CyberAlert -- 09/05/2001 -- Not Enough to Spend

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Not Enough to Spend; Will Reno Run on Clinton "Accomplishments"?; Regulations Led to Shark Attacks?; Blitzer's Odd Labeling

1) Federal spending has soared 22 percent since 1995, but the Washington press corps continues to relay how Democrats blame Bush's tax cut for eliminating the surplus and worry about how there's not enough money for Democratic and Republican-pushed new spending plans.

2) On Tuesday's Good Morning America ABC's Terry Moran drew a less than respectful analogy between school kids and the President: "But for Mr. Bush, as for school children everywhere, the fun is over and now the fall promises a lot of hard work."

3) In brief items Tuesday night about how Senator Phil Gramm is bowing out of elective politics while Janet Reno is getting back in, Dan Rather only offered a negative take on why Gramm may have decided to not run again.

4) Bryant Gumbel still holds some bitterness toward Al Gore. In a Tuesday interview about Janet Reno's run for Governor of Florida, he asked: "Do you see her running on the many accomplishments of the Clinton administration or actually running from Clinton, a la Al Gore?" NBC's Tim Russert maintained Reno "is someone who's hard to pigeonhole in terms of her various policies."

5) Government regulation behind shark attacks? The CBS Evening News gave air time to a conservative analyst who suggested fishing limitations and sanctuaries for sharks have increased their numbers and may have led to this year's attacks on humans.

6) CNN's Wolf Blitzer ludicrously tagged Congressman Harold Ford as a "conservative Democrat." By the ADA's ratings, he's actually one point to the left of Dick Gephardt.

7) Back anchoring the NBC Nightly News on Tuesday night after ten weeks off, Tom Brokaw described how he spent his summer fishing, mountain hiking, going to weddings and funerals, and attending a baseball game.

>>> New RealPlayer video clip up on the MRC home page, thanks to Webmaster Mez Djouadi. Diane Sawyer last week to Anne Marie Smith's lawyer who is seeking to penalize Gary Condit for proposing a false affidavit: "In the New York Times this morning, the fact that you are joined in this request for a grand jury by Judicial Watch, according to the New York Times says, 'adds a decidedly political edge to the case.' Is this a Republican vendetta of some kind? A right-wing vendetta?" To view the RealPlayer video, go to the MRC home page, or directly to: <<<


To Washington reporters the problem is how the tax cut has wiped out the surplus, which means there's no money left to be spent. But, as the National Taxpayers Union reported a few weeks ago, spending has already soared, a pattern scheduled to continue. Since 1995 federal spending has risen 22 percent and it will rise another 20 percent by 2006. Last fall, NTU pointed out, "Congress voted to bust the budget caps by a whopping $52 billion over the previous year's caps and $26 billion over the inflation adjustment."

Yet on Sunday's This Week ABC's Sam Donaldson reflected the mind set of the press corps as he pointed out that because of reduced revenue CBO figures show spending will dip $30 billion into the Social Security surplus over the next four years and, he told Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, those numbers "do not take into account the new spending both the White House and Members of Congress of both parties want. No missile defense in that, no new Pentagon supplemental, nothing more for the farmers, nothing more for drug prescription. Those are just based on the old spending figures. What are you going to do about that Senator Conrad?"

How about cutting back elsewhere or questioning the necessity of the new spending advocated by both parties?

Tuesday night on ABC's World News Tonight Terry Moran relayed, without pointing out how spending is spiraling upward, how Democrats blame the tax cut for eliminating the surplus, noting that Conrad claims "the drastic reduction in revenue is the result of the President's tax cut."

