Good News: Ultra Liberals Lose On Wealth Transfer;
Caution: 2016 Elections Offer Obama Another Chance

Let’s start with the good news:  President Obama and his fellow ultra-liberals have no chance to put into effect their massive transfer-of-wealth plan.

Bad news is the divisiveness that the stillborn plan has created—and may continue to create—in our consideration of American public policy, including especially federal taxes.

The stillborn plan, not spelled out in detail but broad perspective, has been described as transferring some $300 billion a year in federal benefits to middle-income Americans and low-income Americans, financed by some $300 billion a year in new taxes paid by Americans and corporations who have earned higher income.

We’re Already A Long Way Down Welfare State Road

In short, a journey a long way farther down the welfare-state road which the United States is already traveling.

I think it is fair to characterize America as a welfare state, considering all the federal-subsidized benefits that go to low-income Americans (food stamps, subsidized housing, all the rest) considering also the fact that among adult Americans, 50% pay no federal income taxes.

Let’s take a look at the ultra-liberals’ claim that middle-income Americans are suffering and need to be rescued by higher taxes paid by  higher-income Americans.

Are Middle-Income Suffering As Obama Claims?

A great many middle-income Americans are buying homes with mortgage money borrowed at the very attractive rate of about 3%.  Car sales are booming across the nation with no indication that only “the rich” are buying new cars.

The national unemployment rate has fallen below 10%, lowest since the “Great Recession,” indicating that more middle-income and lower-income Americans are finding employment.  (In Nebraska, for a close-to-home example, the unemployment rate is reported as below 3%.)

One specific target of Obama and his fellow ultra-liberals is to raise the tax rate on capital gains realized from investments.  The Omaha World-Herald very properly cautioned that to increase the federal capital gains tax rate above the current top rate of 28.6% could discourage the capital investment which is so important in driving the economy for the benefit of middle income and lower-income Americans as well as for the investors who are putting up the money.

Remember: Obama, Pelosi In Charge Just Six Years Ago

Again, the good news is that a Republican-controlled Congress prevents the adoption of the massive “transfer-the-wealth” policy President Obama and his fellow ultra-liberals advocate at a time when the American economy is producing benefits for a very great majority of Americans, including those in the middle-income category.

But that good news should be accompanied by recognition of the importance of the 2016 elections.  Remember that it was only six years ago that liberals like Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi were in charge in Washington

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Let’s Talk About The Misuse Of Polls
And Other Examples Of Media Performance

Enough heavy lifting for now.  Let’s turn to the local scene for some questions and comments.

One local TV station carries its overemphasis on the weather forecasts to an amusing extreme, promising forecasts targeted to specific regional and local areas that included “neighborhood” predictions.

Then there is the misuse of polls by The World-Herald (but also by such national media as The New York Times and the Associated Press).

The misuse starts by giving “hard news” play to polls which reflect the views of a very, very small slice of the population.  Defenders of polls contend that the experts have devised methods of using a small sample of the public whose responses will reflect broad public opinions within, say, a plus or minus accuracy range of 4% so there’s a built-in admitted inaccuracy potential of 8%.

Poll Results Consistently Overplayed

Then there is the consistent misuse of poll results with statements like 53% of Nebraskans believe this or 57% of Americans believe that.  Reporting of poll results should always be phrased to make clear that the poll reflects the views of a relative handful of persons who were polled   and that they may or may not reflect the views of all the adults in the state or the nation.

Another shortcoming:  Failure to report who put the poll together and how was it conducted—by telephone, interviews, whatever.

And the problem of positioning poll stories as if they are the equivalent of “hard news,” stories.

My opinion of the way polls are reported today is, of course, influenced by memories of the policies which The World-Herald followed on my watch as publisher.  Those policies:

No poll given front-page play in the top half of the page.  An explanation of who conducted the poll and how it was conducted.  No polls taken or reported in the two weeks preceding an election.  An obvious precaution—perhaps not so obvious to today’s journalists—against the possibility that a fast-closing candidate gaining on the leader would be unfairly disadvantaged if a poll was publicized with two more weeks of campaigning yet to come.

