THURSDAY, OCTOBER 9, 2003
SCRIPTING MATTHEWS: Just in time! Two days after the election ends, the Washington Post now gets around to examining that California state budget! Surely, todays headline is meant as a tongue-in-cheek quip about the medias failure to cover this topic (For Schwarzenegger, Time to Make the Numbers Add Up). But at any rate, two days after the election ends, the Posts Dale Russakoff begins to examine the problem the new gov will face:
RUSSAKOFF: On paper, California faces an $8 billion deficit in its upcoming budget, which could grow to at least $12 billion because of a signature Schwarzenegger campaign promise to eliminate an unpopular car tax worth $4 billion of revenue a year. Schwarzenegger has not explained how he would close the budget gap.Although Schwarzenegger has said that he wont raise taxes, he has identified no uncomfortable spending reductions, Russakoff notes, and forswore cuts in education That would leave $45 billion of programs in the state general fund from which to cut $12 billionwhich budget analysts in both parties say is statistically impossible. Really? Schwarzenegger promised something impossible? So it would seem, to read this piece. Indeed, Russakoff even quotes a major player suggesting that taxes will likely be raised. He quotes Martin Anderson, a Hoover Institution fellow who is close to Schwarzeneggers fiscal team:
RUSSAKOFF: Anderson acknowledged that [Schwarzeneggers] audit [of the state budget] also could show that there is no way out without tax increases.They havent ruled anything out? Who knew? But oh, the clowning of your press corps! Two days after the election ends, the Washington Post lays it all out.
But when the mainstream press corps sits on its hands, propagandists script your discourse. While the mainstream press wrote its thigh-rubbing profiles of stripper hopefuls and poor Gary Coleman, the propagandists who rule your lives were getting their bogus facts into the discourse. How many people understand the California state budget? On this mornings Post op-ed page, Harold Meyerson writes from L. A., explaining the way the discourse was shaped by the populist rightthe talk radio hosts, the local Limbaughs:
MEYERSON: They seized on the bill legalizing drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants and on the tripling of car taxes. Of course, if Republicans in the legislature had been willing to raise taxes on the rich, such regressive measures as the car tax and the tuition increases at public colleges and universities would have been unnecessary. But you were likelier to pick up a working knowledge of quantum mechanics on talk radio than you were to learn of the GOPs role in the states fiscal crisis. Instead, you learned that the states business climate was the worst in the nation, which its not, that taxes were the highest in the land, which theyre not, and that the state has a $38 billion deficit, which it doesnt.No, California doesnt face a $38 billion deficit, although its budget situation is still a muddle and a mess. Indeed, George Will, on todays Post op-ed page, notes that Schwarzeneggers promise to repeal the car tax hike will promptly increase by 50 percent a deficit already at $8 billion. Thats the same figure$8 billionthat Russakoff used to describe the deficit. Indeed, even the Arnold-loving Washington Times uses the figure on this mornings front page, while offering a slightly more friendly assessment. He has yet to get specific about his plans for the state, which is staggering under a budget deficit estimated from $8 billion to $20 billion, the Times says.
Even the Times could only stretch the estimate up to 20. But Meyersons column describes what happens when your mainstream press corps refuses to play its steward role in your discourse. While the press corps clowned and played, telling all on Mary Carey, the pseudo-con spinners who rule your discourse kept flogging that $38 billion. It felt good to keep using that very-large number, and so the spinners kept throwing it out. Result? There was CBS Harry Smith using the number this past Monday morning (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/8/03). Thats rightwhen the mainstream press corps slumbers and plays, the spinners facts get treated as law. Indeed, Arnolds cable campaign manager also used the false figure on Monday. Rubbing his thigh with his usual glee, Chris Matthews used the phony fact too:
MATTHEWS (10/6/03): This governor has a $38 billion deficit. Why would any voter think he could get rid of it later when he hasnt been able to get rid of it before?Of course, Davis had gotten rid of it before, lowering the figure from 38 down to 8. But how thoroughly clueless is Hardballs Chris Matthews? As late as last night, he was still presenting the bogus figure to one of Schwarzeneggers official chiefs, congressman David Dreier:
MATTHEWS (10/8/03): Let me ask you about the mathematics, just to get to my point again. [Schwarzenegger] is going to inherit the day he takes office, whether it be a couple weeks from now or a month from now, a $38 billion deficit. He wants to get rid of the car tax, which is a revenue source right now in the protected budget. He says no new taxes except in an emergency. He wants to fund his after-school program. How in the world do you deal with that situation and square all of those numbers, and still balance the budget?Needless to say, Dreier didnt correct Matthews error. How could he? As late as Monday night, Schwarzenegger flack Karen Hanretty had been peddling the bogus fact right there on Hardball. Why, you could almost say that Chris had been Hanrettized as he agreed to push the phony fact too.
