As the new majority of Democrats takes over the House of Representatives January 4, they have big plans – plans the media have supported.
Journalists have called arguments against a minimum wage hike “a lot of bull” and even came out in blatant endorsement of socialized medicine.
“The only answer is going to be, eventually, some kind of national, universal coverage. A guaranteed system that everybody regardless of income will have at least basic health care,” said ABC medical correspondent Dr. Timothy Johnson on the Oct. 16, 2006, “Good Morning America.”
In the “first 100 hours” of their reign, according to the House Democrats Web site , Democrats say they will (among other things):
Increase the federal minimum wage
“Make health care more affordable for all Americans”
Reinstate pay-as-you-go legislation and commit to no new deficit spending
Raising the minimum wage has received widespread support from the news media including CNN, PBS, ABC, USA Today and The Washington Post.
The Democrats have also said as part of their health care plan they intend to “fix” Medicare with more government involvement in the market. The media are unlikely to find fault with such a plan, as they frequently support even more extensive government fixes. CNN’s Lou Dobbs and ABC’s Johnson have both expressed support for government-run universal health care.
Minimum Wage a Media Favorite
News reporters and anchors have been obvious about their support for a minimum wage hike, going so far as calling the minimum wage “simply not fair” and criticism of a hike “a lot of bull.”
The current Democratic proposal would raise the federal minimum to $7.25 an hour – a 41-percent increase. Media reports have largely ignored key facts such as the number of people in the U.S. who actually make $5.15 an hour. According to a Dec. 4, 2006, Washington Post article, it’s about 520,000 people. And “[t]wo-thirds of all minimum wage earners earn a raise within a year of getting started,”  said Heritage Foundation senior fellow James Sherk.
Still, PBS’s “Now” , Betsy Stark on ABC’s “World News Tonight” , Stephanie Armour at USA Today , and Michael Rosenwald of The Washington Post  all tilted coverage in favor of minimum wage increases leading the Business & Media Institute to include it in the Top 10 Media Myths of 2006 .
Lou Dobbs has campaigned  for a minimum wage increase for months on his show “Lou Dobbs Tonight” and in his book “War on the Middle Class,” claiming the federal minimum of $5.15 is a part of such a “war.” During his Nov. 9, 2006, show Dobbs even lectured the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and The Heritage Foundation, saying “these people had better understand something that’s clear.”
CNN business reporter Ali Velshi was pretty clear about his position on the Jan. 2, 2007, “American Morning.” He declared that “it’s simply not fair that there has been a federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour.”
While the news media have spouted liberal talking points about minimum wage, they frequently left out or belittled expert economists who see flaws in the policy.
The only defender of business opposition to minimum wage increases on the November 8 “Lou Dobbs Tonight” was The Heritage Foundation’s Bill Beach who said, “When you increase the minimum wage you increase the cost of doing business … that’s kinda tough.” Christine Romans immediately countered saying, “Voters overwhelmingly disagreed.”
And then there was CNN’s Andy Serwer, who blatantly called arguments against a minimum wage hike “a lot of bull” on the June 24 “In the Money.”
The fact is that economists and business leaders say a minimum wage increase will hurt small businesses and can cause job loss. Those experts include economist Walter Williams, a BMI adviser who wrote  on April 26, 2006, that “[I]f higher minimum wages could cure poverty, we could easily end worldwide poverty simply by telling poor nations to legislate higher minimum wages.”
Health Care: Let the Government Do It
To listen to the media, the only hope for fixing health care in America’s “shattered system full of pain and worry” is to turn it all over to the government. The liberal rallying cry was bolstered by the media chorus that health care is a shambles and costs are far too high.
Dr. Timothy Johnson, ABC medical correspondent, went so far as to propose socialized medicine. “The only answer is going to be, eventually, some kind of national, universal coverage. A guaranteed system that everybody regardless of income will have at least basic health care,” Johnson said during the Oct. 16, 2006, “Good Morning America.”
ABC “World News with Charles Gibson” took the approach of insisting there are problems with the health care system, even after an ABC poll found a large majority of Americans happy with their own health care.
“Despite a shattered system full of pain and worry, our poll found 89 percent of Americans satisfied with the quality of their own care, and nearly 60 percent content with cost,” said reporter Bill  Weir during the Oct. 16, 2006 broadcast. Just a day earlier, ABC anchor Dan Harris lamented a need for “sweeping change” during “World News Sunday.”
But stories started from the assumption that “the people” wanted more government. CNN’s Lou Dobbs called it the “responsibility” of the government to provide.
“We can talk about national health care, universal health care coverage call it what you want to, but this country has a responsibility to all the people in this room and Americans, all but the very poor and the very rich, are the ones being hammered because there is no program for the middle-class,” said Dobbs on Dec. 7, 2006, during a “War on the Middle Class” special.
The news media also revealed their true colors when they left out information about an interviewee. Two Sept. 22, 2006, stories about Wal-Mart’s $4 prescription drug plan by CBS’s Anthony Mason and The New York Times both included critic Ron Pollack of Families USA. But both also chose to leave out  Pollack’s background as a staunch supporter of the 1994 Clinton plan to nationalize health care.
But Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael O. Leavitt disagreed with the Democrats’ plan. He told The New York Times on Jan. 2, 2007, “I don’t believe I can do a better job than an efficient market” to negotiate prescription drug costs.
“[M]edicare does not, in fact, have market power that is greater than existing private-sector pharmacy benefit managers and thus will be ineffective at securing prices lower than those already achieved through existing private sector arrangements,” wrote Heritage Foundation’s Greg D’Angelo in a special report  on the 100-Hour Agenda.
Footing the bill
The House Democrats and soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi say they are committed to “paying-as-they-go” and avoiding deficit spending – a difficult task considering the scope of their costly agenda items.
Washington Post staff writer Lori Montgomery questioned the ability of Democrats to find funding and balance the budget, writing “it won’t be easy” in a Dec. 26, 2006, article.
“Pay-as-you-go” will “force Democrats to find spending cuts or new revenue to pay for some big-ticket items” like cutting federal student loan interest rates, funding national security, maintaining expiring health programs for children and veterans and expanding some tax cuts, wrote Montgomery.
Unsurprisingly, Clinton’s Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin urged Democrats to raise taxes, saying on ABC’s “World News” that “You cannot solve the nation’s fiscal problems without increased revenues.” That was Nov. 10, 2006.
Despite what Democrats have said, it may turn out that President Bush was right when he said, “They’re going to raise your taxes and figure out new ways to spend the money.”
But if that happens, Democrats may blame Bush. Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina and Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota said they will press Bush to “help finance a war,” according to Montgomery’s article.
“Raising taxes would certainly be an option [for paying for the war],” said Conrad.
Stay tuned: Other 100-hours plans include broadening “college opportunity,” energy independence, ending subsidies for “Big Oil,” and guaranteeing “dignified retirement” (aka fighting Social Security privatization). Sign up now  for the Business & Media Institute’s free weekly newsletter, and don’t miss our coverage of these hot topics!