Jun
07
2012

NYT Tax Talk: What Does 'Politically Sensitive' Mean?

Most people think rich people should pay more in taxes. And they think the government should spend more to help revive the economy. The New York Times knows this—but still calls this discussion "politically sensitive." Today Jonathan Weisman has a piece (6/7/12) about recent comments by Bill Clinton and former Clinton/Obama economic adviser Larry Summers. The piece primarily channels Republican claims that these Democrats want to keep tax rates low for the wealthy. But that does not appear to be what either of them actually said, and both have released statements denying the Republican spin. Nonetheless, the article treats the Republican […]

Jun
06
2012

Can We Recall Bad Reporting on Wisconsin Budget Deficit?

One would hope that by now that the press would debunk the fuzzy budget math Gov. Scott Walker (R.-Wisc.) was using to justify his attack on collective bargaining rights of public sector workers. Nope. The New York Times (6/6/12): The political war in Wisconsin began in February 2011 when Governor Walker, only weeks into his first term, announced that he needed to cut benefits and collective bargaining rights for most public workers as a way to solve an expected state budget deficit of $3.6 billion. Fox's Bill O'Reilly (6/5/12): On the spending front, when Walker took office there was a […]

Jun
04
2012

NYT: How Can We Be No. 1 if Pentagon Budget Is Cut by 1/12th?

Part of the 2011 Congressional debt reduction deal called for automatic cuts to social spending and military budgets over the next 10 years. The idea was that a deal to avoid these cuts would be struck, because Republicans wouldn't want to cut the Pentagon, and Democrats would try to protect safety net programs. That didn't happen, so these so-called "sequestration" cuts are prompting some alarm bells in the corporate media–ringing loudly at the mere thought of cutting the military budget. The New York Times (6/4/12) sounded the alarm today in a piece by Jonathan Weisman that framed things like this: […]

May
21
2012

Why It Matters That There's No Such Thing as Simpson-Bowles

Dan Balz, the Washington Post's chief correspondent (5/20/12), complains that President Barack Obama hasn't solved America's fiscal problems: Obama has drawn criticism for failing to offer more forceful leadership. He established the Simpson-Bowles commission but declined opportunities at key moments to push and prod for its consideration and enactment. There's an odd syntax here that reflects some slippery thinking. Grammatically, "its" in the second sentence seems like it would refer to the Simpson-Bowles commission, but that would be nonsensical. You're presumably supposed to think it means the commission's plan, but that's a trick–there was no plan passed by the commission […]

Apr
24
2012

Who Thinks Paul Ryan Is Mr. Serious?

Sometimes it's the little moments that tell you something–like this from a Meet the Press panel discussion (4/22/12) about potential running mates for Mitt Romney: DAVID GREGORY: E.J., the point though also about Paul Ryan is that if you want to send a message you're serious about the budget you could do that with Paul Ryan. DIONNE: Well, I don't think his budget is serious, so I disagree with the premise of the question. It's worth remembering that in the Beltway media, "Paul Ryan is Mr. Serious Budget" is the neutral, middle-of-the-road position, and someone who thinks otherwise–based on, you […]

Apr
24
2012

Prostitution Scandal Is the Big Government Story You Were Waiting For

The Beltway press is remarkably fixated on two stories: A "scandal" over an $800,000 General Services Administration (GSA) conference in Las Vegas, and the unfolding saga involving prostitutes and some Secret Service and military officers in Colombia. The White House thinks both are bad, of course, but not worth the amount of coverage they're getting. Beltway journalists think otherwise, and seem to want to believe that by paying so much attention to these stories they are a) standing up to the government by exposing wrongdoing; and b) not really talking about prostitutes at all, but telling a larger quasi-morality tale […]

