CNN's Harris gushed over new economic figures as "Christmas com[ing] early for congressional Republicans," ignored their downside

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

During an interview with White House counselor Dan Bartlett, CNN's Tony Harris touted newly released unemployment figures while ignoring the negative news -- that the job creation rate for the month of October fell well short of expectations. Harris also failed to challenge Bartlett's claims that Democrats would raise taxes if they win control of Congress; that the wealthy "are paying more as a percentage of taxes than they did before the tax relief"; and that Democrats must raise taxes because "it's fundamentally within their DNA to spend money."

On the November 3 edition of CNN's Newsroom, during an interview with White House counselor Dan Bartlett, anchor Tony Harris touted newly released unemployment figures, while completely ignoring the negative news -- that the job creation rate for the month of October fell well short of expectations. Harris also failed to challenge Bartlett's claims that Democrats would raise taxes if they win control of Congress; that the wealthy "are paying more as a percentage of taxes than they did before the tax relief"; and that Democrats must raise taxes because "it's fundamentally within their DNA to spend money."

Introducing the interview, Harris asked, "Has Christmas come early for Congressional Republicans," and announced that "new numbers show last month's unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in five years," which, according to Harris, is a "reassurance of a strong labor market." In fact, while the unemployment rate did decline to 4.4 percent, the job creation rate lagged, adding only 92,000 workers to payrolls, an outcome The New York Times reported is "a sign that job growth is starting to slow." As the Times further noted, "[t]he pace of job creation fell short even of the 138,000-a-month average pace of the last six months, the statistics show," and that "at least 150,000 new jobs are needed every month just to keep up with population growth."

Additionally, Harris accepted and encouraged Bartlett's false claim that "if Democrats take control," as Harris put it, "taxes will go up." Harris expressed shock that the "Democrats [would] do that" and repeatedly asked Bartlett: "[W]hy would Democrats do that? Why would Democrats take a look at the economy, take a look at these job figures, why would they, if there were to win control of the House, why would they come in and raise taxes? Does that make sense?" Bartlett replied, "No, it doesn't, and that's the fundamental point here. And it's mind-boggling." In fact, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, Democrats propose increasing taxes on only those making more than $200,000 a year and would cut taxes for the middle class. Moreover, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) has said that if the Democrats were to win control of the House and he were to become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Democrats "would not raise taxes" and "would not roll back" President Bush's tax cuts enacted by Congress that are set to expire in 2010. He has said that Democrats' highest priority would be on reducing the impact of the alternative minimum tax on middle-class taxpayers.

Bartlett then claimed that "The fact of the matter is, is that the top ranks in our income strata are paying more as a percentage of taxes than they did before the tax relief went into enactment." To which Harris replied, "Really!" However, as Media Matters for America has noted, while the total share of income tax paid by those making more than $200,000 increased between 2002 and 2004, that is not because wealthy taxpayers individually paid more but, rather, because there was an increase in the number of filers in the highest tax brackets.Taxes as a percentage of income decreased among those making over $200,000, while the number of taxpayers in that bracket increased during that time period, as did the average income of those within that bracket.

Finally, Harris failed to challenge Bartlett's assertion that "it's fundamentally within their [Democrats] DNA to spend money," and in order to satisfy Democrat's "huge appetite" to spend, they have "got to pay for it" by "taxing everybody." Harris instead marveled as to why Republicans were "not getting more of a bounce from these numbers." As Media Matters previously noted, it was under a Democrat, former President Bill Clinton, that the budget was balanced and the government was operating under record surpluses, and it was under a Republican president, George W. Bush, that Clinton's record surplus turned into a record deficit:

From the 10 a.m. ET hour of the November 3 edition of CNN Newsroom:

HARRIS: Has Christmas come early for congressional Republicans? New numbers this morning show last month's unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in five years. Well, that's reassurance of a strong labor market, and it comes just four days before critical midterm elections. Let's get the view from the Bush administration. Joining us now is White House counselor Dan Bartlett. Dan, good to see you. Good morning, sir!

BARTLETT: Good morning. How you doing?

HARRIS: I'm outstanding, sir!

BARTLETT: Not as well as America's workers, though.

HARRIS: Well, I'm about to ask you for your reaction on these new numbers: a five-year low in unemployment, 4.4 percent. What are your thoughts?

BARTLETT: It's quite remarkable. I mean, just take the last three months alone, 470,000 jobs created by America's employers, and the fact of the matter is 4.4 percent unemployment. As you said, the lowest in five and a half years. It's a remarkable report and shows the resiliency of this economy. And it demonstrates that economic policies that rely upon keeping taxes low and restraining spending here in Washington are working. And I think that's one thing that'll be a big debate as we go into the final stretch here on Tuesday afternoon.

HARRIS: Do you know with an absolute -- or believe with an absolute certainty that if Republicans gain control of the House, taxes will go up?

BARTLETT: Well, if Democrats take control --

HARRIS: If Democrats, sure.

BARTLETT: -- they've made it very clear. It's in their own campaign position points. They don't market it as much as we do on their behalf. But the fact of the matter is, they say they're going to raise taxes, they don't want to extend the tax cuts. And what that will do is make more people, the typical family of four, spending about more than $2,000 apiece.

HARRIS: Right.

BARTLETT: Now, that's a real choice!

HARRIS: So, Dan -- so, Dan, why would Democrats do that? Why would Democrats take a look at the economy, take a look at these job figures, why would they, if they were to win control of the House, why would they come in and raise taxes? Does that make sense?

BARTLETT: No, it doesn't, and that's the fundamental point here. And it's mind-boggling to think, not only with this prosperity. But the fact of the matter is, there is a lot of Americans who are struggling to pay for college tuition or health care, and their answer is to raise taxes. And the reason why they're doing it is because -- I think it's fundamentally within their DNA to spend money. They like to spend a lot of money. They've got a huge appetite, and they've got to pay for it some way. And the only way they can pay for it is what they will call is so-called "just taxing the rich." Well, the problem is, they have a long record of taxing everybody when they do that. So it's a fundamental choice here. They are more interested in the balanced bud -- the balanced, balancing the ledger books here, as opposed to the balanced -- the pocketbooks of the American people. So it's a clear choice. They've made their position clear. As you and I can tell, it's a little bit confusing to think why they'd want to do it, but that's their policy, that's their position, and that's their record.

[...]

HARRIS: I guess the question is, when you see those numbers, A) do you buy them? If you do, is this the best we can do for working families?

BARTLETT: Well, there's been -- that's a liberal organization who doesn't approve in tax relief as an economic policy. And so I wouldn't be surprised if they would come out with a report that backs up their belief. The fact of the matter is, is that the top ranks in our income strata are paying more as a percentage of taxes than they did before the tax relief went into enactment. But the proof is in the pudding --

HARRIS: Really.

BARTLETT: We can have theoretical debates here in Washington about whether it worked or not. The bottom line is, we've created more than 2 million jobs in the last year alone. We've had 470,000 jobs created in the last three months alone. The economy is roaring. Americans are working. The Dow is at all-time highs. The facts are in. We can debate it all we want here, but Americans are feeling it, and they're feeling it by the fact that they're working.

HARRIS: Are you surprised that you're not getting more of a bounce from these numbers?

BARTLETT: Not really, because, you know, we're in a divided political climate right now, so many people are going to interpret things through the prism of their political affiliation. We're in the middle of a war, a very difficult war. And that obviously impacts the psyche.

Posted In
Economy
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Tony Harris
Show/Publication
CNN Newsroom
Stories/Interests
2006 Elections
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