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Archive for the ‘Media Bias’ Category

Perhaps there is an occasional exception, but when someone in a public policy debate mentions a “race to the bottom,” they always seem to favor bigger government and punitive taxation.

Here are a few examples:

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a bureaucracy based in Paris, wants to rewrite international tax norms for business income because “failure to collaborate … could be damaging in terms of … a race to the bottom with respect to corporate income taxes.”

The International Monetary Fund also prefers cartels over competition. As the UK-based Guardian reported, “Instead of a race to the bottom where countries compete with each other to offer the lowest rate of corporate tax, it urges co-operation.”

Whether the issue is welfare reform of Medicaid block grants, opponents of federalism complain about decentralization “creating a ‘race to the bottom’ as states slashed funding on services for the poor.”

One of the cranks from the Occupy movement was given a platform by the OECD to complain that, “Tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions bring governments into a harmful race to the bottom.”

And Jeffrey Sachs, writing for the Financial Times, hyperventilated about “a runaway social crisis in many high-income countries. …governments are now in a race to the bottom with regard to corporate taxation”

As you can see, “race to the bottom” is a term that statists use when advocating policies to increase the size, scope, and power of government.

They certainly have the right choose their rhetoric, even though I wish (in the case of the OECD and IMF) that they weren’t being subsidized with my money to push their destructive agenda.

And it makes sense for statists to use this strategy. After all, a “race to the bottom” sounds like a bad thing.

So you can understand that I get irked when the establishment press, which is supposed to be neutral, adopts the left’s rhetoric. Consider this headline from a report in the Financial Times.

FT Race to Bottom Headline(1)

The article itself is not nearly as bad as the headline, so this may be the bias of an editor rather than the bias of a reporter.

Regardless, it sets the tone and obviously would lead an unwitting reader to think it is a good thing that nations aren’t lowering tax rates as much as they did in previous years.

My main point of today’s column is to complain about media bias, but since our example is about the supposed “race to the bottom,” this is also an opportunity to cite the work of the great Nobel Prize-winning economist, Gary Becker, who just passed away.

…competition among nations tends to produce a race to the top rather than to the bottom by limiting the ability of powerful and voracious groups and politicians in each nation to impose their will at the expense of the interests of the vast majority of their populations.

Amen. Tax competition encourages better policy by reducing the power of government.

With regards to bad policy, I want a race to the bottom. That’s what creates a race to the top for prosperity.

P.S. Since we’re on the topic of tax and whether people should pay more or pay less, remember the “Buffett Rule” from the 2012 campaign?

President Obama said every rich person should cough up at least 30 percent of their income to the IRS.

And Warren Buffett volunteered to be Obama’s prop, even distorting his own tax data to facilitate the President’s class-warfare agenda.

Well, it seems that Mr. Buffett is a bit of a hypocrite. Read some of what the Wall Street Journal opined this morning.

…the Berkshire Hathaway CEO seems to have adapted his famous Buffett Rule of taxation when it applies to his own company. …it was fascinating to hear Mr. Buffett explain that his real tax rule is to pay as little as possible, both personally and at the corporate level. “I will not pay a dime more of individual taxes than I owe, and I won’t pay a dime more of corporate taxes than we owe. And that’s very simple,” Mr. Buffett told Fortune magazine in an interview last week. …The billionaire was even more explicit about his goal of reducing his company’s tax payments. “I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate,” he said. …Too bad Mr. Buffett didn’t share this rule with voters in 2012.

Tax minimization is both the legal right and the moral responsibility of every citizen.

Unless, of course, you think – ignoring both theory and evidence – that the crowd in Washington spends money more wisely than the private sector.

P.S. Mr. Buffett should be happy he’s an American rather than a Brit. If he lived in London, the supposedly conservative-led government would probably condemn him for legally keeping his taxes as low as possible.

P.P.S. As shown in this clever video, lots of other rich leftists share Mr. Buffett’s hypocrisy.

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What happens when you mix something good with something bad?

To be more specific, what happens when you have a big success story, like the spending cap in Switzerland that has dramatically slowed the growth of government, and then expect intelligent and coherent coverage by a government-run media outfit that presumably wants a bigger public sector?

Well, the answer is that you get a very muddled story.

Here’s some of what Swiss Info, which is part of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, wrote about that nation’s “debt brake.”

The mind-boggling…debt racked up by governments…has turned some heads towards Switzerland’s successful track record… Swiss voters approved a so-called ‘debt brake’ on federal public finances in 2001, which was put into operation in 2003. A decade later, the mountain of government debt – that soared to dangerous levels during the 1990s and early 2000s – has been reduced by CHF20 billion ($23 billion) from its 2005 peak. The ratio of debt to annual economic output (gross domestic product or GDP)…fell from 53% to 37% between 2005 and the end of 2012.

There’s nothing wrong with that passage. Indeed, you could almost say that Swiss Info was engaging in boosterism.

Moreover, the story points out that other nations have been going in the wrong direction while Switzerland was enjoying success.

…as Switzerland was chipping away at its mountain of debt, other countries were building theirs up. …Since the middle of 2007 public sector debt alone has soared 80% to $43 trillion, according to the Bank for International Settlements.

And the story even notes that other nations are beginning to copy Switzerland.

The Swiss debt brake is the perfect model for other countries to embrace… Germany applied its own version of the Swiss debt brake in 2009, followed by Spain and other European countries.  …“Switzerland came up with the blueprint for what I am sure will be the standard fiscal model of the future,” said Müller-Jentsch.

So why, then, do I think the story has a muddled message?

