Fox, bailouts and budgets

March 30, 2009 1:09:40 PM PDT
The most disturbing news of the weekend wasn't the shooting at a nursing home, or the have-to-do-it tax increase (without killing various and insipid pork projects) in Albany, or the virtual (as in nearly, not cyber) takeover of two huge car companies by the federal government.

The most disturbing news was the flood of stories about how Fox News is going gang busters in its ratings since Barack Obama was elected - and especially these last two months.

Perhaps it's the defeat of the Republican Party at the polls, perhaps it's the lack of any real leadership from the political right, perhaps it's backlash against Obama and the Democrats, or perhaps it's all of the above. Whatever, there is, at least among a sizeable number of cable television news viewers, a yearning for what Fox is offering; even if it sometimes borders on political evangelism.

We will NOT be dealing with the Fox News surge on our 11 p.m. newscast. We WILL be dealing with the economy.

Two things came to mind when we heard about the President's do-or-die ultimatum to General Motors and Chrysler. Well, maybe three, if you count that maybe this is just a wee bit late in coming, given how many billions taxpayers have already poured into the two once-giant auto makers.

The first - and it was my wife who first said it - was how much the golden parachute will be for the ousted CEO of General Motors. It wasn't long before we found out: $20 million. Not a bad get-off-the-bus for a guy who helped drive the car company into the ground.

The second was that if Pres. Obama could use this muscle to get rid of a car company chief executive, why couldn't he do the same with all those guys who shouldn't be running hot dog stands, let alone financial institutions that have ruined shareholders and taxpayers alike?

California Congresswoman Maxine Waters also raised that question today, telling ABC News that the President should "absolutely" force bank chiefs from their jobs.

Refusing to throw any more good money after bad, and demanding more concessions from unions, creditors and the automakers themselves, the President is either squarely taking over a horrible situation to fix it, or just squarely taking over. The latter definition might be fodder for the Fox News audience, and it's certainly worth an intellectually honest discussion.

And you have to hand it to The Ford Motor Co., which may have proven itself the smartest of the bunch -- although the bar here clearly isn't very high -- by judging it will try to survive without leaning on taxpayers like its other two American competitors.

We'll have the latest on the White House bid to -- what's the word? -- tackle the business nightmare that we used to call the U.S. car industry, tonight at 11.

We're also on top of the New York State budget, which seems to have fashioned a series of drastic cuts, coupled with drastic tax increases for people who in any other region would be gazillionaires but who in New York City are just above the income qualifying level of rent control tenants, coupled with dodging the bullet because of billions in aid from the federal stimulus package.

Also at 11, just to prove that having problems with contractors can happen to anyone, our investigative reporter Jim Hoffer tonight looks at the bathroom remodeling snafus of Academy Award winning actress Patricia Neal. She set out to remodel the closet-sized bathroom in her apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Fifteen months and $50,000 later, it's still not done.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.