Tax talk: The New York Times' broken culture!


Saturday Night, Monday morning: Last Wednesday night, one major policy point popped from that first debate.

We refer to Romney’s tax proposal, a murky proposal the mainstream press corps has chosen to duck for months.

In August, the Tax Policy Center did a major report on the Romney proposal. As we noted at the time, the Washington Post and the New York Times treated this report like a minor distraction.

Last Wednesday evening, the tax plan popped, trailing a massive amount of confusion. The mass confusion has continued in subsequent pundit discussions.

But so what? As best we can tell from our searches, the New York Times still hasn’t done a full report on the Romney tax plan—on the basic question of what Romney is proposing.

By way of contrast, what was featured on the front page of yesterday’s New York Times? This agonized, minutely-detailed report about the creation of the skits on last weekend’s Saturday Night Live.

On page one, the report spread-eagled across four columns, advertised by a color photograph featuring Big Bird. Inside the paper, the report ate the entire top half of A16, swollen by three more photos.

All by itself, the silly, sycophantic report by Bill Carter ran more than 1300 words.

The New York Times still hasn’t told readers what Romney has proposed on taxes. But the Times does want its readers exposed to consummate nonsense like this:
CARTER (10/8/12): But the debate itself turned out to be a challenge. There were no big gaffes or obvious springboards for comedy. Instead, the first debate of this election offered up a blizzard of policy details and a lackluster performance from President Obama.

At home Wednesday night, Seth Meyers, one of the show's head writers, watched with increasing concern.

''It's boring enough when they're talking about all this and how it will affect Americans, but when you're sitting there trying to pull comedy out of it, it's really bad,'' Mr. Meyers said. ''There were people on Twitter saying: 'You must be really happy, there's so much in this debate. This is writing itself.' I was like: what debate are you watching?''

The job of turning the debate into comedy gold fell to Jim Downey, the longtime ''SNL'' writer who has created the show's debate parodies since the 1970s. This one, he said, was the hardest he had ever dealt with.
Let’s be clear. It isn’t Jim Downey’s fault that the Times composed this consummate nonsense, featuring it on the paper’s front page.

But Carter treated the invention of those skits in the same way other newspapers treated the killing of bin Laden. In his puerile, ass-kissing tick-tock, we stay with Downey as he fights the pressure involved in creating his deathless skits.

As the pressure grows, so does our concern! Will the operation come together in time? Meanwhile, readers of this empty pseudo-newspaper still don’t know what Romney has proposed for our federal taxes.

Do you understand what Romney has proposed? Over the weekend, we began to realize that we ourselves do not! The Washington Post has been saying one thing—and the New York Times, in its fleeting references, has been saying something different.

Tomorrow, we’ll review the clash in what the two newspapers have said. In the meantime, the Times wants you to know about the pressure on Downey last week. (And no, it isn't Downey's fault that the Times created this nonsense.)

Go ahead—make yourself read that whole report! No modern nation can hope to survive with journalistic “elites” of this type.

Dare to struggle, dare to win: Back in April 2003, we had a multiple brush with greatness.

We took part in a “Symposium on Political Humor” at the University of Virginia. Larry Sabato was our host—and Downey was one of our fellow panelists. The discussion aired on C-Span!

At one point, Downey played SNL’s skit on the first Bush-Gore debate, citing it as one of his greatest productions. In yesterday’s report, Carter was still kissing Downey’s ass about that famous skit.

Our evaluation was different.

We’ve never watched this panel ourselves. If you want to do so, just click here. Downey was a very good sport this evening—and we genuinely mean that. That said, his famous skit from October 2000 was—let’s be frank for once—standardized, scripted junk.

For once, somebody spoke back to power that night! As we skillfully said a bit later that evening, the college kids finally got to see a real debate!

In yesterday’s front-page report, Bill Carter kissed all the mandated asses. Increasingly, that’s what our upper-end “press corps” is for.

But by the way: What has Romney proposed on taxes? As best we can tell, the New York Times still hasn’t managed to do that report.

More on that question tomorrow. Just a guess: You may not be sure.


  1. Right, Bob. If the New York Times hasn't done it to your satisfaction, then absolutely nobody has reported on it, and accurate information about Romney's tax plan is impossible to find.

    Here's a hint, Bob: When one candidate shifts, shuffles and refuses to provide essential details, then pretends his tax cut isn't a tax cut if it's "revenue neutral", don't call the result "confusion" and don't blame the New York Times.

    1. The Times' reporting must be good, because I hate Bob and he says it's bad. I offer no evidence that it's good -- it's just my absolute faith!!

      Somerby says what the Times has said contradicts what another major paper has reported. I don't care if that's true or not! If it is true I don't blame the papers -- it must be Romney's fault that the papers disagree!

      The bottom line, as always:

      I have nothing to learn from Somerby, and I will always be here to tell you so!

