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Posts Tagged ‘Media Bias’

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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