Despite GOP Sweep, Liberals Make Tax, Spending Decisions in Lame Duck Session

The Republicans took back control of the House of Representatives on Nov. 2, gaining more seats than the “Republican Revolution” of 1994. But the Democrats still have the majority for the lame duck session and there is plenty of legislation waiting for them.

Even if the election outcome does represent a mandate for “smaller, less costly” government as Rep. John Boehner, the likely new House speaker, said on Nov. 3, liberals in Congress may not obey it during the lame duck session that begins Nov. 15.  

Taxes are the biggest issue according to the president, politicians and the news media since, without action the Bush tax cuts expire Dec. 31, the death tax is about to return to life, and the Alternative Minimum Tax is set to hit about 27 million Americans without action. And that’s just taxes! Medicare’s “doc” fix, unemployment benefits, a one-time Social Security payment may also come up and liberals would love to pass the Disclose Act and Card Check.

The mainstream news media have supported Obama’s middle-class tax cuts, although they have attacked Bush’s tax cuts for years, blaming them for creating the deficit, or being pure politics. Some media outlets, including MSNBC, have argued that higher taxes wouldn’t hurt the economy.

MSNBC’s Ed Shultz said on Aug. 2, “I just don’t believe that allowing these tax cuts to continue on is going to make the economy any better.”

“They [Republicans] make the theory, they made the case that if the Bush tax cuts are extended, that the economy is going to get better. There’s no proof of that. But then they also say that the economy’s going to go further in the tank if they don’t get the economic policy that they want,” Shultz said.

Contrary to Shultz’ claim, The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Data Analysis estimated that if the tax rates were increased on those higher income earners GDP would fall by $1.1 trillion between 2011 and 2020, and that slower economic growth would cause employment to fall by an average of 693,000 jobs per year. With those kinds of job losses, the nation’s 9.6 unemployment rate would climb even higher.

Conservatives have argued that the entire Bush tax cuts need to be extended, while President Obama had repeatedly said he would not extend them for those he deems wealthy (families making $250,000 or more).

The president made his priorities for the lame duck session clear in a Nov. 3 press conference. He brought up the need to make sure taxes do not rise on the middle class, but said it was “too early” to tell if his negotiations would result in an extension of tax cuts for the wealthy too.

Obama also called for lame duck passage of a package of expiring tax breaks (subsidies) and deductions as well as another extension of unemployment insurance benefits. The program Obama wants to extend ends on Nov. 30, but had given qualified unemployed workers benefits for up to 99 weeks.

Media Critical of Bush Tax Cuts, Not Obama


If the tax cuts expire, Obama would be responsible for the largest tax increase in history. Still, the news media have showed distain for the Bush tax cuts for years.

Obama campaigned on raising taxes on the wealthy, yet the networks portrayed him as a tax cutter throughout his first two years in office. The news media have attacked the Bush tax cuts for years through class warfare rhetoric, claims that it caused the deficit and with talk of how much they “cost.”

Chip Reid of CBS repeated the White House’s anti-Bush tax cuts rhetoric on Feb. 26, 2009. “The White House says the goal is to reverse the trend of the Bush years, when rich got richer and the middle class got poorer. Republicans say the tax increases will make the economy even worse,” Reid said, without questioning the liberal assumption about the impact of the tax cuts.

ABC’s David Muir was even worse on Feb. 1, 2010, providing the old left-wing attack that the Bush tax cuts created the deficit problems the U.S. is facing.

In a “World News” segment called “Mountain of Debt,” Muir was answering the question of how the nation reached the “historic” deficit of $1.6 trillion.

After citing the surpluses of the Clinton era, Muir declared, “Just two years later, we were in the red by nearly $158 billion. 9/11 paralyzing the economy and President Bush enacting his first round of tax cuts. By 2004, the deficit had more than doubled to nearly $413 billion. The U.S. had invaded Iraq and another round of tax cuts and expanded Medicare …”

A Special Report by the Media Research Center in 2001 examined network coverage of taxes and found that liberal spin prevailed. Back then, CBS “Evening News” led the attacks on the Bush tax cuts, ignoring the fact that his tax cuts offered a greater percentage tax reduction to lower and middle income families (than the rich).

ABC’s Terry Moran condescendingly dismissed the 2001 economic package as “a tax cut that was, frankly, cooked up during the heat of a political campaign.”