Still on the media front:

I wonder if the news staff of The World-Herald is free to simply ignore the newspaper’s editorial page positions.

The World-Herald recently had a lead editorial emphasizing the philosophy and constitutional language under which Nebraska’s one-house Legislature was created.  The wording of the constitutional amendment which created the Legislature made clear that the intent was to create a non-partisan Legislature.

But a few days later, the news staff of The World-Herald produced a detailed report on the Republican/Democrat division in the Legislature which convened in January.

Another news-side practice which I seriously question:  Quoting so-called “think tank” spokesmen as if they were unbiased expert observers and commentators on public issues.

The truth, of course, is that “think tanks” are created to promote a particular political point of view—conservative in some cases, liberal in others.  Their spokesmen receive entirely too much respectful attention in The World-Herald’s news columns.  More often than not, their positions should be reported on the newspaper’s Opinion page.

I started this part of the column by saying we should turn to some lighter-lifting topics—specifically, a recollection of some of the unintentionally humorous language that I remember from my days as a reporter covering Nebraska Legislature and City Hall.

Nebraska Legislator Protects “I. Q. Public”

The Nebraska legislator who said that “I. Q. Public” wouldn’t approve of a certain legislative proposal, a humorous near-miss to correct usage: “John Q. Public.”

Then there was the Omaha City Police Commissioner who told me “we don’t want rival fractions to fight for control of crime in this city.”  The correct target:  “Rival factions.”

Another Omaha City Council member said he thought he would succeed in persuading a key City Council colleague to “catapult” on a controversial issue.  He meant, of course, “capitulate.”

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This Week’s Smorgasbord Ranges
From The Serious To The Puzzling

This week a very mixed smorgasbord of comments.  Take your pick—or feel free to taste all the items.

HOUSE LEADER’S MAJOR MISTAKE:

As I see it, it was entirely inappropriate for Speaker of the House John Boehner to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress two weeks before the Israeli election in which Netanyahu hopes to be re-elected.

We should, of course, be interested in (and perhaps concerned about) which party controls the Israeli government but most definitely not trying to influence Israeli elections.

MOST QUESTONABLE LEGISLATIVE PROPOSAL:

State Senator Tommy Garrett’s proposal to legalize the sale of marijuana for supposed therapeutic uses should be promptly rejected.

Senator Garrett surely is aware that where marijuana has been legally approved for medical uses, it has been quickly converted to non-medical recreational use, since some doctors in other states have built up their practice by becoming known as more liberal than others in prescribing marijuana for supposed “medical” use.

MUST BE BETTER WAYS TO PROMOTE MEDICAL SERVICES:

Why in the world would the University of Nebraska Medical Center choose to promote itself as “Nebraska Medicine,” in television commercials?

The Medical Center does so much more than dispense medicine.

Choice of “Nebraska Medicine” as a promotional tool is all the more puzzling after the Denver-based Catholic hospital owners decided to promote Omaha’s Creighton University Medical College as a “CHI” (for Catholic Health Initiative) institution.

If the University of Nebraska Medical Center wanted a catchy promotional gimmick, how much smarter it would have been to settle on “Nebraska Medical” instead of “Nebraska Medicine,” reflecting the fact that the University of Nebraska Medical Center offers a great many other services than prescribing medicine.

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Easy To Find Upbeat Ending Today

Regular readers will know that I like to finish each week with an upbeat item—anything from another story about Marian and our dogs to a noteworthy performance by a non-public figure.

This week, an easy choice:

Very good news in the fact that the Republican-controlled Congress stands squarely in the way of President Obama’s “class warfare” effort to extract $300 billion dollars a  year from higher-income taxpayers and spend it for programs for middle-income and lower-income Americans, pushing this country farther down the welfare-state road.

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