Part 3—The Times doesn’t care: Why are we pitiful helpless know-nothings when it comes to budget issues?
Good question! Tomorrow, we’ll review what John King did—and didn’t do—when Gilbert Fidler of Gilbert, Arizona asked the various Republican candidates to discuss the topic of debt reduction at the last GOP debate. (See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/29/12.)
For today, let’s discuss the way the New York Times reacted to Romney’s proposals.
Last Wednesday, Candidate Romney released the outlines of his new tax cut proposals. Two days later, he gave a “major economic address” in Detroit, in which he fleshed out these proposals.
The Washington Post reacted to these events as an actual newspaper might. Last Thursday, the paper discussed Romney’s new proposals in its featured, front-page news report. This report also discussed President Obama’s “long-awaited plan to overhaul the nation’s corporate tax base,” a plan which was also released on Wednesday.
Last Thursday, the competing proposals by Obama and Romney led the Post’s front page. But that wasn’t all! On page A2, the Post presented a sprawling analysis of Romney’s proposal, written by Ezra Klein. On the op-ed page, Greg Sargent offered an additional reaction to the Romney proposal. (Click here, then click once again.)
On Friday, the Post presented this news report by Lori Montgomery. It described a new study concerning the ways the proposals of the Republican candidates would cause we federal deficits to balloon. (The new study on which Montgomery reported predated Romney’s new proposals.)
On Sunday, the Post presented an editorial about Obama’s new proposals. On Monday, the paper’s featured editorial dealt with Romney’s new proposals. The editors helped Post readers consider the effects of Romney’s new plan:
WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (2/27/12): At a time of record debts and deficits, the two leading Republican presidential candidates are proposing a path on taxes and spending likely to add trillions more. That's the sobering conclusion of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), whose board includes six Republican former lawmakers with expertise in budget issues, three Republican former heads of the Congressional Budget Office, and two former Office of Management and Budget directors under Republican presidents.In our view, the Post should have taken one additional step (see below). But the paper reacted to Romney’s new proposals as an actual newspaper might.
Last month, we examined former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney's reckless tax plan, which, according to calculations by the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, would drain another $180 billion from the treasury in 2015 alone. The CRFB estimated the 10-year cost of the original Romney tax plan at $1.3 trillion. By the end of the 10-year window, the debt would be a dangerous 86 percent of the gross domestic product.
But last week Mr. Romney upped the tax-cutting ante, promising, in addition to the previous grab bag of tax goodies, a 20 percent across-the-board cut in marginal rates and repeal of the alternative minimum tax. The Tax Policy Center estimated that the 20 percent rate cut would cost about $150 billion in 2015 alone. The Romney campaign said that the rate change wouldn't add to the deficit because it would generate unspecified economic growth and be accompanied by spending cuts and elimination or cutbacks of deductions. Okay, which ones? On that question, the campaign was decidedly unspecific - understandably so, because its math doesn't add up. Until he is more specific about what sacred cows he would tackle - employer-sponsored health care? - Mr. Romney's plan cannot be taken as a fiscally responsible proposal.
Then again, he looks reasonable by comparison with former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum...
Why are we pitiful helpless know-nothings when it comes to budget issues? For one part of the answer, consider the way the New York Times reacted to Romney’s proposals.
Last Thursday, the Washington Post reviewed Romney’s proposals in its featured, top-of-the-front-page report. By way of contrast, the New York Times relegated the topic to page 6 of its Business Day section—and the news report, by John Harwood, didn’t even appear at the top of that godforsaken page! (For a version of that report, click this.)
Harwood’s report on Romney’s proposals appeared midway down page B6! Meanwhile, for people who think they get major election coverage in the Times’ sprawling first section, the following passage, from Thursday’s paper, represents the only discussion of Romney’s proposals these people have seen to date. This passage is taken from Jeff Zeleny’s report on Wednesday evening’s GOP debate. We hope you read all the way to the end! This passage started in paragraph 17 of this report:
ZELENY (2/23/12): Mr. Romney, hoping to increase his appeal to conservatives who have been reluctant to rally around his candidacy, introduced the outlines of a new economic policy before the debate on Wednesday. He proposed cutting the top income tax for individuals to 28 percent while holding out the prospect of limiting tax deductions.On Thursday morning, that was it! Unless you fumbled ahead to page B6 in the newspaper’s Business Day section.
Mr. Romney’s earlier economic plan called only for preserving the current top tax rate of 35 percent, while holding out the promise of lower rates later in an overhaul of the tax code. But facing a major challenge from Mr. Santorum, he chose to announce his revised plan, which he will highlight in a major economic speech on Friday in Detroit.
