Mainstream media outlets are ignoring the falsehoods and fabrications underpinning Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush's recently-debuted tax reform proposal in favor of endlessly harping on the perceived and imagined flaws of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. George W. Bush benefited from the same kind of free ride in 2000, when media overlooked the impossible economic promises at the core of his fiscal policies.
In a September 14 article, Vox Executive Editor Matt Yglesias took mainstream media outlets to task for glossing over glaring flaws in the tax reform proposals and economic promises offered by Jeb Bush's presidential campaign, recalling the lax vetting received by Bush's older brother during the 2000 presidential election when the press directed incessant, vapid critiques at then-Vice President Al Gore:
According to the conventions prevailing at the time, to offer a view on the merits of a policy controversy would violate the dictates of objective journalism. Harping on the fact that Bush was lying about the consequences of his tax plan was shrill and partisan. Commenting on style cues was okay, though, so the press could lean into various critiques of Gore's outfit.
Today it's clear that Jeb Bush is very much his brother's successor, both in terms of a love of regressive tax cuts and in terms of a passion for making the case for them in a dishonest way. And reading mainstream political reporters characterize the Jeb tax plan as “populist” or some kind of break with conservative orthodoxy paired with endless front-page coverage of every new micro-development in the Hillary Clinton email inquiry is giving me a very uncomfortable sense of déjà vu.
The good news is that new policy-focused verticals like the Upshot and Wonkblog at the New York Times and the Washington Post are doing a much better job of covering this round of Bush tax cuts. The bad news is that policy-focused coverage of presidential campaigns remains a specific and at times marginalized silo. There is not yet any sense that Bush's economic plans -- and his sales job of those plans -- should speak in a central way to how we understand his character, his judgment, his ethics, and his overall quest for the presidency.
The Associated Press recently criticized Republican candidates for claiming that policies “overwhelmingly benefit[ting] the wealthiest” are “populist,” but many mainstream outlets have already published stories riddled with such pro-Republican spin.
At Vox, Yglesias argued that news consumers, and voters, deserve to know that the tax-cutting proposals at the heart of the Bush campaign's economic program were proven failures during his brother's administration, overwhelmingly favorws the ultra-rich, and were “a disaster” in his home state of Florida. Bush has already been credited as a “populist” in uncritical coverage of his budget-busting tax plan, gotten away with demanding that Americans “work longer hours” to boost economic growth, and set a 4 percent annual growth target for the economy that actual economists called “nonsense” and “impossible.”