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Wallace Helps Ryan Spin GOP Line On S&P Downgrade And Economy

Reported by Ellen - August 7, 2011 -

By Brian and Ellen

Fox News Sunday spent a lot of time, not surprisingly, discussing Standard & Poor’s credit downgrade of the United States and our economy. The guests for the week were S&P chief David Beers, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and Bill Miller, head of Legg Mason. Later, GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty appeared. Notice anyone missing – like maybe a Democrat? It’s not like they weren’t discussed. This is far from the first time Fox News Sunday has been a Democratic-guest-free zone. Maybe Fox didn't want anyone impeding Wallace's efforts to help spin the crisis for the Republicans.

Wallace made a feint at balance by asking Ryan a few challenging questions but he hardly advocated for any Democrats. In fact, one "challenging" question disguised some GOP spin.

Early in the segment, Ryan said the S&P downgrade was “just more vindication of our actions. We passed a budget which according to somebody from S&P yesterday, would have prevented this downgrade from happening in the first place.”

Wallace responed, “Isn’t that a little bit like a doctor saying, ‘I did the operation perfectly but the patient died?’ …In its announcement, S&P condemned the political dysfunction here in Washington, the gridlock here in Washington.”

Wallace quoted from S&P’s statement, "The political brinksmanship of recent months highlights what we see as America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable than what we previously believed." Without noting the brinksmanship of Republicans, Wallace helpfully added, “There’s no question that if they had passed your budget that that would have solved the debt problem but the chances were they weren’t going to pass your budget unless all the Democrats and the president simply keeled over. Isn’t the failure to compromise – the two sides, isn’t that part of the problem?”

Nice try at looking fair and balanced, Chris, but to quote from the top two bullets about the Ryan plan from FactCheck.org:

• Ryan says his plan would not increase the debt. In fact, under his plan the public debt would increase from $10 trillion in 2011 to $16 trillion in 2021, by his own figures. That’s a slower increase than under President Barack Obama’s budget, but the debt would still rise substantially.

• He says his plan would “bring deficits below $1 trillion immediately, ending the era of trillion-dollar deficits.” True — but just barely. The 2012 deficit in his plan would be $995 billion, just shy of $1 trillion. It would drop to about $700 billion by 2013 — but that’s what the president’s budget projects, too.

Not only did Wallace overlook those points, his suggestion that the “two sides” had failed to compromise gave a “pox on both houses” pass to Republicans that also opened the door for Ryan to pile on the "pox" on the Democrats' house – without any Democratic pushback. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.

Ryan started by saying, “Both political parties are responsible for the political mess we have right now. This is not a Republican- or Democrat-only problem.” But Ryan went on to say that Democrats are more to blame. “I would argue, though, that over the last couple of years, we’ve gone deeply in the wrong direction. The kind of compromise you need to actually fix the structure of our debt… our entitlements – and unfortunately our partners on the other side of the aisle, the president and the Senate – have always been unwilling to put a specific plan out there to address entitlements.” Ryan went on to cite “health care entitlements." He added, “So, yes, we haven’t been able to get the kind of compromise because our partners on the other side of the aisle have been unwilling to reform the programs that are the cause of our future debt problem – and the reason for this downgrade.

Actually, S&P was quite specific in its calling out of “political brinksmanship” as a key, if not the key to its decision. But Wallace let Ryan slide and moved on to Miller. Miller did argue for “tax reform” but he was hardly a Democratic advocate.

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