Apr
17
2012

Richard Cohen on Candidate Lying Is Half-Baked–and Half Cribbed

Richard Cohen says he envies people who are persuasive liars. He really ought to envy people who are persuasive writers. His column today (4/17/12) is ostensibly about how Mitt Romney is a big liar. It goes almost its entire length, though, before citing any compelling examples of Romney lying. (Cohen does say call Romney's claim "rubbish" that he doesn't watch the ads his Super PAC supporters make to attack his opponents–but is it really so hard to believe that a candidate might choose to remain strategically ignorant about such spots?) At the end, he points out that Romney claims Obama […]

Apr
12
2012

Buffett Rule Bores, Annoys Washington Post Reporters

The "Buffett rule"–as in Warren Buffett–suggests that super-rich should pay a tax rate comparable to middle-income earners. In Buffett's case, this grew out of his observation that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. Seems straightforward enough–and the public thinks so. But the Washington Post seemed to feel otherwise on April 12. A news story by David Fahrenthold kicked off with this observation: The great moral debate of the 2012 campaign is turning out to be as inspiring as drunks arguing over a bar tab. Really? The "debate" he's talking about pits those who believe in raising tax […]

Apr
05
2012

All the Smart People Love Bowles/Simpson–Says Bowles

The corporate media love bipartisanship. So the news that a "bipartisan" budget failed a vote in the House was something to be mourned. Under the headline "Budget Plan's Defeat Shows Hurdles to Compromise," New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman (4/2/12) explains that this budget proposal modeled on the media-beloved Bowles/Simpson plan failed because "Washington's conservative and liberal influence machines swung into action." By that he seems to mean think tanks that were critical of the plan. He adds: The Bowles/Simpson deficit plan–named after the former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine B. Bowles and former Sen. Alan K. Simpson, […]

Apr
05
2012

Bill O'Reilly: Muffin but the Truth

Heard the one about the $16 government muffin? That story originated with a Justice Department inspector general report that claimed $16 muffins were served at a conference for immigration judges and attorneys. That was reported on the front pages of the September 21 Washington Post. But the story fell apart in a matter of days, after the hotel explained the paperwork was being misinterpreted. Post ombud Patrick Pexton (9/30/11) explained that both the original report and the paper's story were at fault. The real bill was for continental breakfast and afternoon snacks–not a bad price for a D.C. hotel, it […]

Mar
27
2012

Progressive Budget vs. Paul Ryan, Round 2

Last year Republican Rep. Paul Ryan presented a budget plan that was, according to one analysis, full of "dubious assertions, questionable assumptions and fishy figures." But Ryan's brand of budget austerity makes the media swoon–hence we saw coverage (FAIR Media Advisory, 4/12/11) of Ryan's "piercing blue eyes" that dubbed him "a PowerPoint fanatic with an almost unsettling fluency in the fine print of massive budget documents." Ryan's budget was never going to be adopted, but its release was widely covered across the corporate media. He was given credit for presenting a plan to reduce government deficits, even though his plan […]

Feb
14
2012

Bill O'Reilly Admits He Has 'No Blanking Idea'

Fox News host Bill O'Reilly celebrated the release of the White House budget by demonstrating on last night's program (2/13/12) that there are a lot of things doesn't understand. Or at least pretends not to understand. He started by making the same point many others in the press have seized on: Obama promised to cut the deficit in half in his first term, and he will fall short of that goal. O'Reilly played a clip of his Fox colleague Chris Wallace putting this to White House chief of staff Jack Lew: WALLACE: The president isn't close to keeping his promise […]

Feb
14
2012

ABC and the 'Family Budget' Fallacy

Last year New York Times columnist Paul Krugman (7/8/11) wrote a sharp critique of those who argue that the federal government's budget should be compared to a family. He called it one of the "right's favorite economic fallacies," pointing out: No, the government shouldn't budget the way families do; on the contrary, trying to balance the budget in times of economic distress is a recipe for deepening the slump. He expanded upon it again this year (1/1/12), calling the government-as-family trick "a really bad analogy," and explained how governments don't pay off debts the way a family does–"all they need […]