Monday, August 8, 2011

Bush Did It

Here is an excerpt from a Yahoo news story on the Standard and Poor's downgrade of U.S. debt from AAA to AA+.

S&P on Aug. 5 lowered the U.S. one level to AA+ while keeping the outlook at “negative” as it becomes less confident Congress will end Bush-era tax cuts or tackle entitlements.

Reading this, one would surmise that one of S&P's primary concerns, vis-a-vis the U.S. debt rating, was Congress' unwillingness to raise taxes. Here is what the S&P report actually said.

“Standard & Poor’s takes no position on the mix of spending and revenue measures that Congress and the Administration might conclude is appropriate for putting the U.S.’s finances on a sustainable footing...The (debt-ceiling increase) plan envisions only minor policy changes on Medicare and little change in other entitlements, the containment of which we and most other independent observers regard as key to long-term fiscal sustainability.”

So, in reality, the agency explained the downgrade solely as a reaction to Congress' failure to address the issue of entitlements, "the key to long-term fiscal sustainability". Regarding ending the "Bush-era" (or any other era) tax cuts ("revenue measures"), S&P "takes no position".
Now, one might argue that S&P was wrong to downgrade U.S. debt, or that its reason for doing so was mistaken, but the fact is the agency specifically pinpointed lack of entitlement reform as that reason. Yet, the Yahoo news report couldn't resist the opportunity to associate the word "Bush" with the downgrade. This misinformation, whether its source is Reuters or AP or some other major organization, has now been widely disseminated.

It's the seeemingly minor, yet frequent and pervasive lies and distortions, like the one above, that makes media bias so damaging.

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