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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Can't the NYT Print a Budget Article Without Editorializing About Cutting Social Security and Medicare?

Can't the NYT Print a Budget Article Without Editorializing About Cutting Social Security and Medicare?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013 05:38

The answer seems to be no. Its piece on the budget deal negotiated by Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray and House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan told readers:

"The deal, while modest in scope, amounts to a cease-fire in the budget wars that have debilitated Washington since 2011 and gives lawmakers breathing room to try to address the real drivers of federal spending — health care and entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security — and to reshape the tax code."

It would be equally valid to say that the budget deal gives lawmakers breathing room to plan an attack in Freedonia. Addressing the "real drivers of federal spending" is the NYT's agenda, it is not in any obvious way the agenda of Congress. It is also not clear that this is accurate in any important way.

Social Security spending has risen by roughly one percentage point as a share of GDP since 2000. It is projected to rise by roughly the same amount over the next two decades due to the continued aging of the population. It is then projected to remain pretty much flat for the rest of the century. This does not suggest a problem in obvious need of fixing.

Medicare costs are projected to grow more rapidly due to the projected rise in per person health care spending in the private sector. This suggests a need to contain health care costs in the economy as a whole. In the last five years per person costs have grown only slightly more rapidly than per capita GDP. If this trend continues, then there is no need to have further measures containing Medicare costs even without any further increases in revenue or offsetting cuts elsewhere.

The piece also includes some mind reading, telling readers:

"The proposal quickly drew fire from conservatives who saw it as a retreat from earlier spending cuts and a betrayal by senior Republicans."

A reporter would write this sentence:

"The proposal quickly drew fire from conservatives who claimed to see it as a retreat from earlier spending cuts and a betrayal by senior Republicans."


Comments (4)Add Comment
written by JDM, December 11, 2013 5:08
A reporter who really wanted to be accurate would write this sentence:

"The proposal quickly drew fire from conservatives whose long history tells us they're almost certainly lying when they claim to see it as a retreat from earlier spending cuts and a betrayal by senior Republicans."
Why Doesn't the NYT Talk About the Great Inversion Instead?
written by Last Mover, December 11, 2013 5:51

Seriously, somebody at the Harvard Business Review finally gets it.


Umair Haque at the link above calls it the Great Inversion instead of the Great Recession.

This is the first generation of Americans in modern history expected to enjoy lower living standards than their forebears.

It is the first generation in modern history whose life expectancy is dwindling. It is the first generation of modern Americans whose educational attainment is declining. It is the first generation of modern Americans who face less opportunity than their parents.

Shorter, nastier, dumber, harder, bleaker. That’s the future for not only Americans, but for many in the world’s richest countries.

Let me be clear why this is so remarkable. It’s not that the great wheel of prosperity is merely decelerating. It is that it actually seems to be turning backwards. The great wheel of progress already ground to a halt—several decades ago, if measured in terms of average incomes. And the real danger now? That it may be beginning to spin—in reverse.

The ratio of debt to GDP in 1946 was 122% and fell steadily under all Presidents through the Carter administration to 33%, then began climbing again with Reagan, took a dip under Clinton then kept going up.

And all MSM and the sock puppets for the rich can talk about are "entitlements" and the "debt" caused by them. Who is THEM Kemosabe?

As Umair Haque says:

Economics has no language—no word—to describe this condition: one in which the economy is “growing” but human progress is reversing. It’s not a depression—for that’s a situation where growth flatlines. It’s
not a recession—for that’s just a temporary setback in growth. A “dark age” would signify both a decline in growth and a decline in living standards.

We have no words for this condition because economics has no concepts with which to fully grapple with—let alone understand—it. And economics has no concepts with which to understand this condition because economics believes, more or less, that it simply isn’t possible.

Progress cannot go backwards when an economy is “growing”; because growth, as I’ve noted, is believed by the acolytes of the cult of economics to be the alpha and omega of human prosperity.

It's more than just "the government caused it." It's more than just "the private sector caused it". It's more than just "a particular President caused it."

And for the love of Almighty God in Heaven or Hell it's more than Social Security and Medicare could ever cause anything.

It's The Great Inversion of America.
written by Kat, December 11, 2013 9:33
I'm pretty certain that Tom Friedman's column celebrating the leadership of Nelson Mandela was a stealth plea for entitlement "reform". Also, today Bill Edsall threw out the latest salvo in the "let's not get carried away with this populism thing" front. They really should consider slipping some deficit hysteria into the articles in their Well section since it seems so popular. Might I suggest "researchers discover link between grammas's fat SS check and childhood obesity". That should cover it.
Hail Freedonia!
written by Jennifer, December 11, 2013 9:38
It's great to see that long-form piece in the Times regarding homeless children has really informed their budget coverage. With the current levels of unemployment and poverty the proposed budget is repulsive. It's telling that most media coverage has focused on the Republican reaction, as the Democrat reaction is hardly worth noting (cue the hand-wringing), this is worth noting as well:
"For Democrats and their negotiator, Ms. Murray, the deal is a turning point in the spending wars that have dominated the Capitol since Republicans swept to control of the House in 2011."
I guess "turning point" in that they have completely capitulated to the center-right, and have no interest in fighting for most of the population.

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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.