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CBS & NBC Portray Tax Cuts Through Liberal Prism of Unfairness --5/11/2006


1. CBS & NBC Portray Tax Cuts Through Liberal Prism of Unfairness
CBS and NBC on Wednesday night painted the tax cut extensions passed by the House through a liberal prism, relaying liberal spin meant to portray the cuts as unfair by citing the dollar amounts of expected cuts for the rich versus those earning lower incomes, without any regard for how an incredible 41 percent pay no income tax and so can't get a tax cut while the wealthier pay huge dollar amounts and so even a small percentage reduction represents a big dollar number. CBS's Sharyl Attkisson put on screen, without any attribution, how "for incomes of $50,000 or less, you'll average no more than $46 in savings. Up to $100,000, average is no more than 400 bucks saved. $100,000 to a million saves anywhere from about $1,300 to a little more than $5,500. Over a million, your savings will average nearly $42,000 a year." On the NBC Nightly News, Chip Reid recounted how Republicans claimed tax cuts have helped the economy before he picked up the left-wing numbers without offering any context about the dollar amounts of the cuts compared to the rate paid at various income levels, but at least he identified the source as "liberal."

2. Olbermann Compares Bush Team to the Law-Breaking Sopranos
On Wednesday's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann cited a Chicago Tribune piece by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley as he explored whether, as with the Sopranos, you have to "break the law" to "break into the inner circle" of President Bush. Focusing on Bush's nomination of General Michael Hayden to run the CIA, and citing Hayden's role in creating the controversial NSA spying program, Olbermann argued that Bush counts "willingness to thumb his nose at constitutional law" as resume enhancement. The Countdown host then brought aboard Turley to make an unchallenged case that the administration consists of a "rogues' gallery."

3. "Top Ten Signs Katie Couric Doesn't Give a Damn"
Letterman's "Top Ten Signs Katie Couric Doesn't Give a Damn."


CBS & NBC Portray Tax Cuts Through Liberal
Prism of Unfairness

CBS and NBC on Wednesday night painted the tax cut extensions passed by the House through a liberal prism, relaying liberal spin meant to portray the cuts as unfair by citing the dollar amounts of expected cuts for the rich versus those earning lower incomes, without any regard for how an incredible 41 percent pay no income tax and so can't get a tax cut while the wealthier pay huge dollar amounts and so even a small percentage reduction represents a big dollar number. CBS's Sharyl Attkisson put on screen, without any attribution, how "for incomes of $50,000 or less, you'll average no more than $46 in savings. Up to $100,000, average is no more than 400 bucks saved. $100,000 to a million saves anywhere from about $1,300 to a little more than $5,500. Over a million, your savings will average nearly $42,000 a year." After Attkisson, anchor Bob Schieffer set up a piece from Anthony Mason, on how the national debt will reach $10 trillion by the end of the Bush presidency and the National Debt clock in Manhattan is running out of space, by declaring that "critics...remind us that any tax cut is just going to drive the national debt higher."

On the NBC Nightly News, Chip Reid recounted how Republicans claimed tax cuts have helped the economy before he picked up the left-wing numbers without offering any context about the dollar amounts of the cuts compared to the rate paid at various income levels, but at least he identified the source as "liberal." Reid highlighted how "Democratic critics say the overall bill is heavily tilted in favor of the very wealthy" and passed along how "according to the liberal-leaning Tax Policy Center, those earning more than $1 million a year would save an average of about $42,000 a year. But families earning between $50,000 and $75,000 would save only $110 a year. And the savings are even smaller for those making between $40,000 and $50,000."

[This item was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. To share your thoughts, go to: newsbusters.org ]

Of course, since outside of a small adjustment to the Alternative Minimum Tax, what the House passed was a two-year extension of the current tax rates, the tax cut numbers cited by CBS and NBC are really the amounts people would otherwise have to pay in a tax hike.

