Last week, it seemed as though media pundits were spending a great deal of time trying to predict who would be blamed for what seemed to be an inevitable shutdown of the U. S. Government over the federal budget that should have been passed last October. There were many comparisons being drawn to the 1995 government shutdown that eventually reflected poorly on the new Republican majority in Congress and led to the reelection of Bill Clinton in 1996.
This time, the media dynamic is totally different, and the Democratic Party, which once thought it could benefit from another government shutdown, is now facing a news media landscape that is far more diverse and no longer overwhelmingly liberal and favorable to their policies and somewhat outlandish rhetoric. During the last government shutdown, talk radio was first beginning to take hold, and there was no Fox News Network to provide an alternative to the significantly biased network news shows. In addition, few at that time even heard of The DrudgeReport, which has now become an Internet staple among news junkies.
Back in 1995, one of the major issues that led to the government shutdown was a Republican proposal to limit the increase in Medicare spending to seven percent per year over the next three years. The Democrats wanted to continue double digit increases, and because of the overwhelming support of a compliant new media, they were able to convince the public that Republicans were cutting Medicare spending and were somehow abandoning old people.
The Wall Street Journal ran a very amusing poll at that time. The first question basically said, “which party do you trust most to protect the Medicare program.” By a wide margin, the poll numbers favored the Democratic Party. The second question was, “what do you think of a Republican proposal that would increase Medicare spending by three times the rate of inflation (the rate of inflation at that time was about two percent) over the next three years.” By a wide margin, the poll numbers said that increase was too much. That provides a small indication about how the public was confused by the distorted reporting on the Medicare funding issue in 1995.
That is the way the news media used to report on government expenditures. If the government did not increase the rate of spending on any government program as much as it was increased in the previous year, the mostly liberal news media referred to it as a cut of the program.
Let’s put it this way. Say you received a 10 percent raise one year, but only received a 7 percent raise the following year. If you came home and told your family your salary was cut because you got a lower percentage raise this year that you did last year, your family would probably consider that you may have lost your mind. Yet our media for years has considered a decrease in the rate of increasing spending as an actual cut. As irrational as that may sound, big government advocates and their cheerleaders in the media got away with it in 1995.
Today, the entire media and political landscape is different. It has changed so much that government office holders can now advocate legitimate, real cuts in government spending without being tarred and feathered in the media. This changing dynamic also led Howard Kurtz of CNN to question why there was no outrage over a ridiculous statement made by New York Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who said last week that the newly-elected Republicans elected to the House of Representatives “are here to kill women.” Kurtz openly wondered about the harshness and absurdity of the congresswoman’s statement on the show “Reliable Sources” that he hosts on CNN.
In my last posting, I was wondering if any member of the so-called mainstream news media would ever challenge one of the outlandish statements made by members of the Democratic Party every time Republicans wanted to trim spending for government programs. Well….Mr. Kurtz finally did it on Sunday, April 10. Thank you, Howard, for granting my wish.