10/18/2011 01:30 pm ET | Updated Dec 18, 2011

Not All 'American Jobs Acts' Are Created Equal, But They'll Be Covered As If They Were!

Over at the Plum Line, Greg Sargent makes an earnest plea for the media to examine the two competing job plans -- the White House's "American Jobs Act" and the Senate GOP's "Real American Jobs Act" -- and answer a basic question about it:

In the view of experts, are both parties making a serious and legitimate contribution to the debate over what to do about a severe national crisis that's causing suffering among millions and millions of Americans? Or is only one party making a real contribution to that debate?

Well, just off the top of the dome, the fact that the GOP named their bill the "Real American Jobs Act" sort of gives away the game, doesn't it? The weird sense of juvenile competition and lack of originality in response is pretty telling. It calls to mind the famous Adams Morgan Pizza Shop Signage Wars, in which two competing purveyors of "jumbo slices" got into a death match with signs that read "Original Jumbo Slice" and "Real Original Jumbo Slice" (all the while failing to factor in the fact that each of their pizzas represented a Category 4 Gastric Disaster).

Beyond that, I'll point out that if you're like Menzie Chinn of Econbrowser and you follow the wrong link to the "Real American Jobs Act," you end up on a page that looks like this:

So, yeah, it's pretty clear which jobs bill is the serious one. But Sargent wonders why basic facts about the competing plans aren't just being reported "in every single news story about the ongoing jobs debate," with a particular interest in obtaining some independent expertise examining the GOP's plan to the same extent that the "American Jobs Act" was scrutinized. Wouldn't it be worthwhile to simply take all of the information that Sargent's gathered on the two plans, and compare them side by side? Well, good news then, because I went ahead and did that for you.

Okay, full disclosure, the final line of that chart is my own conclusion, but it's really not that far off from Sargent's most compelling hypothesis for why the comparative coverage of the two "jobs plans" seems so out of whack:

Reporters and editors don't take the GOP jobs plan seriously enough to have it evaluated by independent experts. But if this is the case, isn't this something readers and viewers should know about? News consumers who read or view stories about the GOP jobs plan without being told this vital information risk coming away thinking that both sides are making an equally serious contribution to the debate. If reporters and editors don't believe this, isn't that pertinent info for their customers?

The thing is, I think that the press sincerely believes they are serving their customers well -- it's just that they believe their customers want to passively sample horse-race political stenography, as opposed to informed conclusions about how distinct policy alternatives impact the lives of ordinary people. They believe that their "consumers" want "the view from nowhere," and this is how that works.

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