The Associated Press is a wire service owned by American newspapers, radio and television stations. And it was set up to exchange stories and photos produced for those news outlets. Naturally, AP reports reflect an American point of view. And that used to be the only “slant” I noticed as an editor.
But lately I’ve been seeing stories written specifically for AP, and sometimes these reports smack of political propaganda. Take today’s analysis of President Obama’s budget. Whether by accident or design, it’s a blatant example of slanted journalism. (The President is shown with Budget Director Petr Orszag at right.)
Our local paper in Lakeland, Florida apparently loved it. You see, although The Ledger is owned by The New York Times, it panders to local Republicans, and especially to the right-wing business community whose ads keep it alive (just barely).
Screamed the banner headline on Page One:
“Obama Budget Packs Host of Tax Increases.”
And the first paragraph of the story appeared to back up the headline. But when I read the budget details I concluded the paper was just giving local Republican politicians a free ad.
Someone named Stephen Ohlemacher penned the piece for AP, and I think it’s an example of grossly unfair reporting. Here’s how the report begins:
While President Barack Obama is proposing to cut some taxes for companies that hire workers, his budget would raise a host of other taxes on businesses and wealthy individuals.
The writer predicts “a stiff fight” in Congress, and tells us why the budget isn’t going to be popular. Not to be outdone, The Ledger inserted a derogatory quote from local congressman Adam Putnam, who represents a powerful citrus growing dynasty and can be counted on to stand up for the upper dog every time.
But Ohlemacher concedes that the budget calls for a $33 billion tax cut for small businesses and a $5,000 tax credit for each new worker the companies hire, and that businesses increasing wages or hours for current workers in 2010 would get back the extra Social Security payroll taxes they would pay.
Readers who take the trouble to read the whole story also found out the budget would:
Make the research-and-experimentation tax credit permanent, saving businesses about $83 billion during the next decade.
Extend a provision allowing businesses that buy equipment such as computers to speed up depreciation through 2010, saving them $20 billion during the next decade.
Eliminate capital gains taxes on the sale of some small-business stocks, as long as they are held for at least five years, saving taxpayers $8 billion during the next decade.
The “host of taxes” turned out to be little more than letting the Bush tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans sunset, instead of renewing them, and taxing the profligate financial community, the big companies that ship American jobs overseas and the oil company profiteers.
I think the President summed up his budget much more fairly when he said:
While we extend middle-class tax cuts in this budget, we will not continue costly tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers and those making over $250,000 a year. We just can’t afford it.
Ironically, yesterday Obama was attacked for the $1.3 trillion deficit the budget would produce. Today, he is under fire for “raising taxes.” Talk about a lose-lose situation!
(Click on graphic to enlarge it.)