On Wednesday, The New York Times prominently featured a news article focused on the final passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the Biden administration's signature piece of legislation this year. Bizarrely, the article discussed the historic legislation by heavily focusing on what was not included in the final bill and framing the accomplishment almost as a loss for President Joe Biden and the Democratic Party.
The online version of the article was titled “Biden Signs Climate, Health Bill Into Law as Other Economic Goals Remain,” plus a sub-headline: “The bill is the latest victory for the president on overhauling the physical economy, but he has found less support for plans to help workers.” (Such a statement misses the obvious point that overhauling the physical economy will itself create jobs and expand opportunities in various economic sectors.)
The print edition, meanwhile, had an even more downbeat take on things, carrying the nondescript headline “Biden Signs Bill on Taxes And Climate,” followed by a near-condemnation of the bill in its sub-headline: “New Law Falls Short of Uplifting Workers.”
The first two paragraphs of the article described the Inflation Reduction Act as a bill that took “significant steps toward fulfilling his goal to modernize the American economy” and laid out aspects such as lowering prescription drug costs for senior citizens and expanding low-carbon electricity sources.
But starting at the third paragraph, the proverbial glass became half-empty: “What it does not do, however, is provide workers with many of the other sweeping economic changes that Mr. Biden pledged would help Americans earn more and enjoy the comforts of a middle-class life.”
After describing other legislative successes that Biden has achieved, such as the economic recovery package, the infrastructure bill, and funding for semiconductor development in the United States, the article quickly pivoted by declaring, “But there is little dispute that Mr. Biden has been unable to persuade lawmakers to go along with one of his biggest economic goals: investing in workers, families, students and other people.” The article then listed further elements of Biden’s agenda from earlier bill negotiations, which did not make it into this specific bill after more than a year of negotiations to accommodate the demands of all 50 Democratic senators, stating that these “omissions add up to what liberal economists call a missed opportunity to help Americans work more and earn more, and to make the economy run more efficiently.”
It was not until the 17th paragraph that the article returned to what was actually in the new law, describing taxes on large corporations and stock buybacks. Then, in the 24th and 25th paragraphs, the article covered vital subjects addressed in the legislation such as cutting emissions, extending health insurance subsidies, and reducing the federal deficit. The article didn’t even fully credit the health components of the bill as an accomplishment, instead saying that it was “administration officials” who considered them “crucial to millions of workers.” Then it slammed the supposed inadequacy of the climate-focused components of the bill: “But the climate provision is also instructive for what Mr. Biden has been unable to deliver.”
The stark reality of the Times’ hatchet job is revealed by comparing the piece article to an unlikely counterpart: The top news article on the bill signing from the conservative-leaning Wall Street Journal, part of the Murdoch media empire.
While the Journal noted in its own third paragraph that the law “falls short of the ambitious vision Mr. Biden laid out” previously, it still pivoted to focus on the president’s accomplishments: “But it nonetheless marks a hard-fought win for the president, who less than a month ago was facing the prospect that a signature piece of his governing agenda was dead in the Senate.”
The Journal’s article focused heavily on Democratic plans to promote the new package in the coming midterm elections as well as more detailed statistics on both the tax increases and incentives contained in the law. The Journal also noted that senior citizens on Medicare will have their insulin prices capped at $35 per month, something the Times failed to mention.
It was only in the second-last paragraph that the Journal rehashed the compromises that had occurred in the bill’s legislative history, noting it was “the product of a year of halting negotiations on Capitol Hill” that had pared it down from Biden’s original proposals.
The difference can be seen by comparing the above-the-fold sections of each of the two papers’ front pages. The Times, as shown above, merely presented its gloomy headline and sub-headline pairing. The Journal, on the other hand, featured a large photo of Biden and key congressional Democrats as the centerpiece of the page’s top half with the headline “Biden Signs Sweeping Climate, Healthcare Bill Into Law.”
It is perhaps a major victory for the longtime Republican effort to work the refs with mainstream media outlets that The New York Times' coverage of a major Democratic accomplishment is less favorable than that offered by a Murdoch publication.