Part 4—Ignoring the craziest plan: Mitt Romney has proposed the craziest plan in modern campaign history.
In a rational country, that might seem like news. You don’t live in that country.
Consider the way the New York Times has covered that craziest plan for its “sophisticated readers.”
On Wednesday, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center released its latest study of Romney’s ludicrous plan. The next morning, Catherine Rampell reported the study’s findings—to an extent:
RAMPELL (8/2/12): A tax system overhaul along the lines that Mitt Romney has proposed would give big tax cuts to high-income households and increase the tax burden on middle- and lower-income households, according to an analysis from economists at the Tax Policy Center.Say what? According to Rampell, the study found that high-income households would get “big tax cuts” under Romney’s plan. Everyone else “would have to make up the difference.”
[E]ven if all possible loopholes for households earning more than $200,000 were eliminated, this group would still be a net gainer under Mr. Romney’s plan, since the marginal tax rate decreases and other changes lop off much of its tax burden.
As a result, middle- and lower-income households—the 95 percent of the population earning less than about $200,000 annually—would have to make up the difference, according to the review by the center, which is affiliated with the Brookings Institution.
Rampell’s report was perfectly competent—as far as it went. Given the values of the Times, it didn’t go real far.
Her report totaled 423 words. It was crammed at the bottom of page A10. It didn’t even make the front page of the newspaper’s National section.
By way of contrast:
Last Friday, the Times devoted 1001 words (and some sexy-time photos) to the state of strip clubs in Tampa, where the GOP will hold its convention. (This was the featured report on the National section’s front page.) Today, the Times devotes 861 words to an airy-fairy report about the way the Chick-fil-A chain is viewed in Atlanta, its hometown, with an emphasis on the way those southern (white) folk think about things like this.
Kim Severson’s report about southerners and their chicken appears on page one of the National section, complete with a double headline and a color photo of a guy eating his chicken. Along with its superior placement, it got twice as much space as Rampell’s report about the world’s craziest plan.
Why does the New York Times rate its news topics so? We’re not sure, but Rampell’s report was so short that it omitted some basic information. The Washington Post gave even fewer words to its report on the Tax Policy Center study. But Lori Montgomery managed to include the kinds of details which start to flesh out such reports:
MONTGOMERY (8/1/12): What would that mean for the average tax bill? Millionaires would get an $87,000 tax cut, the study says But for 95 percent of the population, taxes would go up by about 1.2 percent, an average of $500 a year.Even that is pretty fuzzy; with more words, Montgomery could have explained those findings better. But the Times report had nothing to say about the size of the tax cuts and tax increases which individual families would face under this craziest plan. As the New York Times tugged on its dicks and dreamed about strip clubs in Tampa—one of the strippers looks like Palin!—its readers were kept from reading such facts in the 400 words it gave to Rampell’s report.
Today, in an AD WATCH feature, the always horrible Peter Baker includes a few of the facts which didn’t make Rampell’s report. The AD WATCH feature is also short; it too is crammed at the bottom of its page. But Baker does manage to say the following, if you read every word:
BAKER (8/3/12): Those in middle income brackets would pay on average $546 more a year, according to the study, and upper-middle class taxpayers would pay $1,880 more, while the taxes of the richest 1 percent would be cut by $29,282.If you read every word in the Times and you didn’t blink, you did in fact see that passage. The top one percent will get 30 grand—and that isn’t even the very rich cohort.
The rubes will pay $550 more per year—on average! That means that half will pay more!
(Baker’s AD WATCH barely exists on line. This is where the link takes you.)
Are “sophisticated readers” being well served as the Times selects news topics? On Sunday, the public editor pretended to debate this general issue. He pretended to ask the newspaper’s politics editor what the Times could do to raise the level of this campaign’s floundering discourse (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/30/12).
The manifest dumbness of this campaign “presents an acute problem for The Times, which many people look to for coverage on substantive issues.” So the public editor wrote, wink-wink-winking and extending a long-running scam.
Might we state the obvious? The New York Times has no intention of raising the level of discourse! Brisbane was too polite to say so, but the Times has flooded the market with monstrous bullshit all through this dumbest campaign.
Consider the way this criminal enterprise has dealt with the Romneys:
Is Ann Romney involved in dressage? In late May, that rated a 2300-word report. The report appeared at the top of the Sunday Times’ front page.
Has Mitt Romney proposed the craziest plan in modern campaign history—a plan which would loot low-income people while showering additional wealth on the very rich? The New York Times has been working hard to avoid this delicate topic.
The liberal world, corrupt to the bone, is too dumb and corrupt to notice. The Times is avoiding the Romney tax plan and Joan Walsh isn’t going to tell you. Neither will the fiery performers who play you each night on cable.
Maybe Christopher Hayes will speak up! Or possibly Jonah Lehrer!
This isn’t the first time the New York Times has glossed the Romney proposal. Indeed, the lunacy of Romney’s tax plan has been in clear view for some time now. Back in July, this text appeared in an earlier New York Times AD WATCH:
OPPEL (7/12/12): One of the ad's main claims—that Mr. Romney's plan would raise taxes for 18 million working families—is accurate, according to data from the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. Assuming the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and alternative minimum tax relief, those taxpayers who would see their federal tax bills rise under the Romney plan (almost 11 percent of all filers) would have an average increase of $885, the center found. The overwhelming number of people in this category make less than $50,000, and they would see tax increases under the Romney plan because of the expiration of three provisions passed in 2009, including the expansion of the earned-income tax credit.If you read every word in the New York Times, you saw that text on July 12, in another obscure AD WATCH feature. But none of this has made its way anywhere near the front page.
