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.