The answer is that there is no explanation of how the debt brake works and therefore no explanation of why it is a success.

A reader will have no idea, for instance, that the debt brake is actually a spending cap. Readers also will have no way of knowing that red ink has been controlled because the law properly focuses on limiting the growth of spending.

By the way, it wouldn’t have required much research for Swiss Info to include that relevant data. If you do a Google search for “Swiss debt brake,” the first item that appears is the column I wrote in 2012 for the Wall Street Journal.

In that piece, I explained that “Switzerland’s debt brake limits spending growth to average revenue increases over a multiyear period” and I added that “Before the law went into effect in 2003, government spending was expanding by an average of 4.3% per year. Since then it’s increased by only 2.6% annually.”

So why didn’t Swiss Info mention any of this very relevant information? Is it because it tilts to the left like other government-owned media outfits, and the journalists didn’t want to acknowledge that spending restraint is a successful fiscal policy?

I have no idea whether that’s the case, but there is a definite pattern. When I appear on PBS, the deck is usually stacked in favor of statism. Moreover, you won’t be surprised to learn that I’ve had similar experiences with government-run TV in France. And it goes without saying that the BBC in the United Kingdom also leans left (though at least they seem to believe in fair fights).

This video from Swiss Info is similarly vague. It’s a favorable portrayal, but people who watch the video won’t know how the debt brake works or why it has been successful.

P.S.  I don’t know the details about the German version of the debt brake, but it’s probably having some positive impact. The burden of government spending has not increased in that nation since 2009, at least when measured as a share of GDP. Though the Germans also weren’t as profligate as other nations (including the United States) in the years before they adopted a debt brake, so I’ll have to do more research to ascertain whether the German approach is as good as the Swiss approach.

P.P.S. In any event, the moral of the story is that good fiscal policy should be based on the Golden Rule of having government grow slower than the productive sector of the economy.

P.P.S. The Princess of the Levant and I continued our tour of the French Riviera. This photo is from Les Jardins Exotiques at Chateau d’Eze.

photo1(5)

As part of my travels, I’ve learned that the unluckiest people in the world are from Menton and Roquebrune in France. That’s because they were part of Monaco until 1860.

So now, instead of enjoying an income tax of zero under Monegasque rule, they are part of France’s wretched fiscal system.

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The establishment media is very biased, largely in that they decide to cover stories that will help the left.

But that’s such a dog-bites-man observation and it hardly merits any discussion.

I’d much rather make fun of the lapdog press, which is why I’ve shared some funny cartoons here and here.

But whoever put this poster together deserves an award for cleverness. It not only nails the press for bias, but also mocks them for being treated like dirt by the establishment.

Media Chumps

Though I still think this cartoon is funniest thing I’ve ever seen about media bias.

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Even though I appreciate clever humor, I’ve never shared any April Fool’s Day jokes.

Indeed, the only time I even referenced April Fool’s Day came on the following day, when I stated that America’s high corporate tax rate meant that every day was April Fool’s Day for American companies.

So it’s time for me to remedy my oversights by sharing four good examples of April Fool’s Day humor.

Our first contribution is from Senator Ted Cruz. He takes a jab at President Obama for the budget-busting Obamacare legislation.

Cruz April Fool's

Our next contribution comes from Americans for Tax Reform. They’ve issued a press release announcing that America’s leading crony capitalist will voluntarily subject himself to the higher taxes he advocates for other Americans.

As you can see from this video, don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

ATR Press Release

Then we have some mockery of Chris Matthews from the Media Research Center. There are a bunch of absurd, yet mostly believable, quotes.

Since I’m a fan of entitlement reform, here’s the one I’m highlighting.

MRC Chris Matthews

But the most implausible April Fool’s Day joke comes from CNS.

America’s Spender-in-Chief wants to be a role model of fiscal rectitude.

CNS April Fool's

Hey, maybe the President can give every teenager an unlimited credit card and tell them that more spending is good for the economy according to Keynesian economics. Though I’m not sure whether who that joke will hurt the most, the kids, the parents, the economy, or the nation?

Feel free to add any good April Fool’s Day humor in the comments section.

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Most of the questions I received were in the past couple of days and almost all of them dealt with gun control. But I think what I wrote earlier today is a good response to those queries.

So let’s deal with a question (actually two questions) from Minnesota, both of which are very simple and direct: “You deal with reporters a lot. Is the media biased? Or are people on the right just whining?”

First, I’m glad that someone else posed the question, because I wouldn’t be sure whether to ask “Are the media biased” or “Is the media biased.” I’m sure there’s a Grammar Nazi out there who knows the answer.

But back to the point of this post, I think the answer to both questions is yes. Conservatives and libertarians are whining, but that’s very understandable because the press does try to help the other side. And I have several examples.

But I want to emphasize a key point. Media bias very rarely involves dishonesty. Deception yes, but not inaccuracies. It’s almost always about story selection and what gets emphasized.

Even when there’s a clear-cut mistake, such as the jaw-dropping New York Times assertion about lower education spending, I suspect it’s the result of group-think rather than a deliberate decision to lie.

But there often are deliberate decisions to steer the debate in a certain direction, and I there’s a very good example in a new expose by the Daily Caller. They caught the folks at Bloomberg highlighting poll data that helped Obama and burying the results that might give aid and comfort to the GOP.