Attkisson's numbers, like Reid's, came from the joint Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center and were lifted from a table on the front page of Wednesday's Washington Post: www.washingtonpost.com

See the May 10 CyberAlert for more on that distorted article: www.mediaresearch.org

(ABC's World News Tonight limited coverage of the tax vote to a couple of sentences from anchor Elizabeth Vargas.)

Amazingly, fewer than six in ten Americans actually pays any income tax. As Scott Hodge recounted in a March 30 Tax Foundation report: "During 2006, Tax Foundation economists estimate that roughly 43.4 million tax returns, representing 91 million individuals, will face a zero or negative tax liability. That's out of a total of 136 million federal tax returns that will be filed. Adding to this figure the 15 million households and individuals who file no tax return at all, roughly 121 million Americans -- or 41 percent of the U.S. population -- will be completely outside the federal income tax system in 2006. This total includes those who pay no tax, and those who pay some tax upfront and are later refunded the full amount of the tax paid or more....
"The number of tax returns with zero or negative tax liability has risen steadily over the past decade. However, it accelerated sharply between 2000 and 2004 due to the effects of tax changes during President Bush's first term of office."

For the full report: www.taxfoundation.org

In an October Tax Foundation report, William Ahern and Gerald Prante looked at the latest numbers from the IRS, from the 2003 tax year, and observed the greater burden on the wealthier: "The top-earning 25 percent of taxpayers (AGI over $57,343) earned 64.9 percent of nation's income, but they paid more than four out of every five dollars collected by the federal income tax (83.9 percent)." See: www.taxfoundation.org

Indeed, the bottom 50 percent, those earning below $29,000, represented 14 percent of all reported income but paid a piddling 3.46 percent of all income taxes collected. Those making more than $95,000 earned 42 percent of the income, yet paid 64 percent of all taxes collected and those earning more than $295,000 paid an average 24.3 percent tax rate, eight times the minimal 2.95 percent rate paid by those making under $29,000. We have a Marxist tax system.

Transcripts of the May 10 CBS and NBC stories, as corrected against the closed-captioning by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:

# CBS Evening News. Bob Schieffer led: "Good evening. Gas prices are high, the war in Iraq won't go away, so it is no wonder the Republican-controlled Congress has been looking for something it can brag on as the fall election approaches. And today it found one -- that old favorite, tax cuts. Or, to be more specific, an extension of some of the President's previous tax cuts which were due to expire. We go first to Sharyl Attkisson on Capitol Hill. Sharyl?"

Sharyl Attkisson began from Capitol Hill: "Bob, well, with the Congress on the verge of handing the President a major victory, the House has now passed the tax cuts. The Senate is expected to follow suit. It's $70 billion worth of cuts over five years, and today Republicans were crowing."
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), on the House floor: "I was born to cut taxes, and I'm proud of the fact that I was born to cut taxes."
Attkisson: "What's the bottom line? The more taxes you pay, the more you save. The Morrises, a Washington couple with two small children, earn around $100,000 a year. They'll save about as thousand bucks."
Mr. Morris: "It'll be nice, but I don't even know if we'll notice it. I guess most people who pay taxes would benefit a little bit."
Attkisson, over on screen table: "Some more than others. For incomes of $50,000 or less, you'll average no more than $46 in savings. Up to $100,000, average is no more than 400 bucks saved. $100,000 to a million saves anywhere from about $1,300 to a little more than $5,500. Over a million, your savings will average nearly $42,000 a year. It's all but a done deal, even though not everyone supports it."
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), on the House floor: "There is nothing in what we will do today that is useful for anybody who is at the middle class or below."
Attkisson: "Democrat Max Baucus helped craft the tax cut package, but says some crucial features got axed at the last minute. Not in the plan, the ability to deduct state and local sales tax, the college tuition tax deduction, deductions for teachers who spend their own money on school supplies, and tax credits for businesses that hire welfare-to-work employees. Are tax cuts and is tax relief in general very popular with most Americans?"
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT): "Americans like tax cuts, but Americans, more than that, want to do what's right and want us and Congress to do what we think is right for the country."
Attkisson: "The tax breaks could pass the Senate as early as tomorrow and be on the President's desk for signing by week's end."


