Friday, December 17, 2010

Rashomon Journalism

The tax deal has passed. Here's how some of the media portrayed the story:

The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Congress at midnight Thursday approved an $801 billion package of tax cuts and $57 billion for extended unemployment insurance. The vote sealed the first major deal between President Obama and Congressional Republicans as Democrats put aside their objections and bowed to the realignment of power brought about by their crushing election losses.

The bipartisan support for the tax deal also underscored the urgency felt by the administration and by lawmakers in both parties to prop up the still-struggling economy and to prevent an across-the-board tax increase that was set to occur if the rates enacted under President George W. Bush had expired, as scheduled, at the end of the month.


TRANSLATION: The Democrats caved and voted for a tax cut extension in order to help an economy that hasn't been helped by said tax cuts previously. Also, this is the first time Obama and Republicans have agreed on anything.

The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON — The House passed an $858 billion package of extended tax cuts and stimulus spending late last night, saving at least hundreds of dollars for nearly all Americans and heralding the first broad bipartisan compromise of the Obama presidency.

The 277-to-148 vote was a political victory for President Obama, who made the case for compromise over complaints from the base of the Democratic Party. Some longtime Obama backers fought the president’s deal late into the night, contending that he had let middle-class America down by not fighting harder to keep a campaign promise: end the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans.


TRANSLATION: Obama went back on his word, but in doing so he got something done.

AP (via yahoo.com)

WASHINGTON – A massive bipartisan tax package preventing a big New Year's Day tax hike for millions of Americans is on its way to President Barack Obama for his signature Friday.

The measure would extend tax cuts for families at every income level, renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed and enact a new one-year cut in Social Security taxes that would benefit nearly every worker who earns a wage.

The president is expected to sign the bill Friday afternoon.

In a remarkable show of bipartisanship, the House gave final approval to the measure just before midnight Thursday, overcoming an attempt by rebellious Democrats who wanted to impose a higher estate tax than the one Obama agreed to. The vote was 277-148, with each party contributing an almost identical number of votes in favor (the Democrats, 139 and the Republicans, 138).

TRANSLATION: Those nonconformists Democrats tried to foil the President's plan to help struggling families, but fortunately some of them saw the light and voted with the GOP to pass the tax cuts.


Sigh. Of course what none of these introductions do is state the obvious, like:

  1. The Congressional Democrats did this to themselves by not voting on the issue before the midterms;
  2. The GOP's plan was to essentially hold Congress hostage until this issue was addressed;
  3. By including some tweaks that didn't exist before, this is no longer "an extension of the Bush Tax Cuts" but rather "the creation of the Obama tax cuts;" or
  4. HOW THIS SHIT IS BEING PAID FOR.
Of course, this isn't about details; it's about drama. This is the unofficial first issue of the 2012 Presidential Campaign. And as long as the political media treat what's going on in Washington as if they're E!, than this will continue.

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