Jan
27
2012

Pentagon Budgets and Fuzzy Math

By the tone of some of the media coverage, you might have thought Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced a plan to slash military spending yesterday. On the front page of USA Today (1/27/12), under the headline "Panetta Backs Far Leaner Military," readers learn in the first paragraph: The Pentagon's new plan to cut Defense spending means a reduction of 100,000 troops, the retiring of ships and planes and closing of bases–moves that the Defense secretary said would not compromise security. The piece quotes critics of the cuts like Sen. Joe Lieberman and an analyst at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute. […]

Dec
15
2011

Time Paints Paul Ryan as Deficit-Slashing Superhero

The fact that Time magazine named "The Protester" its Person of the Year was maybe a little surprising. Totally unsurprising, though, was the choice of a runners-up: Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, a hero to many in the corporate media for his bold calls to slash government spending on the poor. It's hard to know where to start with reporter David Von Drehle's tribute. But let's try here: Through a combination of hard work, good timing and possibly suicidal guts, the Wisconsin Republican managed to harness his party to a dramatic plan for dealing with America's rapidly rising public debt. Dealing […]

Dec
09
2011

NPR Tries to Track Down Those Millionaire Job Creators

Dean Baker (12/9/11) flagged this NPR Morning Edition report today (12/9/11), and it's well worth a positivity. In the debate over the payroll tax cut, Democrats want to pay for extending the tax break with a surtax on the wealthy. Republicans claim–usually without being challenged by reporters–that a surtax on millionaires would be an attack on job-creating small-business owners. So NPR decided to go to GOP officials and ask to speak with these small-business-owning, millionaire job-creators. Turned out there was trouble finding any: We wanted to talk to business owners who would be affected. So NPR requested help from numerous […]

Nov
21
2011

Jonathan Karl Plays the Freddie/Fannie Blame Game

News that Newt Gingrich was receiving millions of dollars to advise Freddie Mac has to be a little unsettling for at least some conservative voters, who are accustomed to demonizing the government-sponsored entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for causing the housing bubble, and hence the recession. But it's not just right-wing pundits like Bill O'Reilly who are fond of blaming it all on Fannie and Freddie. Here's ABC reporter Jonathan Karl, speaking in conservative shorthand in his job as network news correspondent on This Week yesterday: Meet this week's new front-runner. He's a good debater, man of ideas, and […]

Nov
01
2011

To WaPo, Social Security Is a Treacherous Money Sucker

On its Sunday front-page, the Washington Post published an incredibly dishonest attack on Social Security. Under the headline, "Social Security Adding Billions to U.S. Budget Woes," reporter Lori Montgomery reported that "Social Security passed a treacherous milestone"–a moment where the program, largely because of the recession, spent more in benefits than it took in. What does this mean? Montgomery tells readers: "Social Security is sucking money out of the Treasury." Montgomery complains that "fixing Social Security has largely vanished from the conversation" about the country's fiscal crisis, and politicians are "ducking the issue." She adds: "Many Democrats have largely chosen […]

Sep
21
2011

Tax Facts About Millionaires–and Bill O'Reilly's Threat

Yesterday's AP "factcheck" (9/20/11) of Barack Obama's speech about raising taxes on the super-wealthy cleverly debunked an argument that Obama didn't make. No one is saying that all millionaires pay a lower rate than their secretaries–Warren Buffett drew attention because he said he did, and there are undoubtedly other multi-millionaires in the same boat. As Dean Baker observed at Beat the Press today (9/21/11): President Obama made a simple and true statement in his speech on the budget Monday. He said that there were millionaires and billionaires who pay tax at a lower rate than middle income families. Many news […]

Sep
16
2011

Protest Seen and Not Heard

There's a category of media criticism we've often called "Seen and Not Heard." It's usually a protest that's covered via a photo and caption, with no accompanying story to inform readers about what seems like an important issue. I came across this today in the Washington Post (9/16/11)–the caption headline (not pictured here) is "Nurses Rally for a Tax": A little more reporting on what they're talking about would have informed readers about an issue the Post probably doesn't spend much time discussing. (Read this paper by Dean Baker about the $150 billion a speculation tax could raise every year–you'd […]

