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MediaWatch: April 1995

Vol. Nine No. 4

Contract on America's Poor?

As the House passed bills to reduce spending, taxes and regulations, the media promoted the liberal spin. "The new Republican majority in Congress took a big step today on its legislative agenda to demolish or damage government aid programs, many of them designed to help children and the poor," Dan Rather declared March 16, referring to $17 billion in cuts.

"The most drastic measures are not expected to survive in the Senate," ABC World News Saturday anchor Catherine Crier noted before a March 25 story, ominously intoning "but congressional tinkering with welfare is creating fear all across America."

An April 5 ABC story on the property rights bill, which provides compensation when regulations diminish land value, ended by echoing the fears of liberal environmental activists. Warned Barry Serafin: "In the rush to change, reform or reject regulations, little time has been spent in the new Congress sorting out the arguments or the consequences."

To Time, tax cuts are an evil. "For Republicans, tax cuts are becoming a kind of deadly virus, threatening to cripple any GOP measure they infect," Michael Duffy wrote April 3. Welfare reform "should have been a slam-dunk," but the GOP "somehow allowed tax cuts -- the passion of campaign contributors -- to get in the way."

Even if the $500-per-child tax credit were cut, Duffy insisted, "an enormous tax break for the wealthy would still loom." Without citing any contrasting numbers, he reported "Democrats charge that more than 50 percent of the remaining $85 billion in tax benefits in the Contract would go to the ten percent of families whose incomes exceed $100,000." A Joint Economic Committee report cited studies showing that before the rate was hiked in 1985 "fully three-quarters of the value of all capital gains went to taxpayers earning less than $100,000" and 70 percent "reporting capital gains had income of less than $50,000."

What's the public's verdict? For the April 6 NBC Nightly News Bob Faw traveled to the Nashville Speedway and found "most here regard the first hundred days the way an old-fashioned mother regards breakfast, as a good beginning. And most hope the big engines in Washington keep right on running."

But ABC's Jackie Judd noted the same night that a poll showed while most "endorse the general themes of the Contract, they're not so happy with the specifics." Judd aired three negative soundbites before concluding: "One of the most personally troubling aspects of the survey for Speaker Gingrich may be the large number of people who said he doesn't understand their problems. Gingrich views himself as a man of the people. The survey result raises the question -- what people?"