The ad does not mention that about 118 million filers would get a tax cut under the Romney plan. That includes nearly everyone making $100,000 or more, as well as about 77 percent of those making $30,000 to $40,000, for example, and 94 percent of those making $50,000 to $75,000.
The ad's other main claim—that ''millionaires'' would get a 25 percent cut in their average tax rate—is also accurate, the data suggests. According to Roberton Williams, senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings center, the average federal tax rate on incomes over $1 million would fall to 23.3 percent from 31.4 percent under the Romney plan, a roughly one-quarter decline.
Darlings, it just isn’t done! The front page is for reports on dressage. It’s for reports on Mitt Romney’s hair-dresser. And it’s for reports like this, a 1900-word Sunday front-pager about a human interest matter.
Darlings! Rachel Swarns had a book to sell! And she had human interest to peddle:
SWARNS (6/17/12): Joan Tribble held tightly to her cane as she ventured into the overgrown cemetery where her people were buried. There lay the pioneers who once populated north Georgia's rugged frontier, where striving white men planted corn and cotton, fought for the Confederacy and owned slaves.Two years of research went into this topic. The same amount of time has been spent avoiding that crazy proposal.
The settlers interred here were mostly forgotten over the decades as their progeny scattered across the South, embracing unassuming lives. But one line of her family took another path, heading north on a tumultuous, winding journey that ultimately led to the White House.
The white men and women buried here are the forebears of Mrs. Tribble, a retired bookkeeper who delights in her two grandchildren and her Sunday church mornings. They are also ancestors of Michelle Obama, the first lady.
The discovery of this unexpected family tie between the nation's most prominent black woman and a white, silver-haired grandmother from the Atlanta suburbs underscores the entangled histories and racial intermingling that continue to bind countless American families more than 140 years after the Civil War.
The link was established through more than two years of research into Mrs. Obama's roots, which included DNA tests of white and black relatives. Like many African-Americans, Mrs. Obama was aware that she had white ancestry, but knew little more.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this report was an attempt to explore America’s racial history, because of course it wasn’t. This was an attempt to sell human interest about a major celebrity, packaged in the kind of way which makes Times readers feel smart.
In the New York Times, you have a much better chance of learning about the race of both Obamas’ ancestors than of learning about the craziest tax proposal in history. Just this Monday, the Times did another report about the Obamas’ “surprising” racial ancestry.
This report ran 1222 words. It sat on the front page of the National section. Three days later, the Times buried 400 words about Romney’s tax plan at the bottom of an internal page.
You live in an amazingly dumb period. Until recently, our affairs were in the hands of a small group of elites. In various ways, this arrangement tended to mask our manifest dumbness, which can be avoided no more.
In recent decades, this system has been discarded. Don Imus was allowed on the air—then Howard Stern, then Rush. The Internet let everyone speak. Even Lawrence O’Donnell!
It turns out that we're very dumb. We liberals can see this in The Others. We can’t make it out about us.
This brings us back to that public editor, pretending to worry about the coverage provided by the Times. How can the Times “reset the campaign agenda,” he pretended to ask, pretending to tear his thoughtful hair. The dumbness of the current campaign “presents an acute problem for The Times, which many people look to for coverage on substantive issues,” he pretended to think.
Arthur Brisbane then pretended to ask Richard Stevenson what the Times can do about this. After the requisite fawning remarks about the Times’ “sophisticated readers,” Steven pretended to give an answer.
Let’s recall what Stevenson said as he defined the problem in which he pretends to believe:
BRISBANE (7/29/12): I asked Mr. Stevenson, the political editor, to provide his perspective on the choices The Times faces in covering the election.That was lofty, thoughtful, stuff. The candidates are dumbing things down, this dumbest of all newspapers said, pretending that the Times maintains “higher journalistic ambitions.”
''I don't have a problem with high-frequency'' coverage, he told me. ''I guess the question is: Is it worth it in terms of news value? I think we ought to be guided, especially in coverage of politics, by: Are you really adding value for a sophisticated New York Times reader?''
He added, ''I hesitate to say that we don't want to play in that lane at all because I think being up to date and relevant and insidery is not a bad thing, but not at the cost of high-value, high-impact journalism.''
Yet, as he observed, every four years the candidates have a way of defining downward the substance of the debate, reducing important issues to bumper-sticker rhetoric—a process that works against The Times's higher journalistic ambitions.
The Times does not maintain such ambitions. The non-deluded could spot that fact as Stevenson gave his reply.
How will the Times get the campaign on track? More blog posts, the politics editor said! If you want to read the full account, you can just click this.
Three days after that column appeared, the Tax Policy Center extended its work on the craziest proposal in modern history. The Times gave it 400 words.
The New York Times does want you to know that a stripper in Tampa looks like Palin. The New York Times doesn’t seem to want you exploring that craziest plan.
The New York Times has also avoided the looting conducted by Bain under Romney. Stories like that don’t seem to float the boats of the folk at the Times.
We can’t tell you why that is—but all the children and hustlers and hacks will keep pretending that this isn’t happening. Darlings! Careers hang in the balance!
The Jonah Lehrers and the rest of the climbers know they have to make nice with the Times. The liberal world has made it clear—we have no plans to notice or care about the utterly fatuous drivel being dished out by the Times.
Tomorrow—epilogue: An amusing example