# NBC Nightly News. Anchor Brian Williams announced: "Now to Capitol Hill and a bill to extend tax cuts for investors and create a temporary fix for the alternative minimum tax. Republicans say the tax cuts are helping the economy, but Democrats argue most of the benefits go to the wealthiest Americans. Joining us tonight from Capitol Hill, NBC's Chip Reid. Chip, good evening."

Chip Reid began from Capitol Hill: "Well, good evening, Brian. Late today a sharply divided House of Representatives passed that tax cut bill by a vote of 244 to 185. With much of their agenda mired in gridlock, House Republicans found reason to celebrate today. After reaching agreement on tax cuts of nearly $70 billion requested by President Bush."
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), at outdoor celebration: "We are Republicans, and by virtue of being Republicans, we were born to cut taxes."
Reid: "The bill would extend for another two years reduced tax rates of 15 percent on stock dividends and capital gains. Supporters say those tax breaks for investors have played a major role in the nation's economic recovery."
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), on the House floor: "Unemployment is at 4.7 percent. These cuts have spurred spectacular economic growth."
Reid: "The bill would also protect millions of taxpayers from the alternative minimum tax for one year. That tax was created more than three decades ago to make sure the super-wealthy paid their fair share, but now threatens to ensnare the middle and upper middle class, especially families with children in states with high taxes. But Democratic critics say the overall bill is heavily tilted in favor of the very wealthy."
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), on the House floor: "And tonight rivers of champagne will flow in corporate boardrooms across America."
Reid, over an on-screen graphic with matching numbers: "According to the liberal-leaning Tax Policy Center, those earning more than $1 million a year would save an average of about $42,000 a year. But families earning between $50,000 and $75,000 would save only $110 a year. And the savings are even smaller for those making between $40,000 and $50,000."
Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), on the House floor: "Their average tax saving under this particular measure would be $46. That amounts to just a little bit more than a tank of gas of you ain't driving an SUV."
Reid: "And some Democrats say they opposed it because it adds about $70 billion to the deficit. But now that it's passed the House, it goes to the Senate. Republicans in the Senate say they have the votes to pass it. If they're right, it will then go to the President for his signature."

Olbermann Compares Bush Team to the Law-Breaking
Sopranos

On Wednesday's Countdown, MSNBC's Keith Olbermann cited a Chicago Tribune piece by George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley as he explored whether, as with the Sopranos, you have to "break the law" to "break into the inner circle" of President Bush. Focusing on Bush's nomination of General Michael Hayden to run the CIA, and citing Hayden's role in creating the controversial NSA spying program, Olbermann argued that Bush counts "willingness to thumb his nose at constitutional law" as resume enhancement. The Countdown host then brought aboard Turley to make an unchallenged case that the administration consists of a "rogues' gallery."

For Turley's May 10 Chicago Tribune op-ed, in which he contended that "from his very first appointments, Bush appeared inclined toward officials who appear willing to treat the law as a mere technicality," go to: www.chicagotribune.com

Turley concluded: "As these shadowy figures multiply, you can understand why civil libertarians increasingly see the White House like a gathering at Tony Soprano's Bada Bing! club. In Soprano's world, you cannot become a 'made man' unless you first earn your bones by 'doing' some guy or showing blind loyalty. Only when you have proven unquestioning loyalty does Tony 'open the books' for a new guy.
"Hayden earned his bones by implementing the NSA operation despite clear federal law declaring such surveillance to be a criminal act. He can now join the rest of the made men of the Bush administration."

[This item, by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth, was posted Wednesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Olbermann previewed his segment with Turley in the show's teaser: "Comparing the family Bush to the family Soprano: To break into the inner circle, do you have to break the law? Friday, Porter Goss quits in haste as CIA chief, Wednesday Porter Goss gets the Congressional Distinguished Service Award. Months and years ago, General Michael Hayden dreams up the warrantless wiretap, Monday General Michael Hayden becomes CIA chief. Jonathan Turley on making your bones at the Bush Bada Bing."

