CyberAlert -- 08/01/1996 -- Welfare reform a "loser"

Welfare reform a "loser"; Dole enjoys millions killed

Two items today:

1) Conservatives view welfare reform as a victory -- both for those trapped in the current failed system and for hard working taxpayers tired of paying for lifetime welfare recipients. But Wednesday night the networks came at the issue from the left, from the perspective of those now on welfare, portraying Clinton's decision to sign the reform bill as a terrible development. NBC focused on "the biggest losers," and a woman who "can never treat her kids to candy or soda." CBS viewers learned that "millions of Americans will find their lives starting to change in startling and unwelcome ways" as for one recipient reform means "giving up, or at least postponing her dream, of graduating from college."

2) CBS reporter Phil Jones offered a fairly cynical look at Bob Dole's speech in Hollywood. Jones took this sarcastic shot: "Despite the fact that millions of people are killed by aliens in 'Independence Day,' Dole emerged feeling good about this movie."


President Clinton's announcement Wednesday that he will sign the welfare reform bill prompted two stories each on the three broadcast networks Wednesday night.
Percent of broadcast network evening shows which aired a story from the point of view of a pleased taxpayer on how the bill begins to end a failed system and may bring financial relief to those who work: Zero
Percent airing stories from the point of view of welfare recipients who oppose reform plans: 100%
From least to most slanted against welfare reform, here's a rundown of coverage on the three networks on July 31:

-- For ABC's World News Tonight Tom Foreman checked the status of the Wisconsin reform plan. Though he found welfare rolls and costs reduced and looked at a woman who was successful at finding a job, he also charged that private charities were being forced to pick up the slack. He asked: "And what about Shauna Paeans [approx spelling]. Everyday she drops her children at day care and goes job hunting for seven hours as the state requires. Yet in two months she has not found one job that would lift her above the poverty line."

-- NBC Nightly News dedicated an "In-Depth" segment by Lisa Myers. She began: "For six years now Cindy McDonald and her three children have struggled to make their $400 welfare check and $300 in food stamps last until the end of the month. She says she can never treat her kids to candy or soda, they're expensive luxuries and has no car to take them anywhere. The phrase 'welfare reform' infuriates her.
McDonald: "If they strip me from what little I have right now, then I don't know how my kids are going to eat."
Myers then pointed out that McDonald actually has two years to find a job. Following a soundbite of Newt Gingrich explaining how the bill will restore the work ethic among the poor, Meyers continued: "Overall food stamp benefits will be cut. Still the biggest losers under the bill are legal immigrants who are not U.S. citizens. All their welfare and food stamps will be cut off. Some Democrats called it barbaric."
John Lewis: "Where is the sense of decency. Where is the heart of this Congress? This bill is mean, it is base, it is downright lowdown."
McDonald: "I'm not afraid because regardless of what they try to do to me or what try to take from me, the one thing they have taught me to do is how to survive."
Myers then concluded her story: "But exactly how McDonald and others will cope with the change is uncertain. Even supporters of the bill privately admit that this is a gamble, that some will lose."

-- On the CBS Evening News, substitute anchor Paula Zahn announced: "Once the welfare bill becomes law, millions of Americans will find their lives starting to change in startling and unwelcome ways. John Blackstone has some cases in point."
Blacksone looked at three welfare recipients, asserting that "It's a system where individuals often get lost among the stereotypes." First up, a woman on welfare who just had baby: "[Martina] Gillis, a single mother of two, has been on welfare for three years. The new welfare reforms would force her to get a job, any job, but that would mean giving up, or at least postponing her dream, of graduating from college."
Blackstone did ask her if it's taxpayer's responsibility to pay for her mistake, to which she responded: "It is up to the whole society to make sure that children are taken care of."
Blackstone then showed a Mexican immigrant with three children who has Green Card, but will be cut off. In the one soundbite of her shown she's crying.
Third, leading into his conclusion, he put on a California woman who "says she applied for welfare today so she can take care of her two daughters. Welfare reform may be aimed at the mothers. But the effects of this experiment, good or bad, will be felt equally by the children."


Bob Dole's speech Tuesday in Hollywood generated a brief anchor-read item on ABC's World News Tonight and a balanced piece by David Bloom on NBC Nightly News. And from the CBS Evening News: an example of a reporter putting cheap shots and strategic forecasts ahead of just telling what the candidate and his opponent said. Here's the full July 30 story as transcribed by MRC intern Jessica Anderson:

Phil Jones: "Expecting Bob Dole to have something good to say about Hollywood, Twentieth Century Fox provided the presidential candidate with the best-looking stage he's had. After his speech last year attacking the entertainment industry, Dole was looking for Take Two."
[Bob Dole: "I feel a little like the proverbial skunk at the lawn party."]
Jones: [clip from 'Apollo 13'] "Hollywood's problem, Dole argued, has been eased with movies like 'Apollo 13.'"
[Dole: "Americans hailed the adventure and courage of 'Apollo 13.'
[clip from 'Babe'] And the most popular babe in Hollywood is a pig that goes by that name. The big story is that respectability is good business. You can watch your ratings rise and your box office receipts go up and still look yourself in the mirror."]
Jones: "But Dole also didn't forget that the big story in politics remains attacking Hollywood is good business."
[Dole: "In our streets and homes some of the qualities glorified on the screen don't work out so well. You can see it in the violence of teenagers emulating Hollywood's violent heroes. But those kids don't get an Oscar; often they get a prison sentence."]
Jones: "Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association, was in the audience and ready with an instant analysis."
[Jack Valenti: "Listen, declaring war on Hollywood is high-reward, low-risk politics, and everybody knows that."]
Jones: "Last year, Dole was criticized for attacking movies he had never seen, so in preparation for this Hollywood sequel, he went to see 'Independence Day.' [clip from 'Independence Day'] Despite the fact that millions of people are killed by aliens in 'Independence Day,' Dole emerged feeling good about this movie."
[Anonymous woman to Dole: "Did you enjoy the movie?"]
[Dole: "Oh, I liked it, didn't you?"]
Jones: "Now if he can just get some of those big campaign contributions from the movie moguls that are going four to one for the Democrats, he might find even more good to say about Hollywood. Phil Jones, CBS News, Washington."

How long before the next CBS story blaming talk radio for fueling cynical public attitudes? -- Brent Baker