Without Congressional action there are even more taxes set to cripple the economy. One is the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). According to a Nexis search of ABC, CBS and NBC the networks ignored that tax in 2010 even though it is poised to hit 27 million taxpayers, including some middle-class families if Congress does nothing. For years, Congress has passed a yearly “patch” of the AMT.

The estate tax, or death tax as some call it, will return “with a vengeance” Jan. 1, according to USA Today. The tax will cost up to 55 percent of estates worth more than $1 million.

“You take a home, an IRA or 401(k) retirement account, some other savings and you get to $1 million pretty easily,” Richard Behrendt, senior estate planner for Robert W. Baird and a former IRS attorney, told USA Today.

Conservatives Attacked for Unemployment ‘Blockade’


Obama said Nov. 3 that he wants to see the unemployment benefits extension renewed by the Congress during the lame duck session, something the mainstream news media want too.

CNN warned Nov. 4 that the “lifeline” for 2 million of the unemployed was at risk. Tami Luhby of was talking about the expiration of the deadline to file for federal unemployment benefits.

Earlier this year the president and the news media portrayed the GOP as obstructionists for blocking a $34 billion benefits extension bill on the grounds that it should be paid for.

On July 4, ABC’s Cynthia Tucker said on “This Week,” “it is absolutely crazy that the Senate has refused to extend unemployment benefits.” Back in March, when the fight erupted between Republicans and Democrats over paying for the bill, ABC scolded Sen. Jim Bunning for his “blockade.”

The Washington Post also took a dig at the GOP over it, saying the benefits had gotten “caught in a crossfire of partisan sniping about the deficit.”

The news media also ignored concerns from conservative economists that the much longer than normal benefits were keeping some people unemployed. Instead, the national media stuck the Obama’s talking point that Americans “desperately want to work.”

NBC supported his claim on July 20, “Nightly News” saying, “But as NBC’s Lee Cowan reports for us tonight from Los Angeles, what the long-term unemployed want more than anything else is a job.”

However, local news outlets found what the national media refused to acknowledge: instances of abuse in the system by people turning down jobs to stay on unemployment.

On May 10, The Detroit News found job applicants turning down landscaping companies’ offers of employment. Tom Corbett, a Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor, told a Harrisburg, Pa., radio station that some construction companies in his state are dealing with the same problem.

Corbett said the companies told him some laid-off workers have refused work until they run out of unemployment checks, according to an AP story. In fact, Pennsylvania had reported more than $4 million in unemployment fraud, according to

While it likely doesn’t account for the nearly 15 million unemployed, even Obama's economic adviser Larry Summers knew about this phenomenon. According to David Henderson, Summers wrote in The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics, “Unemployment insurance also extends the time a person stays off the job. [Kim] Clark and I estimated that the existence of unemployment insurance almost doubles the number of unemployment spells lasting more than three months.”

Summers estimated that 750,000 fewer people would be unemployed if there was no unemployment insurance.


Liberal Wishes Include Disclose Act


While there are many tax and spending issues Congress needs to address, there are also things the liberals in Congress may want to push through before giving up control in January.

High on the “liberal wish list” for the lame duck session is the Disclose Act, a bill that could put limits on campaign spending. Liberals were furious with the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and Obama as well as lefties in the mainstream media would love to get it passed.

Obama called the outside spending during the mid-terms a “threat to democracy,” and the mainstream media accepted baseless left-wing claims that the Chamber of Commerce was using “secret” foreign money to fund its campaign ads.

That claim originated with left-wing group Center for American Progress and rapidly spread throughout the news media. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann raged night after night against the “Manchurian Chamber of Commerce,” but even The New York Times admitted there was “little evidence” to support the allegations.

CNN’s Ali Velshi admitted the Chamber’s lack of disclosure was legal, but remarked “another reminder that what’s legal and what’s ethical aren’t always one and the same.”

The Daily Caller reported that a spokesman for Nevada Sen. Harry Reid said it was “unlikely” to be passed during the lame duck session. But without passing it, Daily Caller said Obama “may have boxed in Democrats from benefitting from the same type of spending” in 2012. “If they can’t limit it with the Disclose Act, Democrats will need to swallow their rhetoric or watch as it hurts them in the next election cycle.”