A poll conducted last week by an Iowa-based firm showed Americans are conflicted about whether or not to support raising tax rates on wealthy Americans to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff.” But that’s not how Bloomberg News, which commissioned the poll, reported the results Thursday. In a story headlined “Americans Back Obama Tax-Rate Boost Tied to Entitlements,” Bloomberg emphasized only that the poll showed most Americans support President Barack Obama’s insistence on increasing taxes for high-income earners. “A majority of Americans say President Barack Obama is right to demand that tax-rate increases for the highest earners be a precondition for a budget deal that cuts U.S. entitlement programs,” the story, written by reporter Julie Hirschfeld Davis, began. …But in the same poll, American adults were asked “whether it is better to raise the top tax rate the wealthy pay, or to limit the amount people can claim in tax breaks, such as mortgage interest and charitable contributions, so they end up paying tax on a bigger share of their income.” Fifty-two percent responded that they preferred limited tax breaks to a tax-rate hike. Only 39 percent said they would rather see tax rates on the wealthy increase. Nine percent indicated they weren’t sure. …Bloomberg mentioned the second question in the story’s 20th paragraph, and gave no indication that the results suggested support for Boehner or House Republicans.

Kudos to the Daily Caller for catching the folks at Bloomberg with the hands in the cookie jar.

Notice, though, that there are (presumably) no falsehoods or fabrications in the Bloomberg report. The bias shows up in terms of what gets prominent coverage and what gets buried.

You’ll be happy to know, by the way, that “Bloomberg News editor and political reporter Jeanne Cummings conceded to The Daily Caller that the poll’s results are apparently contradictory.”

Gee, what a big concession to fairness.

P.S. You can see a couple of good cartoons about media bias in this post, and another good one at the bottom of this post.

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I don’t like to spend much time commenting on media bias. But every so often I find an example that cries out for attention.

In previous posts, I’ve discussed this slanted AP story on poverty, the Brian Ross Tea Party slur, this example of implicit bias by USA Today, and a Reuters report on job creation and so-called stimulus.

And I’ve also commented on a Washington Post story that turned a spending cut molehill into a “spending slash” mountain, a silly assertion in the New York Times that education spending has been reduced, and a Washington post claim that Germany is fiscally conservative.

The latest example comes from the Associated Press, which is mystified that crime is falling “despite” record firearm sales.

Gun-related violence has fallen steadily since 2006 in Virginia despite record firearm sales, according to a university professor’s analysis. Virginia Commonwealth University professor Thomas R. Baker compared state crime data from 2006 through 2011 with gun-dealer sales estimates obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Baker’s analysis shows the number of gun purchases soared 73 percent in the six-year period, while gun-related violent crimes fell 24 percent. Baker, who specializes in research methods and criminology theory, said the comparison seems to contradict the premise that more guns lead to more crime in Virginia.

Gee, there are more innocent people with guns and people are surprised that criminals are now more reluctant to commit crimes? I guess you have to be a reporter or an academic to be surprised by this common-sense observation.

John Lott, of course, wrote an entire book called More Guns, Less Crime. It’s very much worth reading. These posts will give you a flavor of his analysis:

Shifting back to the topic of media bias, let’s close this post by sharing some amusing cartoons, which can be enjoyed here, here, and here.

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On rare occasions, when I get really irked, I complain about media bias. Examples include this AP story on poverty, the Brian Ross Tea Party slur, this example of implicit bias by USA Today, and a Reuters report on job creation and so-called stimulus.

On other occasions, though, you stumble upon a news report or column that is ignorant beyond belief and you have to assume that the person has transcended ordinary bias and belongs in a special category.

The Washington Post seems to specialize in this kind of über-mistake. It was a Post reporter, after all, who wrote last year about a GOP plan to “slash” spending when timid GOPers were merely trying to trim 0.15 percent from the growth of federal spending. Not 15 percent. Not 1.5 percent. A mere $6 billion out of a bloated federal budget of $3,800,000,000,000.

And it was the Washington Post that decided to refer to a certain country as fiscally conservative. Was the reporter writing about Hong Kong or Singapore, the two jurisdictions with the smallest government and freest markets? Nope. Was the reporter referring to Switzerland, with its strong human rights policy on financial privacy, or Australia, with its personal retirement accounts? Nope, the reporter wrote about “fiscally conservative Germany.”

I guess the folks at the New York Times were feeling left out, because our latest example comes from that newspaper. Someone named Chrystia Freeland wrote an article about income inequality, making some decent points about cronyism, but also reflexively regurgitating talking points on class-warfare tax policy. What caught my eye, though, was this incredible assertion about government funding of education.

Educational attainment, which created the American middle class, is no longer rising. The super-elite lavishes unlimited resources on its children, while public schools are starved of funding. …elite education is increasingly available only to those already at the top. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama enrolled their daughters in an exclusive private school; I’ve done the same with mine.

So “public schools are starved of funding”? That’s a strong statement. It implies very deep reductions in the amount of money being diverted from taxpayers to the government schools. So where are the numbers?

You won’t be surprised to learn that Ms. Freeland doesn’t offer any evidence. And there’s a good reason for that. As show in this chart, government spending on education has skyrocketed in recent years.

This data isn’t adjusted for inflation or population, but you can peruse this amazing chart put together by one of Cato’s education experts to see that per-pupil spending has skyrocketed even after adjusting for inflation.

In other words, Ms. Freeland has no clue what she’s talking about. Or, to be fair, she made a giant-sized mistake, perhaps because she’s lives in a statist bubble and blindly assumes that left-wing politicians tell the truth.

Though I do want to giver her credit. She acknowledges that Obama and Clinton both decided to save their kids from a failed government-run school system, thus exposing some hypocrisy on the left. So it’s quite possible that she wanted to write a fair piece, but simply had a few major blind spots.

