For reasons known only to its publishers, the New York Times has chosen to assign reporters and editors to the budget/deficit negotiations who seem oblivious that the politicians they routinely quote are speaking gibberish, without any effort by the Times to explain it’s gibberish.

In this article about the “breakdown” of the deficit reduction talks around Joe Biden’s dining table — a “breakdown” occurs when Eric Cantor chooses not to attend a meeting — Times reporter Carl Hulse dutifully repeats politicians’ nonsense without any further explanation or context:

From Eric Cantor:

“As it stands, the Democrats continue to insist that any deal must include tax increases,” Mr. Cantor said in a statement. “There is not support in the House for a tax increase, and I don’t believe now is the time to raise taxes in light of our current economic situation. Regardless of the progress that has been made, the tax issue must be resolved before discussions can continue.”

Here’s similar gibberish from Senators McConnell and Kyl:

“President Obama needs to decide between his goal of higher taxes, or a bipartisan plan to address our deficit,” Mr. McConnell and Mr. Kyl said in a joint statement. “He can’t have both. But we need to hear from him.”

Any first grader knows that 2 + 2 = 4. Any fourth grader knows that if you lower spending by $2 and raise income by $2 it adds up to a $4 effect. But apparently, any Tea-GOP representative is allowed to pretend this is not true, and the Times will report their statements without noting that senior officials in a major party are speaking gibberish.

A decent reporter would note that any claimed concern for deficits that categorically rules out the revenue side is illogical, indeed absurd. Any decent editor would also insist the story include studies from CBO or other neutral parties pointing out that a huge percentage of the current and expected budget deficits are caused by continuing the Bush/Obama tax cuts. Letting them expire solves a huge part of the “problem,” if that’s what this is.

At the very least, a decent newspaper would then point out that Mssrs. Cantor, McConnell and Kyl all voted to continue these tax cuts and promised to make them permanent, adding trillions to the debt.

A more responsible newspaper might continue to point out, as David Dayen did here, that the same CBO study reconfirmed that if Congress and the White House abandoned Joe Biden’s dining table and did nothing — that is, they simply allow current laws to function as written — the near to medium-term budget deficit would resolve itself. That’s because letting the Bush/Obama tax cuts expire, allowing the health care/ACA cost reduction measures to remain in place, and having Congress follow it’s own “paygo” rules would eliminate the supposedly fearsome budget deficit. But the Congress and White House would rather ignore those facts and pretend that we’re confronting a budget crisis when there is none while the Times prints a story about a “breakdown” in discussions that should not have been necessary.

A decent paper would further note that the difficulty of reducing deficits is compounded by the Tea-GOP insistence that the military budget and our wars be off limits when, they claim, our national security depends on reducing spending. It would point out their hypocrisy in claiming both to protect and reform “entitlements” while dismantling them and shifting costs to seniors and the poor.

Hulse is bipartisan in his stenography, He repeats this total nonsense from Democratic Representative Jim Clyburn.

“We cannot balance the budget solely on the backs of the middle class,” said Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, a member of the House leadership taking part in the talks. “We simply must forge a bipartisan agreement. Failure is not an option, and I hope a bipartisan resolution will be achieved.”

A decent newspaper would remind readers that many responsible economists are loudly warning that cutting spending now will harm the economy and increase unemployment, and none of them argues for balancing the budget now or anytime in the near future, never mind whose backs you use. To suggest such a thing is as preposterous, unwise and infeasible as Tim Pawlenty claiming he can deliver 5 percent annual growth rates for a decade.

A truly worthy newspaper might go further and ask whether we actually face a budget crisis, even in conventional terms, let alone in more reality-based ways of thinking about government financing by nations sovereign in their own currencies. It might at least point out there is a serious disagreement led by Nobel economists about whether the projected ratios of debt/GPD are a major problem, let alone one that merits the deficit hysteria driving current discussions and never mind the timing related to the current recession/recovery.

At a minimum, it might also point out that the long-run deficit issue is about private health care costs throughout the economy, not just Medicare/Medicaid budgets, and this real problem requires a national, government sponsored solution to health care provision, not a budget axe. Since there’s no evidence that an effective economy-wide solution to health care costs is being discussed at Joe’s dining table, there’s no reason to believe that a “bipartisan” agreement would even address the right issue. Hence, we should be happy these ill-advised meetings have broken down.

But alas, all of this explanation and context seems about three bridges too far for Mr. Hulse and his lazy editors and publishers. They’d rather just be stenographers for politicians who speak gibberish and deserve our scorn. What a pity.

Update: The AP gives the same unquestioning treatment to absurd statements by Joe Biden, who hints hedge fund managers will see higher taxes:

“We’re not going to let the middle class carry the whole burden. We will sacrifice. But they must be in on the deal,” Biden said in a speech at the Ohio Democratic Party’s annual dinner. . . .

I wonder who this “we” is of whom Joe speaks?

Still more unexamined gibberish reported by Reuters.



John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley