CNBC host Erin Burnett asserted that there were "interesting ideas" in Rush Limbaugh's Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing President Obama's economic recovery plan and offering Limbaugh's own suggestions for what should be included in a stimulus plan. Specifically, Burnett said that Limbaugh's suggestions of "cutting the corporate tax" and "slashing capital gains [taxes]" are "serious things to say." But Burnett did not note that many economists do not view corporate and capital gains tax cuts as "serious" or effective methods for stimulating the economy.
Echoing a Republican talking point, Rush Limbaugh asserted in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that "[t]he average recession will last five to 11 months; the average recovery will last six years. Recessions will end on their own if they're left alone." But Limbaugh's claim misses the point and misrepresents the reason for the stimulus bill. Economists take the position that an economic stimulus package is necessary, both during the recession and after the economy begins to recover.
The Politico reported the GOP claim that "it may take years before the stimulus plan spurs real job growth" and highlighted a video showing "a Joint Committee on Taxation staffer tell[ing] Michigan Rep. Dave Camp that he can't promise that the $275 billion in tax cuts in the stimulus will create any new jobs." In fact, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf has stated of the bill: "According to CBO's estimates, the number of jobs would be between 0.8 million and 2.1 million higher at the end of this year, 1.2 million to 3.6 million higher at the end of next year, and 0.7 million to 2.1 million higher at the end of 2011."
On The O'Reilly Factor, Dick Morris asserted that the economic recovery bill "won't work," in part because "two hundred billion of it is just money to the state. That just stops taxes from going up, but it doesn't stimulate anything." However, economist Mark Zandi testified to Congress that "aid to financially-pressed state governments" is an "economically potent stimulus," and a table provided with his testimony indicated that aid to states would boost GDP by $1.36 for every dollar spent. Similarly, information that the CBO provided to Congress shows that aid to states produces a greater "cumulative impact on GDP" than do tax cuts.
Earlier today, I wrote that it's important for journalists to actually apply some critical thought to their work rather than simply regurgitating Republican talking points.
Right on cue, here's Marc Ambinder (emphasis added):
Here's a peek at the major planks in the economic recovery plan being introduced by House Republicans tomorrow.
It starts with a permanent five percentage point reduction for those who qualify for the 10% and 15% tax brackets, averaging about $500 per year for the poorest of the bunch and $1,200 for the slightly more wealthy.
The talking point here is that poorer Americans would see more money from the GOP plan than from Obama's -- and it would be permanent.
Well, of course that's the "talking point." Who the hell cares? Is it true? Marc Ambinder doesn't say. He doesn't even acknowledge that it might be an interesting question. The concept of which plan actually gives "poorer Americans" "more money" is literally nowhere to be found in his post.
There are people for whom "distributing Republican talking points" is part of their job description. They are called "deputy press secretaries," and they work at the RNC and in Republican congressional offices. Reporters for The Atlantic ought to behave a bit differently.
(Is it true? I don't know -- but it seems unlikely. The GOP plan, as Ambinder describes it, would do nothing for the many Americans who work hard and pay state, local, sales, and FICA taxes -- but who do not make enough money to pay federal income taxes.)
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Discussing President Obama's meeting with congressional leaders to discuss the economic stimulus plan, CBS' Chip Reid reported that "when Republicans criticized tax refunds for people who don't pay taxes, sources in the meeting say the president said, quote, 'I won,' referring to the election and making it clear he's sticking with that part of the plan." In fact, Obama has not proposed giving tax refunds to "people who don't pay taxes"; he has proposed giving the tax credit to "working families," which means they pay Social Security and Medicare taxes.
On NBC's Nightly News, Chuck Todd reported that President Obama "drew more criticism from Republicans [...] thanks to a new report claiming the stimulus will take years, not months, to improve the economy" and aired a clip of House Minority Leader John Boehner criticizing the stimulus plan. However, Todd did not mention the Democratic leadership's response: that the Congressional Budget Office report ignored faster-moving provisions in the stimulus, creating a "false impression" of the plan's effects.
On The O'Reilly Factor, Dick Morris repeatedly criticized Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy Geithner for his failure to pay Social Security taxes several years ago. But Morris has his own history of tax delinquency; USA Today included Morris in an April 2008 report on "[b]ig names" who are tax delinquents.
Fox News' Sean Hannity falsely claimed that President-elect Barack Obama's economic plan gives money to "people that don't pay any taxes," echoing the oft-repeated myth from the presidential campaign that Obama's proposed tax cuts would go to people who don't pay taxes. In fact, Obama has proposed giving the tax credit to "working families," which means they do pay Social Security and Medicare taxes.
In recent days, Fox News anchors and contributors have falsely asserted, repeatedly, that people who don't pay taxes would be eligible for a $500 individual tax credit included in President-elect Barack Obama's proposed economic recovery plan, echoing an oft-repeated myth from the presidential campaign that Obama's proposed tax cuts would go to people who don't pay taxes. In fact, Obama has proposed a tax credit for working Americans, meaning they do pay Social Security and Medicare taxes.
Fox News' Shepard Smith falsely suggested that a $500 individual tax credit, reportedly included in President-elect Barack Obama's proposed economic recovery plan, would benefit people who don't currently pay taxes, asking, "I know we don't know the details yet, but $300 billion in tax cuts -- how do you cut taxes on people who don't pay taxes?" In fact, all American workers are required to pay taxes on their wages for Social Security and Medicare under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act.
In an article about President-elect Barack Obama's meetings with members of Congress to discuss a stimulus package, The Hill's Mike Soraghan asserted, "To the surprise of some, congressional liberals offered up little initial resistance to the sudden turn to tax cuts." But in referring to Obama's purported "sudden turn to tax cuts," Soraghan ignored Obama's promise of tax cuts during the campaign, nor did Soraghan quote or name one person expressing "surprise" that "congressional liberals" would support tax cuts as part of a stimulus plan.
In recent weeks, several conservative media figures, echoed by Republican lawmakers, have responded to comparisons in the media of President-elect Barack Obama to FDR, or assertions in the media that a New Deal-level of government intervention will be necessary to resolve the current economic crisis, by asserting that the New Deal was a dismal failure, plunging the 1930s economy into a depression, an assertion that prominent progressive economists flatly reject.