R.E.M. sang, “It’s the end of the world as we know it.” If ever there were a theme song for the liberal media’s coverage of the sequester the band's iconic song would be it.
The “broad and sweeping federal budget cuts” being debated on the Hill are being reported breathlessly in the news media. NBC’s Brian Williams called it “high anxiety” and a “Good Morning America” graphic sounded the alarm: “Seven Days to Fiscal Emergency.” ABC’s David Kerley said the sequester “sounds like a disaster movie.” He didn’t scream, but he still has time.
In one of the best examples of political theater, famed Washington Post editor and reporter Bob Woodward reminded the world recently that the sequester was Obama’s idea. That set in motion a bizarre circumstance where Republicans were relying on Woodward and Democrats were trying to discredit him as a tool of the right. Yes, this was the same Bob Woodward who helped destroy Republican President Richard Nixon.
The New York Times warned the $85 billion in budget cuts – just 2.4 percent of the budget – were ushering in an era of “federal austerity.” The story began in a typically apocalyptic manner: “Fear of U.S. Cuts Grows In States Where Aid Flows – Recovery Seen At Risk – Wide Impact Looms on Jobs, Tax Revenue, and Schools.” Even the Times’ pretend conservative David Brooks blasted Republicans as “mindless anti-government fanatics.”
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The Huffington Post screamed with predictable hyperbole “AUSTERITY COUNTDOWN: 4 DAYS TIL PAIN” across its front page like Mr. T had taken over headline writing. It was followed by subtle subheads like: "'Prepare To Suffer’” and “‘The Road To A Lawless Society Is Being Paved.’” Who knows, tomorrow’s headline may lament “dogs and cats living together.”
Every major old-school news outlet has shouted about the “worst-case scenario for government spending cuts,” as if they were deliberately doing the bidding of the liberal Democrats who couldn’t find a way to cut in a Ginsu factory. We’ve been told about cuts in research, cuts in jobs, defense-crippling cuts at the Pentagon that keep carriers in port and even vaccines that won’t ever get made.
CBS’s Wyatt Andrews warned on February 25, about NIH research that “will one day find a drug to diminish the impact of old age.” As if prescription drug firms wouldn’t pay for that research … if they thought it potentially viable.
Yet the sad truth is that in the eyes of the news media, every government program is perfect. It’s those evil Republicans who won’t raise taxes, after just raising them only two months ago.
Turn on almost any network newscast and there’s one theme. The federal budget might be cut! The horror! By March 1, when the cuts start taking effect, the broadcast networks could well be using Hindenburg graphics with desperate government workers bailing out of jobs in mid-air to avoid the explosion.
Not all journalists have been bad on this – just most.
Surprisingly, CNN’s presidential debate star seems to have grasped some basic economics or reporting. (Maybe even both!) Crowley called out one of the administration’s many liars, er, department heads, pretending the cuts will end the world as we know it – in this case air travel. Crowley had the audacity to tell Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood that “your post-sequester total at FAA ops and facilities and equipment is going to be about $500 million more than 2008 and the planes were running just fine.”
When LaHood responded by talking about the dreaded “furlough of air traffic controllers,” Crowley came right back. “Is it true that domestic flights are down 27 percent from pre-9/11 levels and the budget at the FAA is up 41 percent?”
That is the essence of the sequester. Federal budgets seldom really drop and any cut is seen as a crime against nature. Journalists, meanwhile, regurgitate talking points from their statist buddies who think the taxes should take every dollar out of your wallet, and then sell your wallet for good measure.
Almost no one in the press is pointing out that all this budget cutting is just a drop in the bucket compared to what’s really needed to rein in trillion dollar deficits and our $16.5 trillion national debt. Any attempt to do that will require true cuts to our bloated government and its No. 1 fans in the media will again scream the sky is falling and the world is about to end.
Dan Gainor is the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.