Jul
25
2011

Obama's Right-Wing Plan to Win the Center

Forget about "winning the future"–Barack Obama wants to win the center. That's what the Washington Post is telling readers (7/25/11): Obama 'Big Deal' on Debt a Gamble to Win the Center Advisers think securing his plan would ensure general-election victory The Post's Zachary A. Goldfarb (who can't be held responsible for the headline) explained that Obama was making Republicans an offer they couldn't refuse. In exchange for trillions of dollars in cuts, including to Medicare and Social Security, Republicans would have to agree to a fraction of that in increased tax revenue. He added: Obama's political advisers have long believed […]

Jun
17
2011

NYT's Greenhouse vs. 'Generous' Public Worker Compensation

Yesterday New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse (6/16/11) reported on efforts in several states to get public-sector workers to increase contributions to state pension funds–or, to put it more bluntly, to take a pay cut. Political leaders are claiming this is simply the only thing they can do–and Greenhouse helps them make their case. Right from the start, Greenhouse frames the political shift as "the most definitive sign yet that the era of generous compensation for public-sector employees is ending." Many studies have shown that public sector compensation isn't actually all that generous, and such workers might lag slightly […]

Apr
26
2011

Someone at the LAT Really Likes Paul Ryan

At his Beat the Press blog (4/23/11), Dean Baker caught this in the L.A. Times (4/23/11): Congress is on its first recess since Republican leaders unveiled a plan to end the federal deficit by dramatically changing Medicare, cutting other government programs and reducing taxes. As Baker points out, what the paper is referring to–the Paul Ryan budget proposal–does not "end the federal deficit." As he put it: This is like saying they had a plan to fly to moon because they said they would build a rocket. The whole point is the specifics. How would they build a rocket? How […]

Apr
06
2011

The Washington Post and Paul Ryan's Wonky Math

Dean Baker's Beat the Press is the best Early Warning Media Mythbuster. It's simple: You read it every morning before you read the papers (he is up before you are, trust me) and you're well prepared to deal with the economic nonsense you'll be subjected to. Today (4/6/11) he proposes this headline for stories about Rep. Paul Ryan's budget blueprint: Representative Ryan Proposes Medicare Plan Under Which Seniors Would Pay Most of Their Income for Healthcare Baker writes: "That is what headlines would look like if the United States had an independent press." He explains that the central idea in […]

Mar
25
2011

WaPo Invents Dems' Social Security Split

The Washington Post's Lori Montgomery has what sounds like a pretty important story in today's paper (3/25/11). Theheadline: Democrats Splinter Over Strategy for Reducing Deficit Battle Lines Drawn as More Are Willing to Put Entitlements on Table The piece leads off: Democrats are sharply divided over whether to tackle popular but increasingly expensive safety-net programs for the elderly, particularly Social Security. According to Montgomery, a "growing number of Democratic lawmakers say they are willing to consider controversial measures such as raising the retirement age and reducing benefits for wealthier seniors." That wouldbebig. Who are they? She tells us who they […]

Jan
18
2011

Did We Say Job-Killing? We Meant Job-DESTROYING: The New 'Civil' DC

Under the headline "Lawmakers Aiming to Increase Civility," the New York Times (1/17/11)reports from the front lines of theimproved, post-Tucsonpolitical climate: And the House speaker, John A. Boehner, used the phrase "job-destroying" instead of "job-killing" in reference to the Democrats' healthcare overhaul in a speech to colleagues on Saturday–a subtle but pointed shift in tone, though not in substance. Change is in the air! On a serious note, this would suggest a shift from a mean-sounding,unsupported-by-the-factsattack on one's opponents to a slightly less mean-sounding, still fact-free attack on the Democrats and the Obama White House. As Dean Baker wrote at […]