And it goes without saying that none of the editors or (non-existent?) fact checkers at the New York Times knew enough or cared enough to catch a huge blunder.

P.S. You can enjoy some cartoons about media bias here, here, and here, with the last one being my favorite.

P.P.S. Yes, I know Paul Krugman writes at the New York Times and sometimes seems to specialize in big mistakes. But he’s explicitly an opinion writer, so readers are forewarned to expect a certain point of view.

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Like beauty, media bias is in the eye of the beholder. But my honest left-leaning friends almost always acknowledge that the establishment press is one their side.

And if they don’t, I ask them to explain one-sided reports such as the AP story on poverty, the Brian Ross Tea Party slur, this implicit USA Today bias, or the Reuters report on job creation and so-called stimulus.

One of the most remarkable examples of bias in recent weeks has been the way some folks in the media have decided that just about any criticism of Obama is racist.

I addressed this argument back in 2009, looking at the kerfuffle over the “Joker” poster. I was glad I did, because the post got considerable attention at a point when the blog was new and I didn’t have many readers. But my main goal was to point out a very silly double standard.

Well, that double standard still exists, as you can see from this cartoon.

To be sure, MSNBC is an opinion network. As far as I know, they don’t pretend to do straight news. And so long as their honest about their ideological perspective, they can assert that GOPers are racist for being left-handed or being right-handed.

But this mentality also seems to exist in the supposedly neutral outlets of the establishment media. This cartoon does a good job of exposing that biased attitude, and it does so by mocking the lapdogs in the press.

Speaking of lapdogs, the second cartoon in this post gets across the same point.

For what it’s worth, I still think this post has the best cartoon on media bias.

P.S. Back in the early days of this blog, the other post that got a good bit of attention was this amusing (or tragic?) look at how Chinese students reacted with Tim “Turbotax” Geithner claimed that the White House supported a strong dollar.

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The first cartoon mocks the egregious tactic of pandering for votes by fomenting group divisions (using other people’s money, of course).

This one is also reminiscent of the Sandra Fluke issue. For more on that you can check out this great Reason video here, another funny cartoon here, and four more jokes here.

The second cartoon highlights the media’s coverage of the White House.

If you want real-world examples of media bias, click here, here, here, here and here.

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Although this line is attributed to many people, Wikiquote says that Gideon Tucker was the first to warn us that “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

This cartoon about Keynesian economics sort of makes the same point, but not with the same eloquence.

But that’s not the point of this post. Instead, I want to focus on this grossly misleading headline in USA Today: “This Congress could be least productive since 1947.”

I don’t think it’s a case of media bias or inaccuracy, as we saw with the AP story on poverty, the Brian Ross Tea Party slur, or the Reuters report on job creation and so-called stimulus.

But it does blindly assume that it is productive to impose more laws. Was it productive to enact Obamacare? What about the faux stimulus? Or the Dodd-Frank bailout bill?

Wouldn’t the headline be more accurate if it read, “This Congress could be least destructive since 1947″?

Here are the relevant parts of the USA Today report.

Congress is on pace to make history with the least productive legislative year in the post World War II era. Just 61 bills have become law to date in 2012 out of 3,914 bills that have been introduced by lawmakers, or less than 2% of all proposed laws, according to a USA TODAY analysis of records since 1947 kept by the U.S. House Clerk’s office. In 2011, after Republicans took control of the U.S. House, Congress passed just 90 bills into law. The only other year in which Congress failed to pass at least 125 laws was 1995. …When Democrats controlled both chambers during the 111th Congress, 258 laws were enacted in 2010 and 125 in 2009, including President Obama’s health care law.

To be sure, not all legislation is bad. Now that the Supreme Court has failed in its job, Congress would have to enact a law to repeal Obamacare. Laws also would need to be changed to reform entitlements, or adopt a flat tax.

And some laws are benign, such as the enactment of Dairy Goat Awareness Week or naming a federal courthouse.

But I’m guessing that the vast majority of substantive laws are bad for freedom and result in less prosperity.

So let’s cross our fingers that future Congresses are even less productive (and therefore less destructive) than the current one.

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In a recent post about Brian Ross and the despicable behavior of ABC News, I included examples of what I categorized as deliberate and accidental media bias.

Here’s a good (or perhaps I should say bad) example of accidental bias, demonstrating how statist premises get incorporated into news reports.

Here’s how the Associated Press began a recent story about expected increases in the poverty rate.

The ranks of America’s poor are on track to climb to levels unseen in nearly half a century, erasing gains from the war on poverty in the 1960s amid a weak economy and fraying government safety net.

At first glance, the story seems fine. After all, I’ve already reported on the record number of people living in poverty under Obama’s watch.

But my complaint is about the latter part of the sentence, which blithely assumes that the so-called War on Poverty improved the lives of poor people.

Check out this chart, which I first posted back last September.

As you can see, the poverty rate in America was falling at a rapid clip, but progress stopped once the so-called War on Poverty began. And ever since, the poverty rate has stayed relatively constant, oscillating between 11 percent-15 percent.

To be sure, this chart doesn’t prove that Lyndon Johnson’s redistribution programs – such as Medicaid – halted the progress that was being made.

But surely these numbers show that the folks at the Associated Press were smoking crack when they wrote that the War on Poverty led to “gains.”

The left, incidentally, does have their spin on the story. They basically cherry pick two data points and make it seem as if the diminished rate of progress during that time period was because of the War on Poverty.

