Media villager false equivalency on the ‘fiscal cliff’

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The editorial page of our sad small town newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star, is essentially a subscriber service to the Neocon Washington Post/Pete Peterson Group, which is dedicated to promoting the destruction of social security and Medicare. As I've said before, this unethical alliance between the Washington Post and the Pete Peterson Group is never disclosed in a disclaimer that should accompany every news report and opinion from the Washington Post.

On Sunday, we were treated to more pearl clutching from Ruth Marcus on the so-called "fiscal cliff" austerity crisis negotiations. Democrats no better than GOP in 'fiscal cliff' talks. Note the false equivalency in the caption provided by the Arizona Daily Star. (The equally disingenous original caption at the Post was "You call this a compromise?").

On Monday, Greg Sargent at the Post destroys the Washington Post/Pete Peterson Group false equivalency argument of Ruth Marcus (and the Post's stable of right-wing syndicated columnists). The Plum Line:

The air is thick with mournful predictions that the impasse in Washington is so deep that going over the fiscal cliff may be inevitable.
There will be a great deal of finger-pointing this week over who is to
blame. But guess what: There is an actual set of facts here. They are
central to understanding the current situation, and belong in every
account of what is going wrong:


Acapulco_Cliff_neal1) Democrats have offered a proposal that meaningfully details the
tax hikes they would like to see and contains substantial deficit
reduction, but Republicans have not offered a proposal that meaningfully
details the spending cuts they would like to see.

2) What Republicans have proposed doesn't contain nearly as much in deficit reduction as the Dem plan does.

3) Many experts believe that substantial deficit reduction simply
requires Republicans to drop their opposition to raising tax rates on
the rich.

Those are just facts. The White House has proposed a deficit
reduction package that contains $1.6 trillion in new revenues and around
$600 billion in spending cuts, much of them to Medicare. By contrast,
the most specific spending cut proposal we've seen from Republicans came from Mitch McConnell on Friday:
Higher Medicare premiums on the wealthy; raising the eligibility age;
slower cost-of-living increases for Social Security; new revenues but no
hike in tax rates. The revenue side of McConnell's proposal is too lacking in detail to calculate how much it would bring in; meanwhile, Paul Krugman's back of the envelope calculations suggest his spending cuts would amount to all of $300 billion.

As always, there simply isn't any equivalence here. Even if you think
the Democratic offer is too light on spending cuts, the basic fact
remains that Dems have made a substantial proposal, while Republicans
haven't. Dems have meaningfully detailed what they want, and Republicans
haven't.
Republicans keep telling us that Obama must show "leadership"
by detailing the spending cuts the White House is willing to accept, and
that the Dem proposals are not "serious" because they have yet to do
this. But how are we supposed to know what will count as "serious"
spending cuts, if Republicans won't detail what they want? It's doubly
curious that Republicans refused to do this, given that they keep saying
the 2012 election gave them a mandate for cutting spending.

Look, this is just a sucker's game. What Republicans really mean when
they demand that Obama "lead" is that they want him to propose bigger
concessions up front so Republicans can denounce them as insufficient —
which they would do no matter what he proposed — pulling the debate
further and further in their direction.

Meanwhile, even as the White House has willingly proposed Medicare
cuts, Republicans still refuse to give ground on raising tax rates for
the wealthy. (This basic imbalance is not changed, even if you think the
White House's proposed Medicare cuts are insufficient.) So here's a
simple question for any pundit who is tempted to blame both sides
equally for the impasse: Can you show us how substantial deficit
reduction can be achieved without higher tax rates on the rich? If not,
then both sides are not equally to blame
.

Why Obama is drawing hard line over tax hikes: It isn't complicated. Here's the answer, buried in this morning's big New York Times analysis of Obama's "unyielding" stance:

In his first four years in office, Mr. Obama has repeatedly offered
what he considered compromises on stimulus spending, health care and
deficit reduction to Republicans, who either rejected them as inadequate or pocketed them and insisted on more. Republicans
argued that Mr. Obama never made serious efforts at compromise and
instead lectured them about what they ought to want rather than
listening to what they did want.

Can we stop pretending this basic history never happened?

Why Republicans refuse to detail the spending cuts they want: Paul Krugman gets to the heart of it: It's
very hard to come up with spending cuts that would seriously reduce the
deficit without cutting deeply into very popular programs, which is why
Republicans want Dems to go first
. The problem, as always, is that
cutting spending is popular in the abstract but not when the talk turns
to specifics. And this time around, things are different: Because
Democrats are the ones with the leverage, they don't have to acquiesce to the GOP demand that they propose spending cuts first.

Dems should not get hoodwinked into proposing cuts first: E.J. Dionne makes that argument in his column this morning, and this captures the Republican strategy perfectly:

They seem to hope a deal will be born by way of immaculate
conception, with Obama taking ownership of all the hard stuff while they
innocently look on.

As noted above, this is what Republicans really mean when they call on Obama to "lead." Get it?

The Tea-Publican leadership that has taken this country hostage (again) is the one "not serious" about negotiating in good faith. As Ezra klein pointed out in Obama to GOP: I’m done negotiating with myself:

Perhaps the key lesson the White House took from the last couple of
years is this: Don’t negotiate with yourself. If Republicans want to cut
Medicare, let them propose the cuts. If they want to raise revenue
through tax reform, let them identify the deductions. If they want
deeper cuts in discretionary spending, let them settle on a number. And,
above all, if they don’t like the White House’s preferred policies, let
them propose their own. That way, if the White House eventually does
give in and agree to some of their demands, Republicans will feel like
they got one over on the president. A compromise isn’t measured by what
you offer, it’s measured by what the other side feels they made you
concede.

Obama is very serious about not negotiating with himself, and his opening bid
proves it. The next question
is obvious: What is the Tea-Publican offer? It is Boehner and McConnell who have not made a serious counter-proposal. In fact, Boehner’s latest tax offer is $150 billion less than he offered in 2011. So let's cut the false equivalency crap. It is the hostage takers who are solely to blame for this impasse.

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