In a New York Times "news analysis" about the debate over health care reform, reporters David Herszenhorn and Robert Pear quote five politicians and one nonpartisan team of budget experts. In doing so, Herszenhorn and Pear included a statement about the credibility of only one of the six sources -- and it wasn't the nonpartisan team of budget experts. It was Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan.
The Times reporters identified President Obama, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Committee On Small Business chair Sam Graves and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz only by name and title; the Congressional Budget Office was described simply as "nonpartisan." But Ryan … for some reason, Herszenhorn and Pear decided to tout Ryan's credibility:
As floor debate on the repeal measure opened on Tuesday, Representative Paul Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the Budget Committee, who is a respected voice on fiscal issues, declared that the health care law would "accelerate our country's path toward bankruptcy."
Respected by whom? And, more importantly, why? Herszenhorn and Pear didn't say.
Ryan voted for then-President Bush's tax cuts in 2001, then argued for extending them last year. Those tax cuts have had rather significant fiscal consequences. Is Ryan deserving of this praise because, though he fights for tax cuts that lead to massive deficits, he acknowledges (but doesn't do anything about) the fact that not all tax cuts pay for themselves? Ryan supported the Iraq war and voted for Bush's Medicare prescription program, too, both of which contributed significantly to deficits. Ryan produced a budget proposal that would take about 50 years to balance the budget -- except that it wouldn't do so even then, as Ryan told CBO to base its assessment of the budget on the assumption that tax revenues would remain the same, even though the budget included costly tax cuts. Ryan continues to support deficit-increasing policies. And when asked what spending he'd cut specifically, Ryan can't tell you the answer.
So why do Herszenhorn and Pear think Ryan -- and Ryan alone -- is worthy of being declared a "respected voice on fiscal issues"? Is it just because Ryan wants to end Medicare as we know it and privatize Social Security?
Is that what the New York Times thinks justifies singling Ryan out for praise -- his support for budget-busting tax cuts and wars, along with proposals to dismantle the social safety net?
The New York Times should consider the possibility that part of the reason why the nation faces large deficits is that news organizations like the New York Times praise the fiscal responsibility of politicians who support massive increases in the deficit.
Here's the headline and lede of the New York Times' write-up of a Medicare regulation about advising patients of end-of-life care options:
Obama Returns to End-of-Life Plan That Caused Stir
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — When a proposal to encourage end-of-life planning touched off a political storm over "death panels," Democrats dropped it from legislation to overhaul the health care system. But the Obama administration will achieve the same goal by regulation, starting Jan. 1.
Under the new policy, outlined in a Medicare regulation, the government will pay doctors who advise patients on options for end-of-life care, which may include advance directives to forgo aggressive life-sustaining treatment.
The Times never indicates that "death panels" was a lie -- PolitiFact's 2009 lie of the year, in fact. The closest it comes is a passage deep inside the article that refers to claims by Sarah Palin and John Boehner that the proposal would "encourage euthanasia" as "unsubstantiated." Printing a politician's lie without making clear that it is a lie simply encourages politicians to lie.
While failing to make clear the falsity of the "death panels" claim it invokes, the Times article also blamed the bill, rather than the liars, for that lie -- the headline says the health care reform plan "caused" the stir, while the lead says the proposal "touched off a political storm." No. The storm was caused by Sarah Palin lying. Blaming the subject of lies for the existence of lies is nonsensical. It also encourages lying by removing some of the potential negative consequences of lying.
You might assume the New York Times -- perhaps the world's most prestigious newspaper -- is capable of producing a news report that would clearly explain the health care reform situation. If today's effort by David Herszenhorn, Robert Pear, and Sheryl Gay Stolberg is any indication, you'd be wrong. The article confuses as much as it clarifies, gives undue weight to Republican attacks, and fails to properly explain the hypocrisy of those attacks.
In the lede, the Times reports that Democrats are trying to "advance the bill despite the loss of their 60-vote majority in the Senate." That phrasing could lead many readers to conclude that Democrats no longer hold a majority in the Senate, rather than that they have simply lost their supermajority. In order to understand that the Times' phrasing does not mean "loss of their majority," readers have to be aware of the significance of 60 votes. (Think about it: Would a newspaper ever report that a party that went from 54 to 53 Senate seats "lost its 54 seat majority"? No; anyone reading "lost its 54 seat majority" would understand that to mean "lost its majority.")
I know, I know. Some of you probably think everybody knows you need 60 votes to do anything in the Senate, so everyone will understand that this simply means Democrats have simply lost their supermajority. Oh yeah? Take a look at this (via Atrios):
That's the front page of a Philadelphia newspaper. If the professional journalists who produced that paper think Democrats have lost their majority, are you still sure New York Times readers will understand that "loss of their 60-vote majority" does not mean "loss of their majority"? All of them?
In paragraph two, the Times reports:
The maneuver, known as budget reconciliation, could allow President Obama and his party to muscle the legislation through Congress with a simple majority vote in the Senate. But it carries numerous risks, including the possibility of a political backlash against what Republicans would be sure to cast as parliamentary trickery.