…poverty never fell below a 1973 low of 11.1 percent. That low point came after President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty, launched in 1964, created Medicaid, Medicare and other social welfare programs. “I’m reluctant to say that we’ve gone back to where we were in the 1960s. The programs we enacted make a big difference…,” Edelman said.

That’s creative, but not convincing. What the data really show is that we were making good progress before LBJ imposed all his redistribution. But that rapid progress turned into slow progress and then basically came to a grinding halt within a couple of years. If that’s evidence of success, I’d hate to see what failure looks like.

If anything, the data show the benefits of moving policy in the other direction. During the Reagan years, for instance, redistribution programs were constrained and the poverty rate began to fall. And during the Clinton years, welfare reform and other market-friendly policies led to another drop in the poverty rate.

But that’s a separate issue. The main point of this post is to expose a remarkably flawed and inaccurate bit of bias embedded in an Associated Press report. I suspect it was accidental bias, presumably from some reporter who lives in a bubble and automatically assumed that government programs are like fairy dust and have magical effects.

In reality, of course, government programs tend to make problems worse, and that’s definitely been the case with the supposed War on Poverty. We have record levels of food stamp dependency, with more and more people being trapped in lives of dependency.

But watch this video and decide for yourself.

P.S. With support from left-wing international bureaucracies such as the OECD,  the Obama White House wants to rig the poverty numbers to justify even more redistribution.

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I try not to spend too much time complaining about media bias, mostly because it doesn’t do any good.

But I have had a couple of posts about the topic, usually when there’s a hopelessly outrageous example on an issue I care about.

I’ve also had a few posts where I hit the media for mistakes that probably don’t represent overt bias, but instead reflect no knowledge of economics and/or a cloistered worldview.

Now we can add another example to the list. But it definitely belongs in the first group, because this is clear, blatant, and deliberate bias. I’m talking, of course, about ABC News and its reprehensible decision to smear a member of the Tea Party simply because he had the same name as the Colorado killer.

The obvious question to ask is why the reporter who did the smear, Brian Ross, hasn’t been fired. But not just Brian Ross. The axe should fall on anyone involved in the ideologically biased and legally reckless decision to speculate that a 52-year old Hispanic Tea Party member was responsible for the Colorado shooting

Here’s a good cartoon from the Hope-n-Change website, which has an amusing collection of anti-Obama cartoons. This does capture the mentality of the establishment media.

P.S. Here’s another cartoon about media bias that is definitely worth sharing.

P.P.S. I get irked whenever anybody refers to the big networks and newspapers as the “mainstream press.” That’s a horribly misguided term, considering how far left they are. The Tea Party is much closer to the mainstream than those clowns. That’s why they should be called the “establishment press.”

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Today’s a big day in European politics. French voters are going to the polls to decide the fate of Nicolas Sarkozy, the socialist incumbent. I’ve endorsed Francois Hollande, the Socialist challenger, so I’m curious to see what will happen.

The more important contest, though, is in Greece. Voters are electing a new Parliament, and it will be interesting to see whether the two establishment parties (both of which are statist, of course) hold on to power.

The looters and moochers that comprise the Greek electorate are in a pissy mood and may opt for various protest parties.

That’s not too surprising, but the press coverage of the election is a bit surreal.

An article in the EU Observer is entitled “Greek elections to usher in anti-bail-out parties,” and the opening paragraph echoes this title, implying that Greek voters don’t like bailouts.

 Greece’s two main parties are set for heavy losses in Sunday’s (6 May) elections, with anti-bail-out groups on the extreme left and right to enter parliament for the first time, raising again the prospect of an exit from the eurozone.

There’s just one tiny problem with the both the title of the first paragraph. Contrary to what’s written, the new political parties are pro-bailout. They are quite happy to mooch off German taxpayers, American taxpayers, and anyone else who is stupid enough to send money (after all, somebody has to finance critical functions of government, such as collecting stool samples from people who want to set up online companies and subsidizing pedophiles).

What gets them upset is the notion that they should do anything in exchange for these handouts. Perish the thought!

If the media had any brains (I don’t think this is a case of ideological bias), they would change the title from “Greek elections to usher in anti-bail-out parties” to “Greek elections to usher in anti-conditionality parties.” Or something like that.

I actually hope these anti-conditionality parties prevail. Because if they get power and say that they won’t do anything to fix Greece’s budget, maybe the fiscal pyromaniacs at the International Monetary Fund and elsewhere will finally stop the bailouts.

Which is what I said was the right approach way back when the crisis began. So maybe after every other option is exhausted, the right thing will finally happen. Hope springs eternal.

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The Social Security Board just released its Trustee’s Report, and it’s generated the usual hand wringing about the program’s long-term demise – much of which is perfectly appropriate for reasons I’ve already discussed.

But I’m usually unhappy about the press treatment of this issue.

Here’s some of what Stephen Ohlemacher and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar wrote for the Associated Press.

Social Security is rushing even faster toward insolvency, driven by retiring baby boomers, a weak economy and politicians’ reluctance to take painful action to fix the huge retirement and disability program. The trust funds that support Social Security will run dry in 2033 – three years earlier than previously projected – the government said Monday. …Unless Congress acts – and forcefully – payments to millions of Americans could be cut. …Potential options to reduce Social Security costs include raising the full retirement age, which already is being gradually increased to 67, reducing annual benefit increases and limiting benefits for wealthier Americans. Policymakers could also increase the amount of wages that are subject to Social Security taxes. Social Security is financed by a 6.2 percent tax on the first $110,100 in workers’ wages. It is paid by both employers and workers.

