James McPherson's Media & Politics Blog

Observations of a patriotic progressive historian, media critic & former journalist


  • By the author of The Conservative Resurgence and the Press: The Media’s Role in the Rise of the Right and of Journalism at the End of the American Century, 1965-Present. A former journalist with a Ph.D. in journalism, history and political science, McPherson is a past president of the American Journalism Historians Association and a board member for the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media.

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Posts Tagged ‘welfare’

Save the economy by ending welfare to Republicans

Posted by James McPherson on February 16, 2009

Democratic strategist Paul Begala, in a piece for CNN, offers a suggestion that if taken to its logical conclusion might actually save the American economy: We should stop giving away money to the people–generally Republicans–who say we should stop giving away money.

Begala specifically addresses Mark Sanford, a vocal critic of the economic stimulus plan despite the fact that he is the governor South Carolina, a state that has been “a ward of the federal goverment” probably since slavery ended there. The nonprofit Tax Foundation estimates that South Carolina takes in $1.35 for every dollar it pays in federal taxes. And though we might quibble about the exact numbers, there is no doubt that the states that are most heavily Republican tend to suck in money–or, as some conservatives might term it, to engage in theft–from more progressive states that pay more in federal taxes than they get back.

Besides South Carolina, the welfare queens include  the red or usually red states of Alaska (what, you let Sarah Palin convince you that the oil up there made that state self-reliant–ha!), Arizona (maybe John McCain should pay more taxes on his houses), Alabama, Arkansas, both Dakotas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

There also are a few Democratic states on the list, but then Democrats almost all favored the stimulus plan. It is true that the numbers are a few years old, so some of those states may now be paying their own way–but with the way the economy has slammed the states, it’s more likely that they’ve become bigger bums than they were before. On the other hand, a minority of states–including Barack Obama’s Illinois, Joe Biden’s Delaware, New York and California–are subsidizing those conservative deadbeats elsewhere.

Since conservative critics think we should stop spending, the solution is obvious: Let’s stop giving them our money. The bank bailout was an obvious mistake, since most bankers are Republicans. But we should also stop giving subsidies to farmers, most of whom seem to be welfare-opposing conservatives. And it should be safe to assume that anyone who voted for Republican (or for Democrats who oppose the stimulus bill) automatically wants to forgo any stimulus benefits.

Wow, I’m feeling richer already. Of course I live in Washington, one of those states that’s been helping out most of the rest of you for a long time. Unfortunately, as Begala suggests about Sanford, it’s tough to wean a conservative off of welfare, “because for all his rhetoric about hating federal spending, he can’t wait to get his hands on our money.”

Thursday update: In a critique mostly of Sean Hannity, Huffington’s Bob Cesca points out that we’re all “socialists”–and that even the most fervent dittoheads are unlikely to be turning down any money.

Posted in History, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments »

Key presidential election question: ‘Which liar do you trust most?’

Posted by James McPherson on November 2, 2008

The presidential campaign seems to be “spinning” to an appropriately odd ending, with John McCain discussing strategy (“Reverse Maverick,” “Double Maverick” or “Sad Grandpa”) on “Saturday Night Live,” McCain robocalls using Hillary Clinton’s voice and words as an authoritative voice to try to boost Republicans, and Barack Obama’s latest ad promoting the endorsement of his opponent by a sitting vice president.

At least they don’t have anyone pretending to be the opposing candidate in those ads (a move that may cost Elizabeth Dole her Senate seat in the same election in which the GOP presidential candidate reminds voters of her husband’s 1996 “Sad Grandpa” bid). Dole’s Senate campaign provides a reminder that perhaps every political campaign has its share of distortions and outright lies. As campaigns grow increasingly desperate, the lying tends to increase. Fortunately for those of use who care, there are more ways than ever to check the accuracy of campaign ads and stump speeches.

The oft-criticized mainstream media do a better job than they once did at fact checking. Even more valuable are FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.org (a product of the mainstream St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly). On Friday, Factcheck.org released an updated version of “the whoppers of 2008,” including McCain camp lies about welfare, taxes, health care, terrorism and ACORN, and Obama lies about Medicare, stem cell research and job losses. The site also calls attention to distortions from other groups both liberal (MoveOn.org and VoteVets.org) and conservative (National Rifle Association and National Republican Trust PAC).

PolitiFact also released a Friday update, recalling some especially egregious “pants on fire” moments from the campaign. Those cited include Mike Huckabee, who falsely claimed that most signers of the Declaration of Independence were clergymen, and John Edwards who suggested that the president has power over Congressional health care. Of course other Edwards lies were to cause him more problems, but by then his campaign had ended.

PolitiFact gave most of its “pants on fire” ratings to e-mail messages: “They include the bogus list of books that Sarah Palin supposedly wanted to ban, the fake receipt that supposedly showed Michelle Obama ordered $400 in lobster and caviar from a New York hotel,  and the distorted Bible verses to suggest that Barack Obama was the Antichrist.”

It is sad and disturbing to see how often candidates and their supporters lie. But the increased oversight is a bright spot. As PolitiFact notes: “The 2008 election has been the most fact-checked campaign in American history. Between our 750-plus items, and dozens of articles published by our friends at FactCheck.org and other news organizations, the presidential candidates have been challenged about their accuracy more than ever before.”

In short, in this election–as with perhaps every election–Americans will choose between liars as they cast their ballots. The key question thus becomes, “Which liar do you trust most?”

Posted in History, Journalism, Media literacy, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »