The New York Times doesn't know how to write a headline

I don’t understand how they could write the headline,”On Health Care, Two Visions With Their Own Set of Facts” in regards to the debate between Obama and Romney last week. The appropriate headline should have been “On Health Care, Two Visions With Romney Telling Falsehoods”.
It’s another example of the NYT’s false-parity reporting. Every single instance described in the article describes Romney lying about Obama’s law, lying about his own proposals, and lying about other facts.
For instance:

Mr. Romney made a similar claim in an appearance last month on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” At the time, he said, “I’m not getting rid of all of health care reform. Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I’m going to put in place. One is to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions can get coverage.”
But Mr. Romney’s aides later clarified that he would only explicitly guarantee insurance for people with pre-existing conditions if they have maintained coverage with no significant lapses. That could exclude millions of Americans with conditions like cancer, heart disease and asthma.

He’s for covering pre-existing conditions, except for the single instance in which it matters! When you are unhealthy and lack coverage! This is such an egregious example of mendacity, and it’s not like he didn’t provide a dozen such instances the night of the debate. The article headline suggests that there were falsehoods told by Obama, or at least that he has another view similarly divorced from reality, but the article doesn’t provide such examples. Obama’s worst crime seems to be from trying fill in the blanks in Romney and Ryan’s proposals, making reasonable assumptions about how such proposals and plans would work and be paid for. Take for example’s summary of claims in the debate, again trying to create parity. Take the first claim:

Obama accused Romney of proposing a $5 trillion tax cut. Not true. Romney proposes to offset his rate cuts and promises he won’t add to the deficit.

Yes, but Romney is still proposing a 5 trillion dollar cut if he really intends to drop rates as far as he says. How he’s going to pay for that is hazy and vague. He “proposes” to offset his rate cuts and “promises” he won’t add to the deficit, but there is no loophole you could close to cover that amount of revenue, nor possible way to offer these cuts without adding to the deficit.
Obama’s other great errors? An incorrect stating of a true fact (healthcare spending has slowed), a rounding error (5 million new jobs rather than 4.6), etc. Then factcheck commits it’s own classic disgusting parity routine with this one:

Obama again said he’d raise taxes on upper-income persons only to the “rates that we had when Bill Clinton was president.” Actually, many high-income persons would pay more than they did then, because of new taxes in Obama’s health care law.

Yeah, but his statement is true! He was talking about rates, not overall tax burden. Why does this get counted as counterfactual? Or this:

Obama again touted his “$4 trillion” deficit reduction plan, which includes $1 trillion from winding down wars that are coming to an end in any event.

Why doesn’t ending wars count? This is an Obama accomplishment, isn’t it? And it’s the source of a huge component of a the deficit! I’m all for ending stupid wars in the wrong countries. That’s a conservative ideal if you ask me.
If you look at Romney’s exaggerations (I would call them lies), they are much more severe. They include doubling the amount of jobless, repeating the 50% lie about jobless college grads, exaggerating bankruptcies in an energy investment program (less than 10% went bankrupt like Solyndra, not “half” as Romney claimed), he repeated the “death panels” trope, he repeated the often debunked “716 billion cut” from medicare lie, he claimed Obama doubled the deficit (it barely changed at all from Bush), and he doubled the amount of income loss during Obama’s term.
I don’t understand how these sets of inaccuracies are comparable. Obama, at worst, seems to have used the wrong word “premiums”, during his most inaccurate statement, committed a rounding error, and is being punished for applying arithmetic to Romney’s vague proposals. Whereas Romney doubles every statistic, fabricates others, and misrepresents fundamental facts about the state of the country and laws that are passed and on the books, all the while never providing details as to how he’s going to do anything he proposes.
Both the NYT and factcheck are engaging in false parity here. I find it very upsetting when a presidential candidate addresses a national audience with such falsehoods, and they should be addressed appropriately as such by the media. Until then these races will always be between people who will say whatever is necessary to get elected and those who are trying to make an honest effort (if we’re lucky – eventually we won’t even have that). I could never vote for a global-warming denying (or in this case minimizing), pro-choice before he was pro-life, quackery-promoting etch-a-sketch candidate like Romney. I hope for a day when we actually have an alternative vision provided by a candidate, a true conservative, with a small government vision, but one that’s based on details, facts, and personal responsibility. I don’t want tax cuts for the sake of tax cuts, I want a government that will pay it’s bills, and Romney’s tax plan is insane. Most importantly I want a candidate that believes in facts. Don’t tell me pre-existing coverage will exist in your program then have your minions the next day clarify pre-existing conditions won’t be covered. Own up to it! Say, “I’m a conservative, in my vision of America, you’re on your own.” Be honest about it for once, and consistent, and maybe the message would be more appealing. If your vision of limited government also meant no more unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound laws, no more anti-gay bigotry, no more interfering in the doctor-patient relationship, etc., people might be able to get behind it.