There are two flaws with what’s written in this story. One is a sin of commission, failing to expose the government’s dishonest accounting. The other is a sin of omission, analyzing the issue solely through the lens of government finances.

1. The sin of commission is that the story assumes the Social Security Trust Fund is real, when it is nothing but a collection of IOUs. When extra Social Security taxes are collected, the Treasury keeps those monies and spends them on other programs. In exchange, it engages in a bookkeeping exercise and credits the Social Security Trust Fund with some government bonds.

When one part of the government owes another part of the government some money, it is a wash. There’s no pile of assets to finance benefits. Those bonds simply represent a claim on future taxpayers.

This is why politicians can play dishonest games, such as approving a payroll tax holiday and declaring – by waving a magic wand – that this won’t affect the amount of IOUs in the Trust Fund. Just in case you think I’m joking, the AP story notes that “Congress temporarily reduced the tax on workers to 4.2 percent for 2011 and 2012, though the program’s finances are being made whole through increased government borrowing.”

Needless to say, that’s phoniness on top of phoniness. I guess the next step is for politicians to enact legislation adding several zeroes to all the existing IOUs. They can then declare that Social Security is solvent. Problem solved…other than the itsy-bitsy problem that there’s still no money.

2. The sin of omission in the story is that it focuses on the government’s finances and overlooks the implications for households. It is possible, at least on paper, to “save” Social Security by cutting benefits and raising taxes. But such “reforms” force people to pay more and get less – even though Social Security already is a very bad deal, particularly for younger workers.

My video on Social Security reform explains that personal retirement accounts are the only way to simultaneously deal with government finances and household finances in a constructive fashion.

Sadly, neither Obama nor Romney seem interested in this type of pro-growth reform.

By the way, I don’t mean to pick on the Associated Press. The report excerpted above simply happened to be the first one I read. You ‘ll find the same myopic analysis in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, to cite just two of many examples.

In closing, Social Security reform is actually the least important of the entitlement reforms. The long-term fiscal problems caused by Medicare and Medicaid are much larger. This three-part video series looks at the reforms that could address all three programs.

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The Washington Post is a left-wing newspaper, so I’m never surprised to find examples of biased reporting.

Last month, for instance, I made fun of the Post for asserting that Germany was “fiscally conservative.”

I also mocked the Post last March, when a reporter hysterically claimed that a proposal to trim $6 billion from a $3,600 billion budget would “slash” government.

Today, I want to analyze a column by Jonathan Alter.

Entitled “Five Myths about Barack Obama,” it’s in the opinion section, where people are supposed to present a point of view.

So I’m not going to complain about bias, but I am going to disagree about some of his judgments. Here are the five supposed myths, along with my two cents on whether Alter is correct.

Myth 1. Obama is a socialist.

I basically agree with Alter. As I explained two years ago, a true socialist wants “government ownership of the means of production.” To be sure, most self-avowed socialists today have given up on that goal and instead focus on redistribution. And since Obama also is a redistributionist, I understand why people call him a socialist. Nonetheless, it is much more accurate to call him a statist or corporatist.

Myth 2. Obama is a tool of Wall Street.

Alter is right and wrong. Obama is pursuing policies that Wall Street doesn’t like, such as class-warfare tax hikes. On the other hand, he supported the TARP bailout and pushed for the Dodd-Frank bailout legislation that was supported by Goldman-Sachs and the other big players on Wall Street.

Myth 3. Obama is an effective public speaker.

I’m not sure what to say about this assertion. I don’t find his pedantic ramblings effective or persuasive, but I’m not the target audience.

Myth 4. Obama’s stimulus failed.

This is Alter’s most absurd assertion. To bolster his claim, he cites a handful of institutions that have Keynesian models, including the laughably inaccurate crowd at the Congressional Budget Office. Wow, what a revelation. Keynesians support Keynesianism. What’s next, a poll of Obama campaign staff showing that people support the President’s reelection? Read this post for a good explanation of how Keynesianism has failed.

Myth 5. Obama is a weak leader.

This isn’t my area of expertise, but I mostly agree with Alter’s assessment. For better or worse (and you know how I feel), the President put everything on the line to enact Obamacare. That was bad for the nation, but I suppose it required effective leadership.

In closing, the Washington Post does deserve some credit for having diversity on the opinion page. Yes, Alter’s column has a leftist perspective, but the paper routinely carries people like George Will, Robert Samuelson, and Charles Krauthammer.

That doesn’t excuse the Post for displaying bias in news articles, as I mentioned above, but I think it’s better than the New York Times (damning with faint praise).

Lastly, it’s worth noting that the Post’s editorials are dogmatically statist (though it does support Postal Service privatization, perhaps because that affects the paper’s bottom line).

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Exactly 10 days ago, I predicted that the press would attack Mitt Romney for using tax havens. In that post, I wrote that, “…based on the questions, it appears that the establishment media wants to hit Romney for utilizing tax havens… As far as I can tell, none of these reporters have come out with a story. …But I think it’s just a matter of time.”

Sure enough, like the swallows returning to Capistrano, it’s happened. Two hacks at ABC News, Brian Ross and Megan Chuchmach, revealed (brace yourself for a real scoop) that Mitt Romney is a rich guy and some of his investments are based in funds domiciled in the Cayman Islands (gasp!).

Wow, what a revelation! This must be Pulitzer Prize material. Pray tell, what wrongdoing did the story uncover? Well, let’s excerpt the key passages from the article.

