Timesday: The Times is just a big rolling mess!


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.


  1. What's Social Security doing in that proposal? It's not going into the red in the next 10 years. It's not part of the budget.

  2. Another number missing from that article is the magnitude of the deficit. The article shows neither the current year deficit nor the projected 10 year deficit. Without those figures as a base, a reader doesn't know how significant the projected deficit reduction plans would be.

    As I understand it, the Congressional Deficit Reduction Panel is seeking to cut the 10-year deficit by $1.2 trillion. That's a lot of money, but it's actually less than FY 2011's one year deficit, which, I believe, was $1.3 trillion.

  3. The New York Times won't give you a baseline because like the rest of the establishment media, they are in on the game. It is this: neither the GOP (inflexible on this) or many Democrats in Congress or the President is willing to return to the Clinton-era tax rates, which would produce $3-4 trillion dollars in revenues over 10 years.

    That is more than the Simpson-Bowles figure. That is more than the Super Committee was tasked to generate in cuts and revenues. That is about equal to the awful plan Democrats put forward, but still a bit more. If we return to the Clinton-era rates, though, that means less money for the billionaires and millionaires, and slightly higher taxes for some other groups. That also means that the social safety net doesn't get cut.

    The plutocrats do not want this. They don't. Why do you think Michael Bloomberg was hosting a "Go Big Party" this past weekend? Why do you think the "centrist" Democrats are pushing hard to come up with cuts rather than return to the Clinton rates? Why do you think the GOP wants instead of even modest revenue increases to "reform the tax code" and thus lower the rates even further? Why do you think the Peter G. Peterson Foundation keeps trying to ram these cuts down everyone's throats, even though when they held town halls, people said they wanted taxes RAISED on the rich? The plutocrats and their Congressional and White House allies do NOT want the rich to pay higher taxes and they do NOT want a social safety net. They hate it, and they know rich people don't need it, so they want it gone.

    If Mr. Somerby or any reader of this blog can convince someone in Congress--other than poor Bernie Sanders, who I fear is now just ignored--to state what a return to the modest Clinton-era rates would do to lower the deficit, and remind people that under those rates, the country created 22+ million jobs, I would say please, please, please do this, ASAP!

  4. Does the Times understand the difference between "Deficit" and "Debt"? Here's a headline from September:Obama Draws New Hard Line on Long-Term Debt Reduction
    In fact, there is no plan for the debt to shrink. The amount of the annual deficit equals the increase in the debt. Under the plans being discussed, the annual deficit would become a little smaller, but it wouldn't go away. The debt would continue to grow.

    The Times might claim that their phrase "debt reduction Plan" is accurate, because the debt would be reduced to a figure lower than it would have been without the Plan. I think this sort of confusing terminology is not uncommon in Washington-speak. But, I wonder how many Times readers are confused into thinking that there are plans under which the Debt would actually start to go down.

  5. John K

    I actually saw a Dem congressman from Oregon try to do just that (argue for Clinton era-tax rates and also a financial transaction tax) on the Neil Catuvo show on Fox yesterday. Of course, Catuvo shouted him down with a series of red herrings and straw men. Catuvo's method was shocking in its transparency and mean-spiritedness, but I wonder how many viewers saw it in the same way I did.

    Without a platform, no one can do the job that needs to be done. Effectively, there is no method in place to let the truth get through to people. It's depressing.