THE CLINTON ECONOMIC PLAN
Special Amnesia Edition
Editor's Note: Reporters told the voters last fall that Bill Clinton would cut taxes for the middle class, and that his economic plan was solid and credible. When President Bush and Vice President Quayle said otherwise, reporters called their assertions misleading or wrong. Would reporters apologize, or praise his actual economic plan? Read on:
Wrong, Wrong, Wrong on Clinton's Tax Promises
"President Bush's new ad
portrays Bill Clinton as a big taxer and a danger to the middle
class....That's misleading. In fact, Clinton has proposed cutting taxes for
the sort of people in this ad. The tax increase that the ad claims could
result under Clinton is based on leaps of logic about how he would pay for his
- NBC reporter Lisa Myers on NBC Nightly News, October 2, 1992.
CBS reporter Eric Engberg: "The
tax figures jump from the screen with fact-like exactness. They were provided,
not by Clinton, but by the Bush staff, which admits they are based on
assumptions. They assume Clinton will fail to get his program through
Congress; that his proposal to tax the wealthy won't raise enough money; and
that he will then tax the middle class, which he says he won't."
Off-screen CBS producer: "The stacking up of assumptions like this, there's a word we use for that."
Steven Colford, Advertising Age: "I think it's lying."
- CBS Evening News, October 5, 1992.
"One of the best things that may
come out of the election cycle is that people don't like negative campaigning.
The Bush people knew they were in trouble, they couldn't move past 42 percent,
so they thought if they went negative, with the ad about Clinton's tax
program, which is very misleading to say the least, that they would begin to
build up Clinton's negatives."
- NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell, October 7, 1992 Today.
"There are some factual things
to clean up. When Dan Quayle said they would be raising taxes on people down
to about $36,000, that's based on Bush campaign projections of the Clinton
- NBC anchor Tom Brokaw after the vice presidential debate, October 13.
"The Bush campaign calculates
that since Clinton could not possibly raise the money he needs to pay for his
spending programs with his revenue proposals, he would have to impose a 36
percent tax rate on anyone making over $36,000 a year. Independent examination
of this charge by, for example, press organizations, has found it, to say the
- ABC's Jeff Greenfield on Nightline, October 13, 1992.
"It was Quayle who repeatedly
twisted and misstated the facts... Quayle misrepresented Clinton's economic
plan, which calls for a net tax increase of only $46 billion spread over four
years - the $150 billion Quayle mentioned, minus the $104 billion in cuts he
neglected to mention."
- CNN reporter Brooks Jackson, October 14, 1992 Inside Politics.
"Looks like Dan Quayle was right. Last year's vice presidential debate...produced an accurate prediction from Quayle about the Clinton budget plan...The final plan, according to Clinton officials, will hit those making $30,000 and above."
- USA Today, February 18.
Clinton's Tough Cuts
It's one for one [tax hikes to
spending cuts] and it's gutsier than any Republican President has done in 12
years of feel- goodism. This is going to be politically courageous and you're
going to hear a lot of screaming."
- Newsweek reporter Eleanor Clift on The McLaughlin Group, February 13.
"Offering a new direction for
the country, President Clinton today begins selling his tough budget-cutting
program to the American people."
- CBS This Morning co-host Harry Smith, February 18.
"In an about-face from the
economic policies of the past 12 years, which emphasized ever increasing
government debt, President Clinton outlined a plan based on fiscal
restraint... Greenspan could be in the unfamiliar position of formulating
monetary policy to prop up an economy beset by higher taxes and a
significantly lower rate of government spending."
- U.S. News & World Report cover story, March 1 issue.
"Clinton did not point out that his supposed domestic cuts are offset by more than 131 proposals to increase domestic spending by a total of $123.7 billion. All told, proposed increases in domestic spending outweigh the proposed `cuts' by $10 billion over the next four years."
- Heritage Foundation Backgrounder by Daniel J. Mitchell, February 18.
Medicare Cuts - In the Rate of Growth
Proposed Medicare, Medicaid Cuts
Total $62.6 Billion Over Five Years
- Washington Post, February 19
Health Care Putting Limits on Growth of Medicare
- New York Times, same day
Clinton's Great Plan
"I think regardless of what you
think of the specifics of the program, the President deserved great, great
credit for having the courage to come forward with a plan to deal responsibly
with the deficit. Yes, there are flaws....But I think that Bill Clinton really
set the nation on a new course last night in trying to deal responsibly with
our problems, and make the tough choices."
