Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Saturday, February 20, 2010 3:29 pm

Gridlock myopia; or, The New York Times as concern troll

The New York Times is deeply concerned that the partisan gridlock in the Senate is going to keep us from being able to do anything about the rapidly expanding national debt.

That is, in isolation, a logical and legitimate concern. But, as is so often the case with mainstream journalism these days, the article is so contextually anemic that it may as well have one big, stinking fact error as a premise.

The article basically overlooks the many other problems that this gridlock will keep us from addressing. The most important problems include unemployment, health-care reform, infrastructure decay, energy-conservation initiatives and global warming.

This article is a huge journalistic failure for two reasons.

First, some of those problems, such as unemployment, are more immediately pressing than the deficit.

Second, several of them, such as unemployment, health care and energy conservation, are actually contributing to the deficit. And spending on the correct parts of our infrastructure is the surest way to create the kind of long-term prosperity that will be necessary to bring the deficit down.

Why might such a flawed article be published in the Times? I don’t know. I can think of several possible reasons. One is that reporters and their editors have bought into the notion that the deficit is more important, and more urgent, than any other problem. (You would think that employees of an industry that has been so devastated by layoffs would have more sense, but it’s still possible.)

Another is that the article goes the way it goes because that’s the way it’s steered by its sources. And who are they? In a 1,600-word article, only two are quoted by name: G. William Hoagland, “who was a fiscal policy adviser to Senate Republican leaders,” and former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Republican.

But, remember, the Times is a liberal newspaper.

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