Today's Washington Post includes an article about voters' misperceptions about the presidential candidates' tax plans -- an article that fails to clarify much about their actual proposals. Here's how the Post explains the distribution of the candidates' tax cuts:
If voters hear any part of Obama's message, it's his vow to treat taxpayers differently depending on their income. Under his plan, lower- and middle-income workers would see large tax cuts, while families in the top 1 percent of the income scale would see an average annual tax increase of nearly $100,000, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
McCain, by contrast, vows to cut taxes for all families, but his plan would concentrate those benefits among the same families who would suffer under Obama. While middle-income families would see an average tax cut of about $321 under McCain, according to the Tax Policy Center, families in the top 1 percent would see an average tax cut of nearly $49,000.
Notice anything missing? The Post tells us the "average tax cut" for "middle-income families" under McCain's plan: $321, according to the Tax Policy Center. Is that more or less than such families would get under Obama's plan? That's a fairly basic question, and one you would think an article about the candidates' tax plans would answer. But the Post says only that under Obama's plan, "lower- and middle-income workers would see large tax cuts." Well, great. How large? More than under McCain's plan? Less? The Post doesn't tell readers. Is it any wonder that voters don't understand the candidates' tax plans?
For the record, the Tax Policy Center -- the very organization the Post relied on for its information -- says Obama would give bigger tax cuts to middle income taxpayers than McCain would:
The Obama plan would reduce taxes for low- and moderate-income families, but raise them significantly for high-bracket taxpayers (see Figure 2). By 2012, middle-income taxpayers would see their after-tax income rise by about 5 percent, or nearly $2,200 annually. Those in the top 1 percent would face a $19,000 average tax increase—a 1.5 percent reduction in after-tax income.
McCain would lift after-tax incomes an average of about 3 percent, or $1,400 annually, for middle-income taxpayers by 2012. But, in sharp contrast to Obama, he would cut taxes for those in the top 1% by more than $125,000, raising their after-tax income an average 9.5 percent.
Claims Palin has been "slimed" by the press because it has made some inaccurate allegations about her record. So now every time a campaign reporter gets a fact wrong they're "sliming" somebody? Adam Reilly at The Phoenix thinks that's a bit much.
... how MSNBC would cover the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks: Rest assured, they are doing so with their normal class and grace: they are re-airing their live coverage of those attacks. So, if you'd like to re-live the horror of that morning all over again, MSNBC's your place.
Otherwise, you might consider checking out HGTV or ESPN for the next several hours.
Editorial denounces McCain's lipstick attack as "silly." But the paper remains dutifully silent about its own lipstick coverage or how the press turned the "silly" attack into a blockbuster story.
For those keeping score this morning, the NYTimes blames the Internet for the non-story while the Post blames McCain. As for the press? it plays no role in the controversy.
Try to follow this logic:
There's no question that Senator Obama did not refer to Gov. Sarah Palin as a pig during his talk last night in Virginia. Although the allusion to lipstick within a week of Ms. Palin's popular line at the Republican convention has prompted a great deal of chatter around the Internet.
So according to the Times, there's no way anyone could suggest that Obama was referring to Palin with his pig comment. No way. But what created the chatter on the Internet was Palin's previous reference at the convention.
First of all, the incessant chatter about the comment has been coming not from the Internet but from the mainstream press, and especially cable television, which won't stop talking about the non-story. (See below.)
And second, what actually prompted the story were erroneous suggestions by reporters at AP, WSJ, and ABC, among others, who claimed the candidate was referring to Palin; claims based solely on the ability of reporters to read the candidate's mind since he made no verbal references to Palin at the time. That in turn was pounced on by the McCain camp as proof of a personal attack.
This whole episode has been a journalism disgrace. The Times' attempt to blame this non-story on the Internet just adds to the misery.
Today's Washington Post article "McCain Camp Hits Obama On More Than One Front" by Jonathan Weisman and Peter Slevin is a textbook example of how news organizations privilege bogus attacks.
In the first paragraph, Weisman and Slevin report that McCain's camp accused Obama of "a sexist smear." The fourth paragraph contains two more mentions of Obama's alleged "sexist attacks" and "alleged sexism." Paragraphs 5 and 6 consist of quotes of Republican members of congress accusing Obama of sexism. The 7th paragraph mentions a McCain "Internet ad charging that the Democrat had referred to Palin as a pig." Paragraphs 9 and 10 report that "McCain allies" think their attacks are working.
In paragraph 11, we are finally told that "Obama aides say the assaults will not work, arguing that all of the accusations against him are a reach, if not fabrications. The sexism allegation stemmed from a comment Obama made in Virginia during a talk in which he did not mention Palin."
Eleven paragraphs in, the Weisman and Slevin finally get around to telling us that the Obama campaign says the accusations are fabrications. Eleven paragraphs into the article, after five different repetitions of the attack on Obama for being "sexist," the Washington Post finally gets around to telling readers that the accusations referred to comments in which Obama didn't even mention Palin.
Also in the first paragraph, Weisman and Slevin report that McCain's campaign said Obama "favored sex education for kindergartners" -- a charge they tell us about again in the seventh paragraph. In paragraph 15 (on the second page of the Web version of the article), Weisman and Slevin finally get around to the other side of the story:
The sex education ad referred to legislation Obama voted for -- but did not sponsor -- in the Illinois Senate that allowed school boards to develop "age-appropriate" sex education courses at all levels. Kindergarten teachers were given the approval to teach about appropriate and inappropriate touching to combat molestation.
Readers shouldn't have to wait fifteen paragraphs to find a response to a misleading attack reported in the lede.
Take a look.
With a tip of the hat to CJR (we told you we loved them), here's an updated tally on the number of times the cablers have mentioned "lipstick" in the recent Tuesday-into-Wednesday news cycle:
Fox News: 98
Here's a County Fair bonus contrast: The number of times each cabler in the same news cycle mentioned distressed lender, Fannie Mae?
Fox news: 20
MSNBC political analyst Joe Watkins wants you to think that Sally Quinn and David Gergen sit around at Georgetown cocktail parties using phrases like "lipstick on a pig" -- and that regular Americans don't understand what all that Beltway fancy talk means:
It's not what you say, it's what people hear you saying it. And for people inside the Beltway, who have heard that term and terminology a thousand times, it means one thing, but to people out around the country who have never before heard that, and especially in light of the fact that you have a candidate like Sarah Palin now on the Republican ticket, the reason why they laughed so hard when he said it is they thought he was referring to Sarah Palin.
But a retired Bristol, VA police employee who was actually in the crowd for Barack Obama's comments, disagrees:
JoAnn Vicars, a retired Bristol police employee, thought Obama's remark was great: "Loved it!" She and several friends scoffed at the idea that Obama was talking about Palin.
"That's the way we talk, buddy," Vicars said, in a raspy local accent.
Like Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias's recent media criticism has been very good. Today, he concludes:
It seems to me that if the practitioners of campaign journalism can't figure out a way to make it so that lying is punished, rather than amplified and rewarded, by the press then they ought to pack up their bags and go do something else.