Wednesday, January 05, 2005

As the Hyman Spins

Mark Hyman uses one of his favored tactics in his commentary about the opening of Congress: framing spin as dispassionate commentary.

Note, for example, his commentary on Barack Obama, whom Hyman notes has “been picked by some as a rising star in the Democratic Party.” Hyman undercuts this by saying that Obama must deal with 99 other senators “who have their own political ambitions and egos in play” [emphasis mine]. Two things here: first, Hyman turns Obama into a passive figure who “has been picked by some” to be a rising star. He hasn’t become a rising star. He’s had this title conferred on him, and then only by “some” people. Secondly, Hyman suggests that ambition and ego are the driving forces in Obama’s career. He does this by saying that all senators have ego and ambition, but by singling these traits out in the context of speaking about Obama, Hyman clearly intends to associate these terms with only one member of the Senate, the only one he’s singling out by name.

Hyman then trots out the GOP talking points of Social Security and tax “reform.” The word “reform” is key here: it implies that Social Security and the tax code are broken, and that the actions proposed by the Bush administration to change them are altogether positive. But as we’ve noted, Social Security simply isn’t broken. What “reform” really means in this context is an attempt to begin the dismantling of the Social Security system and reduction of benefits (with an eye toward doing away with this most successful of government programs) and a flattening of the tax code to create a system in which working and middle class families shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden. And as we’ve also noted in the past, the Bush administration has already succeeded in shouldering the middle class with most of America’s taxes in order to fund welfare for the wealthy and corporations.

Hyman suggest that the House of Representatives has shown “displeasure” with Bush’s immigration policies. By this, Hyman suggests that Bush’s policies are (get this) far too liberal. As we’ve seen on numerous occasions, Hyman doesn’t like the idea of people with darker skin than his coming into this country.

Finally, and most absurdly, Hyman says that the Senate has been particularly derelict in its duties on controlling spending. But Hyman has it all wrong. The White House has pushed for increases in spending along with massive tax cuts which will cost $1 trillion to make permanent, without much in the way of actually sparking the economy. The

Bush tax cuts have contributed far more to the growing national debt than post 9/11 defense spending. Moreover, it was the White House, along with the House of Representatives, that pushed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to pass a budget which included so much pork that even some true conservative budget hawks were squawking. Finally, from Dick Cheney’s own mouth, we here that this administration feels deficits “don’t matter.” With Republican control of both the House and Senate, this administration has run up record debt that the IMF has warned is so large, it will destabilize the world economy.

Remind us again, Mark: what makes you think that this spendthrift administration will do anything to get spending under control?

And that’s The Counterpoint.


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