Monday, April 11, 2011

Associated Press Leaves out Important Context in Anticipation of President’s Deficit Reduction Plan

My local paper, the Salina Journal, had one national political story on its frontpage today, an Associated Press article about Obama’s soon to be released 2012 budget. The article, written by Laurie Kellman, had the headline

Obama deficit plan on the way

And the subtitle

President expected to target programs for seniors, poor

Cutting entitlements are among the most unpopular things a politician can do, so a presidential decision to address the issue of the growth of entitlement spending is incredibly newsworthy. But the word target brings to mind a hunter with a gun, as if Obama was going to kill or maim Medicare and Medicaid. Let’s see if the body of the article is any better.
The second paragraph reads:
Much will be revealed at midweek, when the House and Senate are expected to vote on a budget for the remainder of this fiscal year and Obama reveals his plan to reduce the deficit, in part by scaling back programs for seniors and the poor.
The fifth and sixth paragraph state:
Presidential adviser David Plouffe said Obama has long been committed to finding ways for the nation to spend within its means. He confirmed that the president would unveil more specifics for deficit reduction with a speech Wednesday that would reveal plans to reduce the government’s chief health programs for seniors and the poor. “You’re going to have to look at Medicare and Medicaid and see what kind of savings you can get,” Plouffe said Sunday.
The rest of the 13 paragraph article focused primarily on the 11th hour deal that was reached Friday night that averted a government shutdown.
Nowhere in the article does Kellman mention the other ways that the Obama has tried to reduce the deficit. Plouffe, the Obama advisor mentioned in the Associated Press article, affirmed on NBC’s Meet the Press the Obama’s administration’s belief that letting the bush tax cuts expire for the top 2 percent of income earners is an important part of deficit reduction.

Plouffe stated on CNN’s State of the Union that defense spending cuts need to be on the table as well. On top of that the Obama administration has already frozen the pay of federal public sector workers. The Obama administration really does adopt an all of the above approach to deficit reduction, to the dismay of liberals and conservatives alike. But the impression that the reader comes away with from the Associated Press article is that Obama only plans to reduce the deficit by cutting aid to seniors and the poor.
The article also ignores how Obama’s deficit reduction plan compares to the plan republicans have already released. The Republican plan eliminates Medicare as we know it for those under 55 and replaces it with a voucher system that saves money by passing the burden of rising medical costs onto seniors. It also turns federal Medicaid spending into a block grant to the states, transferring more of the cost of Medicaid to the states, which are already dealing with record deficits of their own. There is no way that Obama’s plan would cut these programs as deeply as the republican plan does. The republican plan would also dramatically reduce taxes on corporations and high income earners. The Associated Press doesn’t show how the likely administration proposal would compare to the drastic cuts in Medicare and Medicaid Republicans have already proposed.
Thus the Associated Press gave readers across the country an inexcusably incomplete description of Obama’s deficit reduction plans and gives no reference to how his likely proposals on entitlements compare to those republicans have already submitted. The Associated Press has written many good articles, especially on world news, but let’s hope their future coverage of the budget debate provides its readers with more context than it did today.

Originally Posted April 11. 2011

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