From the White House on September 4, Moran warned viewers that "it's getting ugly here. This war of words over the budget is much more than just a rhetorical battle. What is at stake is much of the President's fall agenda...and his and the Republicans in Congress's congressional political future. So today, the President came out swinging, saying in a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott that the biggest threat to the surplus comes from Congress."
George W. Bush: "Congress is going to just have to adjust their appetites and realize they can't spend their way out of town. But Senate Democrats fired back, saying the drastic reduction in revenue is the result of the President's tax cut."
Senator Kent Conrad, Chairman of the Budget Committee: "So those who have gone around saying the problem is spending, no it's not. That's not factually correct. The problem is the size of the tax cut, it's too big."
Moran lamented: "The budget numbers tell a grim story. Both the White House and congressional estimates show the surplus, excluding Social Security revenues, has virtually vanished. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, emerging from a meeting with the President, insisted Mr. Bush spell out precisely where and what he would cut from the budget."
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle: "Any president owes it to country and to the Congress to give its guidance on how you maneuver through the fiscal obstacles that in large part you're responsible for."
Moran correctly pointed out: "But the President's fall agenda is filled with items that would cost more money, a lot more money. Defense: The administration wants a big boost this year and more money for missile defense next year. Education: The President and Congress have both proposed major new spending on schools. Prescription drugs: The President has promised to deliver a plan to help pay for drugs for the elderly. Energy: Mr. Bush and Vice President Cheney continue to push a package with billions of dollars in new tax breaks for exploration and conservation. And there's more: Farm programs, retirement security for railroad workers, and even a potential capital gains tax cut that congressional Republicans want and that Mr. Bush said today that he's open-minded about. The bottom line, Peter, is that the President and Congress are eyeball-to-eyeball over the budget, waiting to see which one blinks first."

Of course, conservatives would contend a capital gains cut would increase, not decrease, federal revenue.

Absent from all this media blaming of the tax cut for wiping out the deficit and worries about how there's not enough money left for new spending, is any mention of how spending is already soaring.

An excerpt from an August 22 press release from the National Taxpayers Union:

As Congressional critics pointed to the recently-passed tax cut for shrinking federal surplus projections released today by the Office of Management and Budget, research from the non-partisan National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has identified the true culprit -- a relentless onslaught of spending programs aided and abetted by lawmakers themselves.

"The blame for lower budget windfalls rests squarely on the shoulders of big-spenders, not tax cutters," said NTU Director of Congressional Relations Eric V. Schlecht. "The idea that tax reductions are somehow responsible for revised budget projections, while spending has been rising and continues to soar, is the height of fiscal folly." Among Schlecht's findings:

-- Total federal outlays in 1995 were $1.51 trillion. In 2001 they are scheduled to be $1.86 trillion. That is an increase of 22%. Average inflation during that period was 2.5% per year. On its way out of town last fall, Congress voted to bust the budget caps by a whopping $52 billion over the previous year's caps and $26 billion over the inflation adjustment.

-- The spending spree is scheduled to continue. Between 2001 and 2006 total federal outlays are scheduled to increase by 20%, from $1.8 trillion to $2.2 trillion. If all the bills introduced in both chambers during the last Congress had passed, they would have increased spending by $973 billion a year. In other words, the Bush tax cut will save taxpayers $511 billion between 2002 and 2006, while the 106th Congress proposed to spend $4.9 trillion over the same period -- thereby reducing the surplus by nearly 10 times that amount....

-- Non-defense discretionary spending was $147 billion in 1986. If this spending had been held to the rate of inflation over the past 15 years, its level in 2001 would $228.8 billion instead of $325.7 billion (i.e., the surplus would be $96.8 billion larger). If non-defense discretionary spending growth had been held to 2.5% per year during the Clinton era, the "on-budget" (non_Social Security) surplus would be $51.1 billion larger in 2001.

END Excerpt

For more, go to:


"But for Mr. Bush, as for school children everywhere, the fun is over," warned ABC's Terry Moran on Tuesday's Good Morning America as he drew a less than respectful analogy between school kids and the President.

