BEAT THE PRESS (NYT)

He Said/She Said Budget Reporting at the NYT

April 6, 2012   ·   0 Comments

Source: Beat the Press

He said She said

By Dean Baker:

The NYT did some really serious he said/she said budget reporting in a front page article on the House Republican budget proposed by Representative Paul Ryan, which also has been endorsed by Governor Romney. The article reports what both Democrats and Republicans say about the Ryan budget without making any effort to verify the extent to which the statements are true. In several cases, this could be quite easily done.

For example, the article tells readers in reference to the Ryan budget and the budget proposed by Mitt Romney:

“Both budgets, the Obama campaign asserts, would cut taxes sharply for the wealthy; gut public education, medical research, and other government programs; and increase the burden on the elderly to pay for their own health care.”

This is not just something that “the Obama campaign asserts,” it happens to be true. Both plans call for sharp reductions in the tax rates paid by high income earners. Both have explicitly ruled out eliminating the tax breaks that most directly affect high income taxpayers: the special lower tax rate on capital gains and dividend income.

In terms of the cuts to public education, medical research and other government programs, it is possible to go to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the Ryan budget, which was done under his direction. This analysis shows that all discretionary spending (the category which includes these items), plus non-health mandatory spending, is projected to shrink to 3.75 percent of GDP by 2050.

This 3.75 percent of GDP includes defense spending. Currently defense spending is close to 4.0 percent of GDP, not including the cost of the war in Afghanistan. It has never been below 3.0 percent of GDP since the start of the Cold War. In other words, it is an objective fact that the Ryan plan would:

“gut public education, medical research, and other government programs; and increase the burden on the elderly to pay for their own health care,”

not just something that the Obama campaign asserts. The NYT should have pointed this out to readers. The NYT’s reporters have the time to examine CBO’s analysis of the Ryan budget, most readers do not.

At one point the article also wrongly refers to, “parts of the [budget] plan intended to spur economic growth.” It is not clear that any parts of the budget plan are “intended” to spur growth. There are parts of the plan, such as the tax cuts for the wealthy, which Romney and Ryan claim are intended to spur growth, but the NYT has no idea whether this is really the intent of these cuts.

It is entirely possible that the reason that Romney and Ryan propose cuts in tax rates for the wealthy is to give more money to wealthy people, many of whom are supporting their political efforts. Since there is no evidence that these tax cuts will actually lead to more growth, it is at least as plausible that the intention is to give money to the wealthy (something we know that tax cuts will do), as it is that they are intended to promote growth.

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