A paper without a baseline: The New York Times tends to do very poor work when it reports big political/policy topics.
This morning, Robert Pear reports on the budget panel’s deliberations. In the passage posted below, he reports a proposal by the twin tyros, Simpson and Bowles.
Do you understand what they have proposed? Frankly, we do not:
PEAR (11/2/11): Mr. Bowles, speaking for himself and Mr. Simpson, outlined a package that he said could reduce deficits by $2.6 trillion over 10 years. The package includes $800 billion of new revenue, $300 billion in savings from annual appropriations known as discretionary spending, $600 billion from health care programs like Medicare and Medicaid, $300 billion from other entitlement programs and $200 billion from use of a less generous formula to calculate cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security and other benefits.Do you understand that highlighted sliver? Frankly, we don’t. Here’s why:
According to Pear, Simpson and Bowles have proposed raising $800 billion of new revenue over the next ten years. Frankly, this isn’t a giant amount, given the large amount of revenue the government takes in each year.
That said, we don’t understand what the solons have proposed. Have they proposed $800 billion of new revenue as compared to what would come in under the current Bush tax rates? Or do they assume that the Bush tax rates will expire, with $800 billion of new revenue needed after that?
It makes a huge difference. Which idea have the solons proposed? Very few readers of the Times have even the slightest idea.
The Times pretends to be very smart. This is done to flatter its readers. In truth, it may be our dumbest newspaper.
The Times, like the failing culture it serves, is just a big rolling mess. It’s amazing how rarely we say this.