MRC analyst Jessica Anderson caught how Moran began a September 4 piece on GMA: "On the last day of his summer break, President Bush pressed the flesh at a Teamsters picnic and took some carpentry lessons in Green Bay, but for Mr. Bush, as for school children everywhere, the fun is over and now the fall promises a lot of hard work and bitter battles with Democrats in Congress. First, there's the shrunken budget surplus. Democrats blame Mr. Bush's tax cut, but the President says the real culprits are congressional spenders....All this shows how quickly the political landscape has shifted on President Bush, who came into office with a huge surplus and a Republican Senate. Seven months into his presidency, Mr. Bush is finding out just how hard the job can be."


In brief items Tuesday night about how Senator Phil Gramm is bowing out of elective politics while Janet Reno is getting back in, Dan Rather only offered a negative take on why Gramm may have decided to not run again.

Rather announced on the September 4 CBS Evening News: "There is another story tonight with economic and political implications. A Republican veteran of the budget battles in Congress, Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, announced he will not run for a fourth term. Gramm, who is 59, said he'd accomplished his goals, including tax and spending cuts. Democrats suggested another factor: Gramm lost his Banking Committee chairmanship when Democrats took Senate control in June. Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno officially opened a campaign account today in her home state of Florida. She said she will seek the Democratic nomination for Governor in a bid to unseat Republican Jeb Bush."


Bryant Gumbel still holds some bitterness toward Al Gore, it seems. During a Tuesday interview about Janet Reno's potential run for Governor of Florida, he asked a guest: "Do you see her running on the many accomplishments of the Clinton administration or actually running from Clinton, a la Al Gore?" Gumbel also sought assurance: "And whatever happens, Katherine Harris won't be around to certify the results, right?"

The same morning, NBC's Tim Russert predicted that "if blacks turn out, if seniors turn out and if the economy is still in trouble I think Janet Reno has a better than even chance of winning." Russert claimed "she is someone who's hard to pigeonhole in terms of her various policies" and while "the Bush people will try to make her a Clinton redux," Russert admired her "moxy."

MRC analyst Brian Boyd took down some of Gumbel's questions, on the September 4 Early Show, to Mark Silva, the political editor for the Orlando Sentinel.

Gumbel wondered: "How much, if at all, does she figure to be hurt by some of the things she did as Attorney General, particularly the Elian affair?"

His next concern: "Do you see her running on the many accomplishments of the Clinton administration or actually running from Clinton, a la Al Gore?"
Silva answered: "Well, she tells people that Clinton is one of the most brilliant people she ever met. I think she will run as herself, there are many big issues in Florida that she will try to stake out as the issues uniquely to this race."

Gumbel asked about her Democratic primary opposition and then asserted: "If she is jumping in, she obviously thinks she can win. Is Jeb Bush considered that vulnerable?"
Silva set him straight: "No. It's actually an uphill race against Jeb Bush. The polling would suggest that she has a very difficult race against Jeb Bush. He's popular, he's the incumbent, he's going to have a lot of money."
Gumbel: "Are Florida voters anxious to see or likely to see a Reno/Bush match-up as some kind of a symbolic sequel to what happened last November?"
Silva: "A lot of Democrats would like to portray it that way. Terry McAuliffe, the Chairman of the DNC, wants to take Florida as a showcase heading into 2004. However, there's a lot of Democrats who don't want to see this race, they don't think she can beat him and there are some senior Democrats have tried to dissuade her from running."

After raising "how much of an issue...her battle with Parkinson's" may become, Gumbel wrapped up by resurrecting anger at Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris: "And whatever happens, Katherine Harris won't be around to certify the results, right?"
Silva assured Gumbel, who laughed in response: "No, Katherine Harris will be retired. Her office disappears. She will be running for Congress, however."

