (November 2005) on the issue of "controlling government spending," as well as advantages of nine and 10 percentage points, respectively, in the previous two polls in which the question was asked (March 2006 and November 2005) on the issue of "dealing with taxes."
CNBC host Jim Cramer agreed with Matthews' objections to the poll -- "It is nuts" -- adding, "[F]rankly, the Democrats can't be trusted any more than the Republicans on" balancing the budget. Cramer also asked: "[A]nybody who bought a home in the last three years, Chris, is liable to be evicted. Do you hear either side talking about that?" Matthews responded, "No." Major Democratic presidential candidates, however, have been talking about housing issues. Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) gave a July 18 speech in which he said, "We'll also do more to protect homeowners from mortgage fraud and subprime lending by passing my plan to provide counseling to tenants, homeowners, and other consumers so they get the advice and guidance they need before buying a house and support if they get in to trouble down the road." As Media Matters noted, former Sen. John Edwards' (D-NC) website has a page on "Protecting Homeowners And Fighting Predatory Mortgages." On March 15, a Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) issued a press release outlining "a plan to break down barriers to owning a home and build up protections against unfair and unscrupulous lending practices."
The blog Crooks and Liars noted Matthews' August 6 comments about the poll results.
From the August 6 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about politics. I just looked at that Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. And I have been watching these polls for years, and I've never seen numbers like this. And I don't think it's fair, but it is public opinion right now. The people now think the Democrats are better at balancing the budget. The Democrats are better at reducing government spending. The Democrats are better at lowering taxes. Give me a break.
I mean, you know, the best Democrat could be sitting right here now and he'd say, "What we've got to do is get back some of that revenue from the rich people so we can have some decent social programs in health, for example, and education." They'll admit they want to spend more money, the best of the Democrats. And yet the public is so down on this war and the Republicans, they're willing to give the Democrats advantages politically they wouldn't even claim themselves.
CRAMER: It is nuts. And of course, if it were not for the war -- and you can't asterisk a war, but we would have a balanced budget. We'd be able to spend more on social programs. But, you know, frankly, the Democrats can't be trusted any more than the Republicans on this.
What I think does -- I think we think that both Congress and the president are very out of touch with what's going on across the board. And look, anybody who bought a home in the last three years, Chris, is liable to be evicted. Do you hear either side talking about that?