Olbermann opened the show making his latest comparison between Bush and Richard Nixon: "The Bush administration is nothing if not counterintuitive. With disapproval numbers now rivaling Richard Nixon's, Mr. Bush still nominated for his new CIA chief a man almost guaranteed to draw confirmation fight." Regarding Bush's choice of Hayden as CIA chief, Olbermann contended that he was chosen because of his "willingness to thumb his nose at constitutional law."

Citing Turley's piece, Olbermann continued, "Mr. Turley likens the Bush team, in fact, to The Sopranos at the end of his piece: Get criminal and get made." Implying that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is guilty of "criminal acts," and blaming him for torture at Abu Ghraib prison, the Countdown host continued: "He cites other administration officials whose criminal acts, or potentially criminal behavior, have posed no barrier to advancement, like Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, who as White House counsel may well have been the architect of the kinds of torture, at least the legalese for the torture that led to the Abu Ghraib abuses."

Olbermann then gave Turley a forum to argue his case without challenge that the Bush administration consists of a "rogues' gallery" of people "accused of violating the law" who were given a "rapid ascent" in the administration. Turley further claimed that the President's theory of his power is "so extreme that it's unprecedented" because he believes he "has the inherent authority to violate federal law."

Below is a complete transcript of the segment from the May 10 Countdown show:

Keith Olbermann, in opening teaser: "Comparing the family Bush to the family Soprano: To break into the inner circle, do you have to break the law? Friday, Porter Goss quits in haste as CIA chief, Wednesday Porter Goss gets the Congressional Distinguished Service Award. Months and years ago, General Michael Hayden dreams up the warrantless wiretap, Monday General Michael Hayden becomes CIA chief. Jonathan Turley on making your bones at the Bush Bada Bing."