Over on NBC's Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, Tim Russert saw a bright future for Reno. Asked by Katie Couric about her prospects, Russert replied:
"She's a gritty, unorthodox candidate and I think she has a very good chance of winning the primary. Katie, you don't need a majority vote to win the primary in Florida. Whoever gets the most votes wins, even if it's only a plurality. And then against Jeb Bush it's all in turnout. If blacks turn out, if seniors turn out. And if the economy is still in trouble I think Janet Reno has a better than even chance of winning. Right now she's a good 15 points behind Jeb Bush. But she is someone who's hard to pigeonhole in terms of her various policies. The Bush people will try to make her a Clinton redux, bring up Waco, bring up Elian Gonzalez. But I think she has a little bit more moxy than to get caught down in some of those issues."
Couric: "A lot of the African-American voters down there are pretty fired up about what happened during the presidential elections, so they might turn out in droves."
Russert: "And because of Jeb's, Governor Bush's policy on affirmative action. You just don't know. There's a little unpredictability if Janet Reno becomes the Democratic nominee. Something the Bush people don't like. They're confident but they understand that she can wage the kind of campaign that could pull a surprise."


Government regulations have led to shark attacks on humans? The CBS Evening News on Tuesday night, amazingly, gave air time to a contention expressed by a conservative group about how federal and state limits on shark fishing may have increased the shark population near where people swim.

The story by reporter Bobbi Harley featured Sean Paige of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. He first broached the subject in early August for a piece on National Review Online and has since appeared on the Fox News Channel to make his case.

Dan Rather introduced the September 4 CBS Evening News story which also acknowledged there may not really be any increase in shark attacks, just more media hype:
"Going strictly by the numbers, there were 53 shark attacks in U.S. waters last year. Experts say this year's attacks rate is running below that. This raises the possibility that shark attack stories are being overplayed by news organizations. But, on the other hand, there are other aspects to keep in mind. CBS's Bobby Harley puts this in perspective for you."

Harley began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "For years, the federal government has believed the shark population is in trouble. That's why it imposed regulations restricting fishing along the Atlantic seaboard. The shark catch is now down 50 percent, but some worry that's causing other problems."
Sean Paige, Competitive Enterprise Institute: "There are likely more shark attacks because there are more sharks in the water because of deep reductions in the amount of commercial and recreational fishing."
Harley: "It's still not clear if the government program is working, but what has increased this season is the public's perception of what may be lurking in the water."
Unnamed woman: "Most of my friends don't go to the water now because they're afraid of sharks."
Harley: "It's no wonder with images like these: A shark pack hundreds strong in the waters of northern Tampa; near Pensacola, a shark ripping the arm off a little boy; in the Bahamas, an American man losing his leg. In just one week, at New Smyrna Beach Florida, sharks taking bites out of ten swimmers."
George Burgess, International Shark Attack File: "The reality is from an international and a national perspective, we're going to fall well short of last year's figures."
Harley: "Yet, this is the summer of shark frenzy. An ad campaign by the animal rights group PETA, which blamed the bites on revenge, was pulled after the weekend's deadly attacks. But shark experts do blame people, in part, because there are more swimmers than ever in the ocean. Here in Florida, where almost half of all the shark attacks worldwide last year took place, there's even more of a risk."
Harley allowed Paige to elaborate: "A series of regulations have been put in place in the state of Florida since 1992 that basically create shark sanctuaries in state waters. Those happen to be the waters that are closest to where the people recreate."
Harley concluded with a question: "And that remains the ultimate dilemma: How to protect sharks while protecting people."

(In the interest of full disclosure, I'd note that Paige was once a entertainment media analyst for the Media Research Center, making him, I'd bet, the first ex-MRCer to ever make it onto the CBS Evening News.)

An excerpt from Paige's August 8 piece for National Review Online, "The Jaws of Government: Are the feds to blame for the shark attacks?" Paige, the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Warren Brookes fellow, explained:

....Since 1993, strict limits have been placed on the number of sharks that can be taken from U.S. waters by both commercial and sport fishers. The commercial shark-fishing season has been shortened accordingly. Four-thousand-pound "trip limits" made it a losing business proposition for the largest U.S. shark boats, ensuring that sharking became a small-boat industry. Commercial shark permits issued by the feds were cut tenfold, from around 2,000 before 1999 to around 200 today. And nearly 20 types of sharks -- including Whites, some types of Makos, and Caribbean Reef sharks -- have been declared off-limits to commercial harvest.