“I'm going to lower rates across the board for all Americans,” Mr. Romney told supporters at a rally in Chandler, Ariz.
For the record: That passage comes from Zeleny’s report in our own hard-copy Times, upon which we're gazing as we type. But this material doesn’t appear in the on-line version of Zeleny’s report, nor does it appear in Thursday’s Times as memorialized in the Nexis archives. Question: Did this meager account of Romney’s proposals appear in the Washington Edition of the Times, the one which lands on our own doorstep, but not in the paper’s National Edition? We have no idea. The Times publishes at least three different “editions” each day; on its own web site and on Nexis, the paper provides a bewildering array of accounts of what it has actually published. According to the Times web site and according to the Nexis archives, there was no discussion of Romney’s proposals in Thursday’s front section. The only discussion appeared in Business Day, midway down page B6!
Just a guess: It wouldn’t occur to most New York Times subscribers that they have to go to page B6 to learn about major budget proposals by the Republican front-runner. Another guess: Most Times subscribers assume that they're getting the major election news in the paper’s sprawling first section, where all manner of campaign reporting appears each and every day. Sorry! In this instance, a reader of the paper’s front section learned very little, perhaps nothing at all, about Romney’s important proposals.
And then, on Saturday, things got worse! In the front section of the Times, a silly clown reported on the “major policy speech” where Romney fleshed out his new proposals. This newspaper’s “atrophied Dowdism” was on full display as a silly boy explained why readers would be getting no real information:
BARBARO (2/25/12): Mitt Romney set out on Friday to deliver a sweeping and sober vision for how to revive the American economy in a major policy speech here. In the end, he delivered something else as well: an unintended lesson about how poor visuals and errant words can derail a candidate's message in this modern political news culture.There! You finally had your account of Candidate Romney's proposals! Careful—it went by very fast! Were you even able to spot it?
In an unusual choice, Mr. Romney gave his speech inside Ford Field, a cavernous indoor football stadium with 65,000 seats.
To the television audience, it appeared perfectly normal. Mr. Romney could be seen standing at a lectern in front of a backdrop that had the logo of the Detroit Economic Club, the event's host. And when the stadium audience of about 1,200 people clapped, they filled the screen as cameras panned across them.
But in the age of Twitter and the Internet, that is not all that matters.
Before Mr. Romney had uttered a word, reporters began posting pictures online showing the stadium from every available angle—almost empty, except for the chairs set up on the field itself, near the 20-yard line.
Row after row of barren blue seats across the giant stadium made the crowd seem minuscule. Through the rapid-fire, reality-reshaping powers of the Web, a storyline for the day began to take hold that undercut and detracted from Mr. Romney's words: big speech, tiny crowd.
Ordinarily, such imagery might be overwhelmed by the news of the day: a highly anticipated, substantive address packed with previously unknown details. Mr. Romney called for a 20 percent cut in income taxes; handing control of federal welfare programs to the states; and creating private sector competition for Medicare services.
But the Romney campaign had leaked most of the speech's contents several days ago, leaving members of the news media with little to focus on—except, of course, the scene itself.
The distractions did not end there...
As this silly child went on to explain, “reporters” like him had been “distracted” from Romney's address in various ways. But go ahead—enjoy a good laugh! “Ordinarily,” this reporter explained, the actual news from a “major policy speech” might overcome such pointless distractions! But in this case, “the Romney campaign had leaked most of the speech's contents several days ago, leaving members of the news media with little to focus on!”
The campaign had leaked most of the contents on Wednesday! That was true, of course—but the Times had made little attempt to report those contents to its readers. But so what? On Saturday, this silly child used this excuse to explain his vapid “reporting.”
The Washington Post made a serious attempt to report and analyze Romney’s proposals. It did so through a front-page news report, a sprawling analysis piece, and a featured editorial. We would offer one criticism; the Post should have done a follow-up news report about the effects of Romney’s proposals, as best they can be explained at this time. A reader shouldn’t be forced to turn to an editorial to get the kind of analysis the editors offered on Monday.
That said, the Washington Post made a serious attempt to discuss Romney’s proposals. But in its political reporting, the New York Times is a gang of clowns, a receptacle for the scribbling of those who have been hired to further its atrophied Dowdism. To this day, the paper has made little attempt to explain or analyze Romney’s proposals. Instead, it traffics in the endless “distractions” it sells as political news.
Go ahead! Just review all the bullshit today!
The New York Times has played the fool in the wake of Candidate Romney’s proposals. This brings us back to the millionaire King, pretending to question the GOP hopefuls at their final debate Wednesday night.
Tomorrow—part 4: King of the pitiful know-nothings