Mitt Romney has millions of dollars of his personal wealth in investment funds set up in the Cayman Islands, a notorious Caribbean tax haven. A spokesperson for the Romney campaign says Romney follows all tax laws and he would pay the same in taxes regardless of where the funds are based.  …Romney has as much as $8 million invested in at least 12 funds listed on a Cayman Islands registry. Another investment, which Romney reports as being worth between $5 million and $25 million, shows up on securities records as having been domiciled in the Caymans.  …Romney campaign officials and those at Bain Capital tell ABC News that the purpose of setting up those accounts in the Cayman Islands is to help attract money from foreign investors, and that the accounts provide no tax advantage to American investors like Romney. Romney, the campaign said, has paid all U.S. taxes on income derived from those investments. …Bain officials called the decision to locate some funds offshore routine, and a benefit only to foreign investors who do not want to be subjected to U.S. taxes.

You’re probably thinking you missed something, because there’s nothing to the story. But that’s because the reporters don’t have anything. And if you think I excerpted unfairly, feel free to read the whole article.

The only thing you’ll discover is that Ross and Chuchmach are biased hacks. Because not only did they write a story about nothing, they also quoted two left-wingers, Jack Blum and Rebecca Wilson, and failed to give the other side even an inch of column space.

Blum is a former John Kerry staffer who is most famous for making unsubstantiated claims (which he later admitted were fabricated) that tax havens resulted in $100 billion of lost revenue to the Treasury each year.

And Rebecca Wilson works for Citizens for Tax Justice, a union-funded group so radical that even congressional Democrats usually are reluctant to work with them.

But what about the other side of the story?

  1. Did the article quote me, since I’ve been working on these issues for more than a decade? No.
  2. Did the article quote anybody from the Center for Freedom and Prosperity, the organization most active in the fight to defend low-tax jurisdictions? No.
  3. Did the article quote Richard Rahn, the Cato Institute Fellow who was a Board Member of the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority? No.
  4. Did the article quote any of the academic scholars who have written about so-called tax havens, such as Jim Hines of the University of Michigan or Andrew Morriss of the University of Alabama? No.
  5. Did the article quote Bob Bauman, the former Congressman and offshore expert who serves as Legal Counsel of the Sovereign Society? No.

Fair and competent journalists would have done those things, but not the dynamic duo from ABC News.

Instead, they quote two hard-core lefts. And in a gross display of editorializing, they also referred to the Cayman Islands as a “notorious tax haven.”

Yet what is “notorious” about being a prosperous multiracial society with living standards considerably above American levels?

Moreover, Cayman has a tax treaty with the United States and an overwhelming share of the investment in the jurisdiction is completely legal institutional money – just like the Romney investment funds.

But I guess a place like the Cayman Islands must be bad, at least to biased people from the press. After all, a place with no income taxes, no capital gains taxes, no payroll taxes, and no death taxes must be condemned.

I’m not a Romney fan, as you can see by reading this post, but I believe in honest and intelligent debate. Too bad ABC doesn’t.

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In one short interview, the folks at the Howard Stern Show turn the Occupy-Wall-Street deadbeats into objects of scorn and derision. There is a bit of R-rated language, so you are forewarned.

While the clip is amusing, let’s contemplate a serious point.

For two years, the establishment press has been trying – with increasing desperation – to discredit the Tea Party. They’ve scoured the crowds for the slightest evidence of kookiness. They’ve trumpeted false charges of racism. They’ve highlighted leftists who infiltrate Tea Party events in order to say and do things that undermine legitimate supporters.

And even though the press failed to find any sort of smoking gun, they probably have succeeded in getting the average American to have a somewhat skeptical attitude about the Tea Party.

If the press spent 1/100th as much time investigating the crazy and brainless views of the OWS crowd, even Obama would be reluctant to associate with the protests.

(h/t: Advice Goddess)

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Life is difficult when you’re a cranky libertarian.

President Obama’s latest stimulus scam was just rejected by the Senate, so I went online to read about this rare bit of good news.

But my cheerful mood was undermined by a reprehensible bit of bias by the folks at Reuters. Read the first paragraph of the story.

The Senate defeated President Barack Obama’s job-creation package on Tuesday in a sign that Washington is likely too paralyzed to take major steps to spur hiring before the 2012 elections.

Two things jumped out at me. First, Reuters called Obama’s plan a “job-creation package.” An honest and fair news organization would have written something such as “…the President’s proposal, which the White House asserts will create jobs.”

I may have forgiven that first bit of bias. After all, reporters do face pressure to be concise and “job-creation package” certainly satisfies that criteria. Moreover, it’s not as if I was expecting them to choose “stimulus scam” as an option, even though it is equally concise.

But then the story says “Washington is likely too paralyzed to take major steps to spur hiring,” which clearly implies that approving Obama’s proposal would create jobs.

But if that was the case, then the 2009 so-called stimulus should have created jobs. Yet as these four charts illustrate, it was a total flop. Heck, it was worse than that. It led to job losses by increasing the burden of government.

Shame on Reuters.

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The Washington crowd and talk radio community is in a tizzy because the President took part in a Labor Day rally with a union thug, Jimmy Hoffa, who used harsh, militaristic rhetoric to criticize the Tea Party.

Pardon me if I’m not upset. As I’ve already explained, it is pathetic and demeaning for people to act like field goal kickers and soccer players, falling to the ground and feigning injury in hopes of getting a cheap penalty call.

The real problem is not harmless rhetoric, but pervasive hypocrisy by the press.

Probably the worst example, exposed by John Hinderaker of Powerline, is the way left-wing hack Paul Krugman engaged in libel against Rep. Michelle Bachmann by implying she was urging murderous violence against rival politicians, when all she said was “I’m going to have materials for people when they leave. I want people armed and dangerous on this issue of the energy tax.”