Olbermann opened the show: "The Bush administration is nothing if not counterintuitive. With disapproval numbers now rivaling Richard Nixon's, Mr. Bush still nominated for his new CIA chief a man almost guaranteed to draw confirmation fight. General Michael Hayden, creator of the domestic eavesdropping program. Mr. Bush says General Hayden is perfect for the CIA, and perhaps he was chosen for elevation despite or because of a characteristic that is normally seen as a liability: his arguable willingness to thumb his nose at constitutional law. That notion has been suggested by the noted professor in that subject, Jonathan Turley, who will join us presently. Mr. Turley likens the Bush team, in fact, to the Sopranos at the end of his piece: Get criminal and get made. He cites other administration officials whose criminal acts, or potentially criminal behavior, have posed no barrier to advancement, like Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, who as White House counsel may well have been the architect of the kinds of torture, at least the legalese for the torture that led to the Abu Ghraib abuses. As promised, we're joined now by professor of constitutional law, George Washington University, Jonathan Turley. Thanks again for your time, sir."
Jonathan Turley, George Washington University: "Thanks, Keith."
Olbermann: "Your joke about The Sopranos in the Chicago Tribune piece, timely, telling, it will fire up everybody on both sides. But the argument beneath it is dead serious. From the point of view of the Constitution, the point of view of the law of the land, what are you seeing here?"
Turley: "Well, you know, this is a pretty impressive rogues' gallery. You know, from his very first term, Bush shocked many people by reaching out to officials who had either been convicted or pleaded guilty to crimes during the Reagan and Bush administrations, and others who many felt should have been indicted. They included people like Elliott Abrams, who pleaded guilty to three crimes. They were misdemeanors. John Poindexter, who was convicted of three crimes. Those were thrown out on a mere technicality later. You had Otto Reich, who was accused of a domestic surveillance, propaganda program. You have a very long list of people. And what emerged through the two terms was that people who seemed to be accused of violating the law had a rapid ascent in this administration. And one has to wonder whether this is suddenly a criteria, that the President likes people who are willing to go to the edge of the law and beyond it to achieve what he believes is a worthy purpose."
Olbermann: "If it's personnel decisions or if it's a president signing a statement relating to a law that basically says I'm not going to obey this law if I don't feel like it, or if it's something larger, more aggressive, domestic surveillance or any of these other things, where are the constitutional checks? Is that machinery still present? Is it still working? Is it rusted or is it not working at all?"
Turley: "Well, it's not working very well. Many federal judges have, in fact, really brought the Bush administration up to the bar of the court, and they have, in fact, rejected many of the arguments, including the Supreme Court of the United States. But the real check and balance for this type of thing rests with Congress. And Congress has done nothing. Do you realize that Congress has not even held a substantive investigation of the NSA operation, an operation that most of us believe was criminal, that the federal law defines quite clearly as a federal crime? Now, instead of investigating that, the Congress actually gave the President a standing ovation during the State of the Union speech when he promised to continue to violate that law, when he continued, he said he would continue this program. And the people who were responsible for passing the law that he was violating gave him a standing ovation. It was the most bizarre thing I've ever seen in my life. But now we have the architect of that program, who's been nominated to head the CIA. Now, that was not a natural choice because if you look at his record, it was actually fairly mixed. We're talking about General Hayden. General Hayden's accused of wasting as much as $2 billion when he was at the NSA on a program called Trail Blazer. Almost $2 billion. Normally that would be an impediment to advancement."
Olbermann: "I'm surprised he didn't get Secretary of the Treasury. The wartime argument that always comes back in these kind of debates about presidential powers, what's the history on that in terms of the Constitution and the presidents? Have presidents who have been, seemed to have stretched the Constitution, have they been investigated in wartime, even under the much stricter definitions of wartime we used to have?"
Turley: "Well, first of all, this president's theory of his power is now, I think, so extreme that it's unprecedented. He believes that he has the inherent authority to violate federal law. He has said that. Not just the signing statements, in the infamous torture memo that Alberto Gonzalez signed, it was stated that he could in some circumstances order federal officials to violate federal law. And this is consistent across the board with this president. Frankly, I'm not too sure of what he thought he was swearing to when he took the oath of office to uphold the Constitution and our laws. I've never seen a president who's so uncomfortable in his constitutional skin."
Olbermann: "All of this, Jonathan, has been likened to the swing of a pendulum, that this is Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, harkening back to their days as rookies in the Ford administration, watching the fallout of presidential powers being cut back after the abuses of Richard Nixon. If that's true, if it is a pendulum, does the pendulum swing back? Can it? Will it?"
Turley: "Well, unfortunately, civil liberties don't swing back like other issues. Civil liberties is a very precious commodity. When you lose them, it tends to run out of your hand like sand, and it's hard to get it back. And that's one of the dangers here, that presidents, when they acquire power, rarely return it to the people. And so we have to be very concerned. This country is changing in a very significant way, and it's something that citizens have to think about because if there is a war on terror, and I believe that we must fight terror, obviously, but we're trying to defend that Constitution. And we're really at a point where the President is arguing about his own presidential power in ways that are the antithesis of that Constitution and the values that it contains."
Olbermann: "Constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley. As always, sir, thanks for your time. Thanks for joining us."
Turley: "Thanks, Keith."

"Top Ten Signs Katie Couric Doesn't Give
a Damn"

From the May 10 Late Show with David Letterman the "Top Ten Signs Katie Couric Doesn't Give a Damn." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com

10. Addresses every guest as "my dawg"

9. Told Matthew McConaughey she'd rather drink Drano than see his new movie

8. Instead of waving to bystanders gathered outside the studio, she gives them the finger

7. During a cooking demonstration, she ashed her cig in the foie gras

6. Segments are regularly interrupted by her "My Humps" cell phone ring tone

5. The brand new CBS eye tattoo

4. Just holds newspaper up to the camera

3. Long awkward pauses while she stares at her watch

2. "This is Today" replaced by "This is soooooo yesterday"

1. Introduces a new feature: "Who gives a rat's ass where Matt Lauer is?"

-- Brent Baker