- NBC's Lisa Myers on Today, February 18.
"Many economists say the Clinton
program - especially his plan for higher taxes and spending cuts to shrink
the federal budget deficit - is exactly what the economy needs. They say if
the program can get through Congress intact, it could help boost the economy
not just in 1993, but through the rest of the decade... Economists were
pleased to see line-by-line spending and revenue projections, not vague
targets, common in the Reagan and Bush years."
- USA Today reporter Mark Memmott, February 18.
"Clinton has at least faced the
facts squarely, which is more than his immediate predecessors ever did, and he
is forthrightly taking the heat for the tax increases that serious deficit
reduction demands. Simply to move the debate from whether the deficit should
be tackled to how the red ink should be stemmed is the definition of courage
in modern American politics. So give him that....Clinton's economic plan
deserves to be known as a new New Deal, and Congress should pass it
- Time chief political correspondent Michael Kramer, March 1 issue.
"As the soundbite from the Fed
chairman said a moment ago, we're doing this to improve the living standards,
not of us, necessarily, but of our children and of our grandchildren. The
payoff for this kind of pain doesn't come in five years. It doesn't
necessarily come in ten years. It comes in 15, 20, and 25 years from now, when
we start to get the economy growing faster, productivity increases going up
faster, the kinds of benefits that we really hope will help us do things like
pay Social Security benefits 25 years from now and so forth."
- U.S. News & World Report economics writer Susan Dentzer, Feb. 19 CNN & Company.
"Fear not - there won't be a
new baby boom nine months from now because you and your spouse had to huddle
under the covers to keep warm after President Clinton's energy tax takes
effect. You'll just have to drive a little less and snuggle a little
- Boston Globe summary of tax plan, February 21.
Sam Donaldson: Raise My Taxes
"In 1981, Ronald Reagan lowered
my income rate, terrific, my tax rate. Then he indexed my taxes. He didn't
explain to me how government could index what it bought. The way it worked
under Ronald Reagan was I couldn't creep into a higher bracket and pay more in
taxes....It's time that people like me start paying more of a fair share, and
it's time that people started giving up their subsidies, and I agree we need
more cuts. And we will return to fiscal responsibility and away from the la-la
land of the Reagan-Bush era."
- ABC reporter Sam Donaldson at the Conservative Political Action Conference, February 20.
"I would tell [Clinton] two
things: means test all government programs for every recipient of them,
including Social Security, and get real with the energy taxes. That's the way
we're going to go. Don't put seven cents on. To be effective, put 50 cents on.
We are still undertaxed by energy by large quantities, and we can stand it. So
let's not just ratchet it up year after year, because once a tax is in place,
folks, it just increases. Let's do it now."
- Donaldson on This Week with David Brinkley, February 21.
Before the Plan: Rooting for a Middle Class Tax Hike
"But [Clinton] said that he
would never tax the middle class, and if things didn't work out right, he
would still not tax the middle class....he really took a pledge last night not
to talk about the things that would hurt the middle class, and I think it's
intellectually one of the worst things I've seen Bill Clinton do."
- NBC White House reporter Andrea Mitchell, October 20, 1992 Today.
"I think it would be entirely to
the good if it [improved growth] made him abandon this ridiculous middle class
tax cut. Because the fact is what Clinton needs even in the intermediate term
is a global stimulus package."
- Newsweek reporter Margaret Warner on CNN's Capital Gang, November 28, 1992.
"For the past 12 years, the job
of balancing the federal government's books has been rife with avoidance and
obfuscation. Reagan budget director David A. Stockman began the process with
his `rosy scenarios' and `magic asterisks,' accounting tricks that helped him
submit what looked like balanced budgets even as he added billions to the
deficit....Now President Clinton and his Office of Management and Budget
Director, Leon E. Panetta, are vowing to change all that, beginning with the
economic program they plan to unveil on Wednesday....Panetta's talk of honest
budgeting is part of a cultural change that seems to be underway at OMB."
- Washington Post reporter Steven Mufson, February 14 news story.
"[Clinton] offered a budget plan
that would reduce the deficit with more realistic estimates than the `rosy
scenarios,' `magic asterisks,' or other gimmicks of the Reagan-Bush
- Mufson, February 18.