Or what about the media establishment getting all upset when anybody calls Obama a socialist (he’s actually a corporatist or statist), but don’t pay any attention when a Congressman Andre Carson slurs millions of Americans by claiming the tea party people want blacks “hanging on a tree.”

Media Bias is a huge issue. That’s what talk radio should be highlighting, not harmless rhetoric.

P.S. There are many examples of actual violence by union thugs, some of which are motivated by political passion. And there may be, at some point, examples of violence by Tea Party activists. The people who commit those crimes should be punished.

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I haven’t said much about the 2012 election, largely because this blog tries to avoid politics and instead focuses on how public policy can promote or (all too often) restrict liberty.

But every so often, I feel compelled to pontificate – usually because someone is saying or doing something foolish. This is why I want to talk about Jon Huntsman’s tax reform plan.

But in this case, my ire isn’t directed at the candidate, who actually deserves credit for proposing a very good plan.

Instead, I want to expose some very shoddy – or very biased – coverage by the New York Times. Here’s how the reporter, Ashley Parker, began her report on Huntsman’s proposal.

Jon M. Huntsman Jr. again showed himself on Wednesday to be an ideological outlier in the Republican presidential field, calling for the tax code to be stripped of all loopholes and deductions. Congressional Republicans have resisted closing loopholes in recent budget talks, portraying such moves as tax increases.

Her key message, as you can read for yourself, is that Huntsman is a rogue force in the Republican Party because he wants to get rid of special tax breaks. GOPers in Congress, according to the article, “have resisted closing loopholes.”

Huntsman may very well be an outlier is certain ways, but Parker’s portrayal of his tax plan – and how it meshes with the views of other GOPers – is simply false.

The general Republican position, as well as the position of Americans for Tax Reform, is that it is perfectly acceptable and indeed desirable to get rid of tax preferences and distortions. But they should be eliminated as part of a shift to lower tax rates, not as part of some scam to give politicians more tax revenue.

Well, take a wild guess what Jon Huntsman wants to do with the revenue from “closing loopholes.” Assuming your IQ is above room temperature, you probably have figured out that the former Utah governor wants to use every penny of the additional tax revenue to finance lower tax rates. And you’d be correct.

Nowhere in Mr. Parker’s story, however, is there any acknowledgement of that important fact. Why not? To be honest, I have no idea. It could be bias. It could be incompetence. It could be that she had a preconceived narrative that Huntsman is a maverick and therefore she wanted to portray his plan as somehow contrary to GOP policy.

But all that matters is she blew the story. Within two sentences, she completely mischaracterized Huntsman’s proposal and created a false impression that he was doing something that put him to the left of the Republican mainstream, when he actually has a tax plan that is much farther to the right than anything Perry or Romney have proposed.

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Washington is Fantasy Land.

Only in this corrupt city can you turn increases into cuts merely by increasing spending by less than previously planned. And almost every politician magically knows how to transform “spending” into “investment.”

So I’m used to Orwellian word games. But sometimes even I’m shocked, and this excerpt from a Washington Post story is a good (or perhaps bad) example.

The Senate approved another stopgap budget bill Thursday that would keep the federal government open until April 8. The measure, which had already passed the House, is expected to be signed by President Obama on Friday. The bill would cut $6 billion in federal spending. That makes twice this month that lawmakers from both parties have agreed to slash billions from the budget.

Let me see if I understand correctly. Federal spending has soared by more than $2,000,000,000,000 during the Bush-Obama years, pushing the burden of government up to $3,800,000,000,000, yet the reporters who put together this story said that an agreement to trim a trivially tiny slice of 2011 spending would “slash the budget.”

As Charlie Brown would say, good grief. This is the budgetary equivalent of going on a diet by leaving a couple of french fries in the bottom of the bag after binging on three Big Mac meals at McDonald’s.

You probably won’t be surprised to know that sauce for the budget-cutting goose is not sauce for the government-expanding gander.

When Obama wanted to spend about $1 trillion on a failed “stimulus,” did the Washington Post write that he wanted to “bloat” or “explode” the budget? I certainly don’t remember such language.

When Obama wanted to increase the net burden of spending by about $500 billion for his healthcare scheme, did the Washington Post explain that he wanted to “dramatically boost” or “significantly expand” outlays? Maybe I missed the story, but I don’t recollect such language.

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The Obama Administration has decided to mandate that insurance companies provide dozens of tests to consumers at no charge. Any person with an IQ that is above room temperature understands, of course, that this doesn’t mean there is no cost for the tests. It just means that the costs are borne indirectly, most likely in the form of higher premiums charged by insurance companies. Yet Robert Pear, a reporter for the New York Times, leads off his story by saying that the tests are now free and this will be beneficial for consumers. And at no point in the story does he mention any of the various – and unavoidable – effects of the new government mandate. The only logical conclusion is that he is either completely oblivious to indirect costs or that he is an opinion writer masking as a reporter because he wants to advance an ideological agenda. You choose.
The White House on Wednesday issued new rules requiring health insurance companies to provide free coverage for dozens of screenings, laboratory tests and other types of preventive care. The new requirements promise significant benefits for consumers — if they take advantage of the services that should now be more readily available and affordable. …The rules will eliminate co-payments, deductibles and other charges for blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol tests; many cancer screenings; routine vaccinations; prenatal care; and regular wellness visits for infants and children.

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Glenn McCoy hits a home run with this cartoon.

A lot of truth in this image.

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