    2. Well, you actually hit the nail on the head this time. If Somerby's thesis is that nothing ever gets covered unless it's covered by the NYT, then yes, I have nothing to learn for Somerby.

      And you are either fooling yourself if you pretend you do, or you are extremely "low information" if this column taught you anything useful at all.

    3. "Somerby's thesis is that nothing ever gets covered unless it's covered by the NYT"

      His non-existent "thesis," which you pulled out of your ass, like everything else you post here, in your desperate cries for attention...

    4. OK, Mensa. Then YOU tell me what the real purpose of this particular blog is if at least a major part of it is not to flog the NYT daily as if the whole media world revolves around one newspaper.

    5. "Somerby's thesis is that nothing ever gets covered unless it's covered by the NYT"

      Once again, how dishonest can you get? Here is the sentence which you so inartfully chopped:

      "If Somerby's thesis is that nothing ever gets covered unless it's covered by the NYT, then yes, I have nothing to learn for Somerby."

      Surely the word "if" isn't too big for even you to understand.

      Easy to delete when all you can do is lie, though.

    6. RIGHT...

      So, the "thesis" you mooted you now run from.

      Better trolls, please!

    7. Uh, people, if the N.Y. Times and The Wash. Post don't report well and responsibly, it's probably not getting done well elsewhere as a general thing. They are symptomatic of a larger 'rot'.

  2. Why criticize the reporter for writing a good true story? He's probably doing his best to make a living and a reputation. He may write crap from time to time, but he doesn't put it in the paper. He merely submits.

    Hurl your invective at the editors. They probably gave him the assignment.

  3. Since this story isn't in NYT, it probably doesn't exist either:

    "Big Gaps in Romney Health Care Plan"

    1. Is it in the country's leading newspaper, the one that wallows in its claim to be the newspaper of record? OK, it's not, but can you find something remotely as comprehensive about the same subject in the newspaper of record? If not, your point is silly.

    2. Do you realize that there is an entire nation outside of New York?

      This very important story about the Romney Health Care Plan was reported by the ASSOCIATED PRESS and carried in newspapers from coast to coast.

      And it is written on the very same day that Somerby (above) says there has been NO COVERAGE of the Romney Medicare plan.

      And that is my chief complaint: Somerby is lazy. And he has grown lazier as time has gone by.

      At one point in time, albeit a long time ago, he actually did offer good and original press criticism.

      But I suppose that took too much work, so now he has boiled the entire media down to the NYT and MSNBC. And that's pretty much all he ever writes about any more.

      Here's a clue: If the NYT or any other media isn't giving you the information you think you need, then there are a whole bunch of others available at the click of a mouse.

      And if that's too much work for him, then I don't know what else to say.

    3. The Anonymous IdiotOctober 9, 2012 at 3:01 PM

      If someone else is covering it, it's not worth pointing out how the New York Times fails to cover it!

      Yes, that's *exactly* how stupid I am!

    4. Go cry somewhere else, jackass. The condensation at 3:01PM of your "point" is painfully accurate.

      Find a quiet spot to nurse your butthurt.

    5. What anom one says here is true, and you wonder if he might not do better retiring TDH and going with either NYT or MSNBC "watch." I notice nothing on his old favorite Mary Matlin's antics with Krugman.

  4. When one candidate shifts, shuffles and refuses to provide essential details...

    I think Romney has provided considerably more details than Mr. Obama did in 2008. What remember from that campaign was "hope and change."

    1. On what, David? What specific position did Obama take in 2008 in which he provided no details?

      Romney's "I'll cut taxes but it really won't be a tax cut because I'll eliminate deductions I won't talk about now" is just about the most egregious example of ducking an issue since Nixon's "secret plan" to end the war in Vietnam.

  5. "the New York Times still hasn’t managed to do that report" because it's IMPOSSIBLE to arrange the puzzle pieces in a way that creates a meaningful picture. The promises contradict each other (is it a "tax cut" or is it "revenue neutral" with all tax brackets paying the "same share" as before?), important points are missing (is any magic "laffer curve" superstition involved?) and there's a total lack of details (especially regarding the alleged closing of tax loopholes). NOBODY is able to describe that fata morgana of a plan, and since Romney had the whole year to come up with explanations, but refused to do so, we have to conclude this is a DELIBERATE fuzzyness!

    So, it's unfair to blame the NYT for not providing insights into a plan that by design is inexplicable. What we should do is blame the Grey Lady, and all the rest of the media, of not having the guts or the journalistic ethics to tell the public that Romney's tax "program" doesn't make any sense, and that this is solely the candidates fault! This kabuki theatre has to end, the voters should know what the candidates stand for and if there's someone on the ballot who plays them for suckers. The media certainly knows the truth, that emperor Romney has no clothes on, but refuses to tell anybody. That's scandalous.

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