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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Another Exercise in Mind Reading from the Washington Post

Another Exercise in Mind Reading from the Washington Post

Sunday, 18 March 2012 08:40

Politicians don't always say what they are thinking. Most of us know this fact. Unfortunately, the folks at the Washington Post don't. In a major front page article on the budget negotiations last summer between President Obama and the Republican leadership the Post told readers:

"Another key caveat: Much of the $800 billion would have to come from overhauling the tax code — not from higher tax rates. The Republicans believed lower rates and a simpler code would generate new revenue by discouraging cheating and spurring economic growth."

The Post actually has no clue what Republicans "believed." It only knows what Republicans say.

Suppose for a moment that Republicans want to lower tax rates for the wealthy because they get large campaign contributions from wealthy people who want to see their tax rates go down. It is unlikely that Republicans would go around telling the public that they want to lower tax rates for the wealthy because wealthy people feel like paying less money in taxes.

They would need some alternative argument that might have appeal beyond the 1-2 percent of the public that benefits from lower tax rates. The claim that lower tax rates on the wealthy will lead to more growth, thereby benefiting everyone, is one such argument.

While it is possible that Republicans actually believe this claim, it is also possible that they are just saying it for political purposes and know it to be false or simply care whether or not it is true. It irresponsible for a newspaper to tell us that politicians' statements actually reflect their view of the world when it has no basis whatsoever for this assertion.

Comments (3)Add Comment
Obama mind-reading
written by Zazooza, March 18, 2012 9:32
Oddly you ignore when the article does the same thing with regard to Obama. For instance:

The sermon the president had heard that morning was a stirring Old Testament account of Jacob dreaming of a ladder that stretched to heaven. Sometimes, the pastor had said, “the best adventures occur when we venture into unmarked terrain.” Obama was in a similar frame of mind. ... Obama was pursuing a compromise with his ideological opponents, a “grand bargain” that would move into unmarked territory, beyond partisan divides, pushing both parties to places they did not want to go. Now might be the moment.

The mind-reading you don't criticize paints Obama in a flattering light, "beyond partisan divides." Failing to mention the flattering Obama mind-reading makes you sound like a shill for the Democrats.
written by Andrew Clearfield, March 19, 2012 12:41
I feel the need to preface my comment with this: I really do love your blog. But this is a truly ridiculous criticism. You're asking deadline writers at the Post to not use the word "believe" because people don't always truly believe what they say? Can the Post call Obama a Christian? Or must it write: "Obama, who claims to be a Christian." After all, Obama says he's one, but does he really believe in Jesus Christ as his personal savior? Perhaps not, and by your logic it would be reckless to assume otherwise.
Another Lori Montgomery piece
written by grooft, March 19, 2012 7:44
Just saying you need to look at the byline first... She was listed as one of three writers. She got sole billing on her front of the business section praising the announced lame-duck senator from north dakota (population 672,591), Kent Conrad.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.