OK. Several problems here.
First, this phrasing suggests the entire health care reform package would be passed via reconciliation, which is false. Readers don't learn until four paragraphs later that reconciliation would simply be used to amend some provisions of the health care bill that has already passed the Senate.
Second, "muscle the legislation through Congress with a simple majority" describes majority rule as some sort of strong-arm tactic.
Third, "parliamentary trickery" is a completely bogus description of reconciliation. There's no "trickery" about it whatsoever. If the Times wanted to preview Republican attacks in a straightforward way, they could have cast the use of reconciliation as "unusual" rather than "trickery." More to the point: Those Republican complaints will ring hollow, given that the GOP has used reconciliation to pass legislation when it controlled the Senate. Thirteen paragraphs later the Times article finally gets around to noting in passing that Republicans "occasionally used the tactic when they were in the majority." That's woefully inadequate, as it fails to make clear the GOP used the tactic to pass hugely significant and contentious measures like budget-busting tax cuts and opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.
But even that weak indication that the GOP criticisms are hypocritical came after the Times passed along another Republican attack:
Republicans, however, have made clear that they will portray Mr. Obama and Democrats as trying to use a hardball tactic to win passage of the health care legislation.
"Less than a week after the Massachusetts special election, the Obama administration is vowing to 'stay the course' and double down on the same costly, job-killing policies that are leaving America's middle-class families and small businesses high and dry," said the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio.
Though the Times quoted Boehner criticizing the substance of health care reform, it omitted any quote or paraphrase of any Democrat or other reform advocate praising reform, or criticizing Republican obstruction.
Two paragraphs later, the Times reported:
In the meantime, aides have been trying to devise a process by which the Senate could make changes to its health bill on a reconciliation measure even before the House voted on the Senate-passed health bill. Some lawmakers said House Democrats might have to vote first.
The Times did not indicate whether "some lawmakers" said that because there are procedural reasons why the House has to go first, or because there are political reasons why they want the House to go first. The Times reporters give no indication that they realize there is a pretty big difference between those things.
If this is the best the Times can do, it's no wonder the public has had such a poor understanding of health care reform.
The New York Times reports that Senator Joe Lieberman will vote against health care reform in its current form -- and, in doing so, uncritically reports Lieberman's false claims about that legislation. Here's the article, by Times reporters Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn:
Mr. Lieberman described what it would take to get his vote. "You've got to take out the Medicare buy-in," he said. "You've got to forget about the public option. You probably have to take out the Class Act, which was a whole new entitlement program that will, in future years, put us further into deficit."
The Class Act refers to a federal insurance program for long-term care, known as Community Living Assistance Services and Supports.
Mr. Lieberman said he would have "a hard time" voting for bill with the Medicare buy-in.
"It has some of the same infirmities that the public option did," Mr. Lieberman said. "It will add taxpayer costs. It will add to the deficit. It's unnecessary. The basic bill, which has a lot of good things in it, provides a generous new system of subsidies for people between ages 55 and 65, and choice and competition."
But adding to the deficit is not an "infirmity" of the public option. The public option would, according to the Congressional Budget Office, reduce the deficit.
Here's a November 22 article by those very same New York Times reporters -- Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn:
The bill would expand health benefits by broadly expanding Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for low-income people, and by providing subsidies to help moderate-income people buy either private insurance or coverage under a new government-run plan, the public option. And it would impose a requirement that nearly all Americans obtain insurance or pay monetary penalties for failing to do so.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the cost of the legislation would be more than offset by new taxes and fees and reductions in government spending, so that the bill would reduce future federal budget deficits by $130 billion through 2019.
So, New York Times reporters Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn know that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Joe Lieberman simply isn't telling the truth. But they won't tell their readers that. Instead, they type up what he says and pass it along, as though it is true.
When someone knowingly passes along falsehoods from government officials as though they are true, isn't that the essence of propaganda?
See Also: LIEBERMAN'S ON TO REASON #7....
New York Times reporters Robert Pear and David M. Herszenhorn falsely claimed in a July 28 article that the House health care reform bill is "estimated at $1 trillion over 10 years." In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that the House tri-committee bill "would result in a net increase in the federal budget deficit of $239 billion over the 2010-2019 period," not $1 trillion.
The New York Times reported that House Democrats' health care bill levels "a payroll tax -- as much as 8 percent of wages -- on employers who do not provide health insurance." But the Times did not note the bill's exemption protecting small businesses.
Media figures and outlets have characterized Sen. Kent Conrad's cooperative health insurance proposal as a "compromise," "hybrid," or bipartisan "alternative" to a public insurance option without noting the argument by progressive economists that a public option is necessary for health care reform to be successful.
In reporting that CBO concluded that a Senate draft health care reform bill would leave many uninsured, neither The New York Times nor ABC's Jake Tapper noted that the CBO director stated in a letter accompanying the CBO report that the "figures do not represent a formal or complete cost estimate for the draft legislation."
The New York Times reported that the American Medical Association opposes President Obama's proposal for a new public health insurance plan, without noting the AMA's inconsistency on the public option or that the AMA doesn't represent most doctors.