Feb
14
2011

USA Today's 'Nonpartisan Experts' Agree: Obama Not Tough Enough on Elderly, Poor

The subhead sums up the point of USA Today's lead story today (2/14/11) about Barack Obama's budget proposal:

Obama Proposes Cuts to Trim Deficit; GOP, Others Want More

The piece by Richard Wolf and Mimi Hall begins, "President Obama will send Congress a 2012 budget today that would trim the budget deficit by $1.1 trillion over the next decade, but Republicans and nonpartisan budget experts are already saying that's not enough." And that's how the story is framed: You've got the White House vs. the Republicans, and "nonpartisan budget experts" who agree with the Republicans.

"We're going to make tough choices," promises the White House budget director–who is countered by USA Today: "Those choices aren't as tough, however, as the ones made by Obama's bipartisan fiscal commission in December." Two sources–described a second time as "nonpartisan budget experts," in case we missed it the first time–concur: Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, accuses the White House of "a political unwillingness to tackle the tough issues," while Robert Bixby, director of the Concord Coalition, described as "a fiscal watchdog group," charges that "the entitlement and tax reform agenda will apparently be deferred yet again."

So everybody who's not a partisan or an amateur, apparently, believes that Obama's cuts don't go far enough? Of course that's not true; USA Today's "experts" actually occupy a narrow strip of ideological terrain, with both the groups they represent receiving funding from billionaire deficit hawk Pete Peterson. The Concord Coalition is a Peterson creation; the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, in addition to its backing from Peterson, is part of the New America Foundation, whose "Leadership Council"–people who give them at least $25,000 a year and as a result "participate in the intellectual life of the Foundation in numerous ways"–has included executives from such companies as Wal-Mart, Goldman Sachs and a variety of other financial industry firms.

It's very clear that such entities have a definition of the kind of "tough" that would be desirable that is very different from the "tough" that would be advocated by equally nonpartisan experts at a group like the Economic Policy Institute, which is critical of the president's budget for being too quick to cut spending during an economic crisis.

But the only other sources in the story, besides the White House and the Peterson-affiliated deficit hawks, are House Speaker John Boehner–who says Obama's budget "will continue to destroy jobs by spending too much, borrowing too much and taxing too much"–and "150 economists" rounded up by Boehner who insist in an open letter that "to support real economic growth and support the creation of private-sector jobs, immediate action is needed to rein in federal spending." That one could find far more than 150 economists who would give you the standard economic line that cutting federal spending at a time of depressed demand is not a way to create jobs, private-sector or otherwise, is not even hinted at by USA Today.

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.