January 14, 2009

The other day Bill O'Reilly did one of those quiet shifts in his narrative that he is careful never to announce or draw too much attention to -- mainly because if you're paying attention, it means he was dead wrong about issues he's previously taken vociferous positions on.

Essentially, he admitted that Bush has to take some blame for failing to recognize the oncoming recession -- which is to say, the recession is real and not just a figment of the imaginations of the media and the "nutty left."

In other words, he's been dead wrong all this time and he owes everyone in his audience an apology.

O'Reilly: Larry, look. The reason I didn't get an exit interview with President Bush -- and we asked -- and I have a good relationship with him -- was that he knew I was going to ask one key question, Larry, one. And that is, Why didn't you guys see this terrible recession when it was coming? Why didn't you see that? He didn't answer that today, did he?

Larry Elder: And the reason he didn't answer it is because it is a long, complicated answer, and primarily the reason nobody saw it, or very few people saw it, was because of government interference.

O'Reilly: But he's the president. He's the president. He's the guy the who's got to protect the folks, and the folks got hammered. And you're right, it's complicated and long, but that really sunk him, even more than Iraq or the war on terror.

Gee, I dunno, Bill. I wonder if Bush cheerleaders like you -- who angrily shouted down anyone who talked about the dire long-term consequences of Bushonomics -- might have helped persuade him he was doing the right thing. Ya think?

And in case Larry Elder missed it, there were a number of people who saw it coming, and saw it from a long way off. One of them was Paul Krugman, the recent Nobel Economics Prize winner.

Some of you may even recall that nasty, finger-wagging, threatening encounter with Krugman that Bill O'Reilly had on Tim Russert's show back in 2004:

O'Reilly: But Mr. Krugman was absolutely dead, 100 percent wrong in his columns, uh, two years ago when he said the Bush tax cuts would lead to a deeper recession. You can read his book and see how wrong he was.

Krugman: Actually, you can read it. I never said that. I said it would lead to a lousy job creation effort.

O’Reilly: Column after column after column. You made the point, in your book, okay, that these cuts, these tax cuts were going to be disastrous for the economy.

Krugman: Nope ...

O'Reilly: They haven’t been.

Krugman: Uh, uh, I’m sorry. That’s a lie. Let me just say, that’s a lie.

O’Reilly: It’s not a lie.

Krugman: It’s a lie. I said they were ineffective at job creation. And if you look at the Bush administration --

O'Reilly: 'Ineffective at job creation'? What is that, semantics now? The economy is based on job creation. And you're saying it's ineffective.

Don't call me a liar, pal. That's what you do to me all the time, and I'm not gonna sit here and take it. Ineffective? That's the biggest bunch of spit in the world.

OK, so that was four years ago. But as recently as last month -- Dec. 8, to be exact -- O'Reilly went on air with Karl Rove and explained the economic downturn as primarily a figment of the media's imagination:

O’REILLY: All right, so you are agreeing with me then that there is a conscious effort on the part of The New York Times and other liberal media to basically paint as drastic a picture as possible, so that when Barack Obama takes office that anything is better than what we have now?

ROVE: Yes.

Rove then went on to paint this downturn as similar in proportion to the deflation of the tech bubble that hit shortly after Bush entered office (and no, Rove's portrait of the situation was not factually accurate; here is a good look at the stock market before Bush was sworn in).

Of course, as Amanda Terkel at ThinkProgress pointed out, the media didn't hasn't exactly needed to blow things out of proportion to accurately report that the straits are dire.

And in case anyone is wondering precisely how accurate Krugman really was, here's one of the columns that provoked O'Reilly's wrath back in 2004:

Until recently it has been hard to get people excited about the states' worst fiscal crisis since the Great Depression. For about two years state governments were able to use fancy financial footwork to put off the full effects, and the public probably regarded warnings about looming catastrophe as exaggerated. But now, as Timothy Egan reported yesterday in The New York Times, states are "withdrawing health care for the poor and mentally ill. They are also dismissing state troopers, closing parks and schools, dropping bus routes, eliminating college scholarships and slashing a host of other services." Not to mention unscrewing every third light bulb in Missouri government offices. (Honest.)

Aside from their cruelty and their adverse effect on the quality of life, these cuts will be a major drag on the national economy. So if the administration really cared about jobs, it would provide an emergency package of aid to state governments — not to pay for new spending, but simply to maintain basic services. How about $78 billion — the same sum just allocated for the Iraq war?

Oh, never mind. Anything that would distract from the tax-cut message is out of the question. In fact, rather than compromise on its goal of maximum long-run tax cuts for the wealthy, the administration now says that it's willing to phase tax cuts in gradually — making them even less effective as an economic stimulus.

So when you take the policy consequences into account, it's clear that the administration's tax-cut obsession isn't just busting the budget; it's also indirectly destroying jobs by preventing any rational response to a weak economy. In its determination to stay on message, the administration is also determined not to do anything that would actually help ordinary families.

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