Did use of that one bogus fact change this race? We know of no reason to think so. But just take a look at the shape of your discourse. Two days after the election ends, the Washington Post lays out the factsand right up through election day, Smith and Matthews, paid millions a year, were repeating the Schwarzenegger camps bogus facts. Theyre lazy; inept; in some cases, corrupt; but more than anything, your millionaire pundits couldnt care less about your discourse and interests. What is the actual shape of your discourse? While your mainstream press corps slumbers and plays, those half-witted, populist talk-show hosts keep scripting the terms of your corrupted debate. Tomorrow, well see how stupid it actually gets when incompetents like Smith and Matthews keep power.
DUH: On yesterdays Inside Politics, Judy Woodruff interviewed California state comptroller Steve Westly. Westly said that the challenge for us is to put partisan differences aside, to roll up the sleeves, and to start putting California's fiscal house back in order:
WOODRUFF: Well, how do you do that? I mean, the state had an enormous deficit in the last fiscal year. Thats been reduced somewhat. But you already have the incoming governor saying hes going to roll back the car tax. Thats going to create an even larger deficit. How do you address these tough problems?According even to Martin Anderson, Schwarzenegger may not be able to do that without raising taxes. But when major pundits lack even the most basic knowledge, are you surprised at the lack of serious discussion that characterized the Golden State race? By the way, here was Schwarzenegger flack Karen Hanretty dissembling on Hardball Monday night:
HANRETTY: Look, the voters are concerned about the state of the economy in California. That is exactly why nearly two million people, voters in California signed these recall petitions. They're tired of the car tax. They're tired of a $38 billion budget deficit. Jobs are leaving California. Small businesses are suffering in the state of California because of over-regulation, workers comp, you name it.Right, her dumb-ass host meekly said. Amazing, isnt it? Americas discourse is simply a joke. And Matthews gets millions to direct it. (Tomorrow: Our favorite Hanretty moment, as Greta Van Susteren takes her on.)
TODAYS QUIZ: How big is Californias annual budget? You knowthe one that faces the $8 billion deficit? Guess what, readers? Because you read the mainstream press, you almost surely dont know! Comical, isnt it? Almost no one can state the size of the budget. But almost everyone can state the size of the phony deficitthe deficit that doesnt exist.
FACTS DONT MATTER: In a spin-driven press corps, facts dont matter. Where do facts come from? Heres Bob Novak, up to old tricks on this mornings Post op-ed page. But at least no agents will be killed:
NOVAK: Apart from mourning the loss of the governors office, Democrats have to consider the angry, bitter and ultimately failed campaign. Predictably, Davis was, in the last week, calling for criminal prosecution of Schwarzenegger based on mainly anonymous accusations of sexual misbehavior on which the one-year statute of limitations had expired.Mainly anonymous? Of the 15 allegations in the Los Angeles Times three main reports, only five were anonymous. But mainly anonymous was Schwarzenegger spin, and there it is in this mornings Post. Can these clowning clowns get any fact straight? Lazy, ineptbut invited to partiesthe press corps overpaid, pampered poodles keep making a joke of your discourse.
TOMORROW: How stupid does it get? Let us show you.