NY Times, Wash. Post reported Bush's attack on Democratic tax policies, failed to note budgetary effects

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

The New York Times and The Washington Post highlighted President Bush's recent attack on the Clinton administration's tax increases and his touting of the tax cuts he passed in his first term, but did not compare the effects of these policies. In fact, after President Bill Clinton's 1993 tax bill passed, deficits declined and budgets were in surplus within five years, while the federal budgets approved under Bush have produced record deficits.

In their coverage of President Bush's September 21 speech in Tampa, Florida, The New York Times and The Washington Post highlighted Bush's attacks on the Clinton administration's tax increases and his touting of the tax cuts he passed in his first term, but failed entirely to compare the respective budgetary effects of these policies. In fact, after President Bill Clinton's 1993 tax bill, deficits declined and the budget contained a surplus within five years, while the federal budgets approved under Bush have produced record deficits.

In his speech at a September 21 fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Gus Bilirakis (son of retiring Rep. Michael Bilirakis [R-FL]), Bush touted his 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as evidence that Republicans "understand the role of government is not to create wealth, but to create an environment in which the entrepreneurial spirit flourishes." He assailed Democrats' opposition to his tax cuts and warned that "the last time they had control of the United States Congress back in 1993, they passed a massive tax increase. In the 13 years since then, they've worked hard to sustain their record as the party of high taxes." Bush further claimed that his cuts led to the growth of a "strong" economy: "[W]hat our opponents don't understand is that the economy grows when you control more of your own money. The tax cuts we passed put more than a trillion dollars in the hands of American workers and families and businesses. And you used that money to help us become a strong economy, the world leader."

In a September 22 New York Times article on the speech, reporter Jim Rutenberg quoted Bush attacking the Democratic record on taxes:

President Bush began a blistering new political offensive on Thursday, asserting that if Democrats won control of Congress from Republicans it would mean higher taxes, less money in the pockets of working families and damage to the economy.

[...]

"If they get control of the House of Representatives, they'll raise your taxes, it will hurt our economy, and that's why we're not going to let them get control of the House of Representatives," the president said at a fund-raising event at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa for Gus Bilirakis, a Republican state representative running for Congress.

"The Democrats have made their position clear," Mr. Bush said. "I want you to remember the last time they had control of the United States Congress back in 1993, they passed a massive tax increase."

In a September 22 Washington Post article, staff writer Michael Abramowitz similarly reported Bush's attack on Democrats:

President Bush accused Democrats on Thursday of preparing to raise taxes should they take over the House, as he pivoted to a different election-year theme after several weeks of trying to draw sharp differences on fighting terrorism.

On a campaign swing through the vote-rich Interstate 4 corridor of Florida, Bush cited the tax increases approved in Congress when it was last controlled by Democrats in 1993, as well as the opposition of many House Democrats to key aspects of his tax-cutting agenda.

"If they get control of the House of Representatives, they'll raise your taxes," Bush told several hundred supporters at a fundraiser in Tampa. "It will hurt our economy, and that's why we're not going to let them get control."

Both articles noted the response to Bush's speech from Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The Times quoted Emanuel as saying, "This is from a guy who ran up three trillion in debt and has submitted a deficit every year for the last five years. If I were him, I wouldn't be throwing stones in a glass house." Meanwhile, the Post reported the following Emanuel statement: "This president has added $2.7 trillion to the nation's debt, and every year he has been president, he has run a deficit." Indeed, the annual budgets passed during the first six years of Bush's presidency have each featured record deficits -- largely as a result of his tax cuts.

But while the Times and Post included Emanuel's criticism, they neglected to contrast the aftermath of Bush's fiscal policies with that of Clinton's policies, which Bush explicitly criticized during the speech for the "massive tax increase" passed at the beginning of his first term. In fact, Clinton's approval of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 (OBRA) -- which raised taxes on the wealthiest Americans -- was followed by a gradual reduction in budget deficits leading to four years of surpluses, as Media Matters for America has noted. The following chart compares the surpluses and deficits from Clinton's budgets (fiscal years 1994-2001) to those from Bush's budgets (2002-2007*). It is based on data from the White House's Office of Management and Budget:

Fiscal year

Surplus/deficit (in billions)

Clinton

1994

-203

1995

-163

1996

-107

1997

-21

1998

+69

1999

+125

2000

+236

2001

+128

Bush

2002

-157

2003

-377

2004

-412

2005

-318

2006

-296

2007

-339

*Budget numbers for 2006 and 2007 are White House projections.

Posted In
Economy, Taxes
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post, The New York Times
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