Also jumping on the shark-protection bandwagon, Florida in 1992 instituted a strict, 1 shark per person (or 2 shark per boat, maximum) bag limit on sharks in state waters (which extend 3 miles from the beach on the Atlantic Ocean, and nine miles from the shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico). Gillnetting and long lining, two common techniques for snaring sharks, were also banned. Though sharks are still caught in state waters, these restrictions severely reduce the number taken closest to shore. This has effectively created a sanctuary in the area where human-animal interactions are most prone to occur, and which at least one type of shark famous for its attacks upon humans -- the Bull Shark -- is known to frequent.

All of these tactics have resulted in a steep drop in the number of sharks caught in U.S. coastal waters: from 17.2 million lbs. in 1989, at the apogee of the shark fishing boom (spurred on, in large part, by the high prices paid for shark fin soup), to 8.5 million lbs. in 1999 -- or a 49 percent cut. Translating those weights into actual numbers, one government report indicates that shark kills fell from an estimated 350,000 fish (in 1989) to 113,100 fish (in 1999). Comparable reductions have occurred in recreational shark fishing.

In Florida, where the vast majority of shark fishing (and U.S. shark attacks) occurs, more than 7.4 million lbs. of shark was hooked or netted off the coast in 1990, according to U.S. fishery statistics. By 1999, due to government regulation, the total catch had plummeted by more than 86 percent, to just over 1 million lbs.....

END Excerpt

For the entire analysis, go to:


House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt is a "conservative Democrat"? That would be a logical label if you follow the reasoning applied by CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

On Sunday's Late Edition, MRC analyst Ken Shepherd noticed, during an interview with Congressman Harold Ford, a Democrat from Tennessee, Blitzer contended: "Like Congressman Condit, you're a so-called Blue Dog, Democratic conservative Democrat, you're from Tennessee..."

Previous CyberAlerts have already refuted this conservative description of Condit, pointing out how congressional vote ratings put him in the center ideologically, but he certainly is to the right of the very liberal Ford.

Ford's career rating from the American Conservative Union: 13 percent. The liberal Americans for Democratic Action have approved of 84 percent of his votes through 2000. That puts him one point to the left of Dick Gephardt, who has earned a lifetime 83 percent from the ADA.

To access these ratings numbers, check these pages: For the ACU:
For the ADA:


After ten weeks off, Tom Brokaw returned Tuesday to anchor the NBC Nightly News. He concluded by filling viewers in on what he did all summer:
"Since I feel like this is the first day of school after a long break, I do have my term paper ready. What I did on my summer vacation. First, I made a list: Read Shakespeare, listen to language tapes, take bridge lessons, write every day. Every morning, I'd look at the list and go fishing, catching and releasing a lot of beautiful trout. I made it up a couple of mountains and went back to the Missouri River of my childhood, which still conjures up images of Lewis and Clark, Sitting Bull and Crazyhorse.
"The news where I spent most of my time was much more about the drought, wildfires, and hay prices, than about Gary Condit, the Middle East, or yes, sharks. I mourned the loss of three friends and celebrated the weddings of two young couples, and the brides are the big winners in this family. I had many magical moments with our granddaughters, including a Giants game in San Francisco where we didn't let a hot dog or a cotton candy vendor pass us by. In the back country, the Rockies, Meredith and I measured how far we'd traveled since we set out together 39 summers ago and how reassuring it is to see the country from the ground up. As for Shakespeare, well, I'm sure he'll be around next summer."

Sounds a little more relaxing than Bush's vacation.

-- Brent Baker

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