"Clinton is determined to avoid
Reagan's and Bush's mistakes. His predecessors used rosy economic forecasts
rather than politically unpopular spending cuts and tax increases to make
unrealistic promises they could not deliver. Clinton is taking the opposite
route. He is proposing real cuts and taxes, but is using pessimistic economic
assumptions and worst-case budget estimates to lower expectations for
- Knight-Ridder reporter Owen Ullmann in the February 21 Philadelphia Inquirer.
"Among the questionable spending cuts over four years were $52 billion from better management of government, $7.9 billion from `streamlining' government, $4.4 billion from `technical adjustments.'"
- Knight-Ridder Washington reporter Robert Rankin, February 18 Philadelphia Inquirer.
"The administration's $30,000
threshold, for example, is not what most people understand as income, or even
the form 1040's familiar adjusted gross income line. It is a figure concocted
to include all kinds of `non-cash income,' including fringe benefits and even
the imputed rental value of the family home. As administration officials have
conceded, the higher tax bites actually begin at a figure closer to $20,000
than $30,000....The more that is learned about the plan, the less solid it
looks. As much as $54 billion of claimed spending reductions are actually
increases in taxes or fees."
- Washington Post reporter David Broder in a February 24 column.
Blaming the GOP
"If Republicans don't cooperate,
are you prepared to make it tough on them, and remind the nation that it was
Ronald Reagan who quadrupled the deficit, and cast the Republicans as the
architects, new architects of gridlock?"
- Today co-host Bryant Gumbel questioning Vice President Gore, February 18.
"Wasn't it the Republican Party
under the leadership of Ronald Reagan especially, and George Bush who put the
country in the fix it's now in?"
- NBC anchor Tom Brokaw questioning Rep. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), February 17 Nightly News.
"If the American electorate
wanted no change, it could have voted for George Bush....the Bush-Reagan
deficit...grew almost exponentially under Republican administrations."
- CNN reporter Charles Bierbauer, February 16 Inside Politics.
Let's Emulate Europe
"There is no mystery in how [the
deficit] can be brought down... the U.S. simply has to choose from a menu of
unpalatable options that include deeper cuts in defense spending, tougher
controls on medical services, higher taxes on federal pensions, and a broad-
based tax on energy or consumption, preferably both. We know how to do this.
Impose measures already commonplace in other industrialized countries. The
weapons are there. It's the will to use them that's the problem."
- NBC commentator John Chancellor, February 16 Nightly News.
"No, President Clinton is not on
60 Minutes Sunday, but we hope he'll be in the audience. Lester
Thurow has the best explanation yet of what's wrong with us."
- CBS promo for February 14 60 Minutes profile of liberal economist Thurow, who argued that the U.S. should follow the government industrial plans of Europe.
Clinton: Mount Rushmore?
Econ Plan - Bubba's got guts. But
watch out for Congress's days of whine and poses.
- Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom Watch, February 22
Clinton - Old CW: Not ready for prime
time. New CW: Almost ready for Mount Rushmore.
- March 1
Forced to Raise Taxes?
"George Bush and Congress passed
a similar $496 billion plan in 1990 that - like Clinton's - included higher
taxes on the rich and higher energy taxes. Bush relied more on spending cuts
than tax increases. That left Clinton with fewer spending cuts to choose from
this year - forcing him to fall back on heavier taxes."
- Media General News Service reporter Gene Marlow in the February 18 Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Gibson's Good Question
"I was researching back because
I thought there had been three tax increases in the last few years that were
going to be specifically devoted to deficit reduction. A major foundation in
Washington said it was four increases in the last ten years that were designed
for deficit reduction - in each year, the deficit has gone up. So why should
people believe there'll be any change in the deficit this time?"
- Good Morning America co-host Charles Gibson to Al Gore, February 18.
Who's Senator Michelle?
"It was interesting that Senator
Michelle, House Minority Leader, addressed Ross Perot's supporters as a
- Reporter Denise Richardson on Rep. Bob Michel's Republican response to the President in a question to a man on the street, February 18 Good Morning America.
Publisher: L. Brent
Editors: Brent H. Baker, Tim Graham
Media Analysts: Brant Clifton, Chris Crowley, Andrew Gabron,
Kristin Johnson, Steve Kaminski
Circulation Manager: Jennifer Hardebeck
Interns: David Muska, Bill Thompson