False premises and shoddy analysis were on full display on the New York Times' front screen overnight. Carl Hulse's article, "In Fiscal Fight, G.O.P. Distrust of Obama Runs Deep" is not news reporting or analysis so much as an abdication of both.
Here's the deck:
"Congressional Republicans seem to be spoiling for a fight, calculating that the economic turmoil caused by a federal default might give them the chance to right the nation's fiscal ship."
Please lord, tell us what evidence there is that the GOP has an iota of interest in righting "the nation's fiscal ship"?
When Republican presidents are in office, deficits are irrelevant. Vice President Dick Cheney said, in fact, "deficits don't matter." David Stockman, Ronald Reagan's first budget director, has been explaining for thirty years to anyone who will listen that deficits were a front for pushing the GOP's real agenda. That agenda -- to pass tax breaks on the wealthy and remove other barriers to wealth accumulation while dismantling social programs for the rest and then insisting that they care about our "children and grandchildren." The term, which conservative media happily bandied about when their team occupied the oval office was "strategic deficits." And the current GOP budget guru, Paul Ryan, has been exposed repeatedly as a fraud on budgetary matters. And there's plenty of evidence that the interest of the GOP freshmen in deficit reduction is also a matter of rhetorical convenience, not principle.
How is it then that Hulse can write a straight-faced memo about the GOP's desire to bring fiscal sanity to the country without so much as hinting that there are reasons to doubt the party's integrity on these issues?
The article itself is filled with self-contradictory nonsense. Hulse spends several paragraphs noting the desire of the freshmen Republican to "spoil for a fight" to reduce deficits, rather than to accept the half-hearted compromises that have been the norm on Capitol Hill. Then, having made the case that the Tea Partiers are deficit stalwarts, Hulse pivots seamlessly to say:
"The clout of the freshmen and other House conservatives was clearly seen in the decision by Speaker John A. Boehner to pull back from trying to reach a sweeping deficit deal that would have taken new revenue while tinkering with Bush-era tax cuts that many House Republicans hold sacrosanct."
Leaving aside the bizarre opaqueness of the language here -- why doesn't Hulse just say that they categorically refused to accept any tax increases -- it's remarkable that Hulse does not consider it part of his job to provide any context or critique at all of the Tea Partiers' position on deficits. Hulse could, of course, have found a large number of economists -- including those who have worked for Republican administrations -- to note that steadfast insistence on deficit reduction, without any willingness to raise taxes, is arguably incoherent and plausibly indicative of dishonesty or detachment from reality?
Much of the article consists simply of quotes from Congressional Republicans about how they want to fight the deficit while the president is clueless, etc. In the entire piece, there is not a single, solitary comment to suggest that something fundamentally does not add up about Republicans' professed desire to put America's fiscal house in order.
And the piece de resistance -- this closing quote, from Austin Scott (R-GA), "president" of the freshmen Republicans in the House:
"The thing to remember about the freshman class is we have 300 children and grandchildren among the members," he added. "We are going to protect their economic opportunities."
Well, to the extent that the freshmen class consists disproportionately of millionaires, that might actually be true. But as a statement of putative concern for ordinary Americans, it's transparent nonsense.
Did Hulse really think he was serving his readers by failing to, at the least, suggest the possibility? Once again, Ladies and Gentleman, your liberal media.