CNN: Keeping Current Tax Rates is Increasing Government Spending

On Tuesday's Newsroom, CNN tried to spin the proposed compromise between President Obama and congressional Republicans to keep the current tax rates as a "package that increases spending dramatically." Correspondents Jessica Yellin and Joe Johns forwarded the liberal talking point that the Republicans were breaking their campaign promise to reduce government spending with this proposal.

Yellin appeared with anchor Brooke Baldwin just after the bottom of the 3 pm Eastern hour. After playing a montage of several clips of President Obama promising to "roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans," Baldwin stated that "it's not just the President, as we saw in the montage, breaking a promise. It's also- correct me if I'm wrong- the Republicans breaking a promise as well."

The liberal CNN correspondent replied with the faulty concept that letting taxpayers keep more of their income is government spending (thus treating all income as if it belonged to the government):

YELLIN: Yes- okay. So, we also had a montage of the Republicans, but we don't have it right now. So let me just give you a picture of it. It's a lot of Republicans going, 'One of our top priorities will be to cut spending in the new Congress. We're going to cut spending. Let's cut spending- no more spending.' You got the idea? BALDWIN: Got it. YELLIN: (laughs) Okay. So then, they came back, and their first act in this lame duck session is to pass a package that increases spending dramatically. And so, that is going to be a very difficult contradiction for Republicans to square. On the one hand, they want to ensure these tax cuts go forward. On the other hand, they don't want to talk about how it's going to be paid for. Expect the Democrats to try to stick that to them in the upcoming campaign in 2012.

Screen cap of CNN graphic from 7 December 2010 edition of CNN Newsroom | NewsBusters.orgAn on-screen graphic claimed that the "tax cut deal" would add $460 billion to the country's $13 trillion-plus debt (see right).

The compromise proposal does contain an extension of unemployment benefits, which is some government spending, but both Yellin and the CNN graphic falsely treated the entire compromise, including the tax rate extension, as "spending."

Forty minutes later, Baldwin introduced Johns, who used the same left-leaning talking point:

BALDWIN: One of our favorite topics here at CNN, a topic we really like to sink our teeth into, is this concept of broken government. So, while this whole tax cut debate- and agreement, possibly, here- rages on the Hill, we started compiling some of the questions that are not getting answered right now. And who better to answer some of those questions, or try to- Joe Johns. He joins me now from Washington with 'Political Pop.' So, Joe, part of the debate here-

JOHNS: I got to be honest with you.

BALDWIN: Be honest- just be honest. What were you going to say?

JOHNS: (laughs) The truth is- yeah, I was going to say, the truth here is, right now, we're probably just asking those questions more than answering them. (laughs) We've got these meetings going on on Capitol Hill- people running all over the place- and, I suppose, the very first one is- wasn't part of the debate in the last election about the need to reduce government- reduce the size of government. So-

BALDWIN: Reduce government spending-

JOHNS: Right, right. So now that the election is over, how is it that the Republicans and the White House agree that what we need most is billions of dollars more in government spending? And then, there's this related question: why procrastinate when you can just postpone the whole thing, right? For those of you who have been keeping track, the debate over the Bush tax cuts has- well, it's been going on for about a decade, and that's not really hype, Brooke. It really has been going on for 10 years, when the first Bush tax cuts were enacted. The Bush tax cuts, if you remember, were an issue during the Kerry presidential campaign. They were certainly an issue during President Obama's campaign for the White House. And, by the way- we've been talking about this a lot on the show- the Democrats had control of the House and the Senate and the White House for a while, and now, they're down to running out the clock to try to get a deal.

A chryon displayed during this segment upped the "spending" amount from the earlier $460 billion figure to "$600-800 billion over 2 yrs" (see above).

Both correspondents omitted that the Republicans' Pledge to America contained a promise to "permanently stopping all tax increases, currently scheduled to take effect January 1, 2011," meaning the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, as well as actual proposals to cut spending. One could legitimately point out that the congressional GOP partially broke their promise by making this proposed compromise with the President- extending these tax rates for only the next two years- but the two CNN correspondents decided to push the liberal spin instead.

- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.