9 responses to “The New York Times doesn't know how to write a headline”

  1. NYTimes does this all the time in their science reporting. I’ve had several exchanges with several reporters about the use of “skeptic” when they mean denialist–sadly, to no avail. If the reporter can point to one single (crank) scientist who works for a (usually evangelicalChristian) University, he will say the issue is “controversial” and that the said scientist is a “skeptic”.
    Studies are often cited with absolutely no context or no details about the quality of the study–and no link. I don’t think any of these people have any science background.
    On another note, I’m not sure what you mean by your “ideal conservative candidate” and his/her commitment to personal responsibility. I wish someone would define personal responsibility, which is easy to implement when you have money and a decent job. I don’t think some people (like Romney for one) have a clue how difficult it is to be poor. The poor are painted with a very broad brush by people who likely don’t know anyone who is poor, but are ready and willing to believe any old anecdote they hear about them living like royals on subsistence (or less) wages–and god help those who have a disability income but aren’t in a wheelchair or in an iron lung–they are “obviously” malingerers who should just buy a horse to manage their MS.

    1. I think an ideal conservative believes in a safety net because they understand that people won’t starve, or die of illness. You pay one way or another when people get ill or need food. Paying for care with EMTALA is stupid, and conservatives should understand that. There’s no skipping the bill. Similarly with the safety net. You either provide people with the necessities of survival or they show up in your gated community and rob/kill you. It’s not about using personal responsibility as a shield from economic and social reality. You pay for a shoddy safety net with higher crime, disease, and destroyed communities. At the same time entitlement should not be a default way of life. The instances of the latter are debatable, and yes, overblown by the likes of Fox news and conservative candidates.

  2. Facts are facts.
    There cannot be two sets of facts. Either one of them is a lie or both of them are lies.

  3. R.L. Schaefer

    “You pay for a shoddy safety net with higher crime, disease, and destroyed communities. At the same time entitlement should not be a default way of life. The instances of the latter are debatable, and yes, overblown by the likes of Fox news and conservative candidates.”
    I think one might rightly call this, ” Smug, Progressive, pseudo intellectual denialism”.

  4. I think one might rightly call this, ” Smug, Progressive, pseudo intellectual denialism”.
    Just wondering if you could produce any data to contradict Mark’s comment.
    Oops, you can’t?

  5. Sigh, more political rubbish.
    Covering pre-existing illnesses is rubbish. “Hey, insurance company, do you mind if this guy pays you $500 a month for $200k in medical treatments? You do? Oh, well, we’ll just force you.”
    It’s silly. ACA is a joke. We need a single payer system with guaranteed universal coverage, and I say this as someone who’s conservative on almost all fiscal policy.

  6. I appreciate your reply. I just don’t think that most of the people who call themselves “conservative” these days would grasp the nuance of it.
    Might you offer the same interpretation of “entitlement”–especially as it is used with the implication of dependency? While your views seem to represent common sense definitions, I think they are far from the Fox News devotee’s definitions.

  7. JBC, every system is going to have some fraud, and entitlement systems are no different. But it’s a lot like the voter fraud issue, the right wing news media hypes up entitlement abuse probably far out of proportion to the reality. It’s the old “welfare queens” line again. No doubt, someone has figured out a way to scam the system (Vandelay industries?), and you’re always going to have recipients of public money spending it on drugs, but I think it’s actually a pretty small component of the total entitlement cost. One of the costs of living in a free society is a certain amount of deviance and fraud, and it’s better to have entitlement and a safety net and some fraud, than it is to ensure no one ever misuses the money ever.
    I hope the new Sim City incorporates a slider to let you control this factor. I could just imagine the two ends of it, on the one would be “Berkeley-style tolerance of all kinds of idiocy” and on the other end “fascist jackbooted thuggery”.
    Joe, read some of my other writings on why the ACA is a perfectly valid model. Single payer systems are the minority of universal systems, it’s perfectly possible to have effective mixtures of public and private expenditure.

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