August 31, 2000
comments powered by Disqus
The lead, front-page story in this morning's New York Times is about Richard Cheney's speech criticizing the Clinton-Gore administration's performance on military readiness issues. The Times trots out Democrats posing as "defense analysts" to undercut Mr. Cheney's claims.
Here's how it's done. The Times article says, right on the front page, "Defense analysts acknowledged several of Mr. Cheney's arguments, but cautioned that he exaggerated some of the criticisms and ignored positive trends in the military under the Clinton administration."
Who are these "defense analysts" quoted by the Times? One of them, Michael O'Hanlon, is identified only as "a defense policy specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington." Brookings, of course, is never described as a "liberal" or "appeasement-oriented" think tank, the way that the Times invariably describes the Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute as "right-wing" or "conservative." And the Times doesn't tell its readers that Mr. O'Hanlon's main government experience was at the Congressional Budget Office from 1989 to 1994 -- while the Democrats controlled the Congress and, with it, the CBO.
The other "defense analyst" carted out by the Times is a former Clinton administration official but is at least identified as such. Quotes from Senator McCain and General Colin Powell, who support Mr. Cheney's criticisms, are relegated to the very end of the Times story. The Times relies on a statement released by Mr. McCain. When it comes to General Powell, it's almost comical how begrudging the Times is in including his remarks, noting that "Mr. Cheney's aides encouraged reporters to interview another gulf war colleague of Mr. Cheney's, Colin. L. Powell." It's as if the Times has to apologize to its readers for including the comments of a non-liberal person, explaining, "well, we didn't want to call him, but Mr. Cheney's aides insisted."
It's not that Smartertimes.com thinks George W. Bush and Mr. Cheney should be given a free ride. It's just that the Times's critique of them is from such a predictably left-wing slant.
Pell Grant Silliness: A great example of where the Times could have challenged Mr. Bush intelligently on policy grounds, but didn't, is in the story in today's national section that runs under the headline "Gore and Bush Battling for Control of the Policy Agenda."
The story is written in the political tactics/horserace mold. But near the bottom of the article, we learn that Mr. Bush is proposing a $5 billion increase to the Pell Grant program, which redistributes taxpayer money through the federal government to help poor families pay college tuition bills. A chart that runs alongside the article puts the Bush spending plan to expand "college scholarships for disadvantaged students" at $6 billion.
Well, wait a minute here. Whether it is $5 billion or $6 billion, a massive increase in a welfare program that numerous private and government studies have shown doesn't work is heresy to conservatives and even probably some neoliberals. Economist Martin Feldstein has written critically about the Pell Grant program, noting that it functions essentially as a marginal tax that discourages parents from saving for college. Another expert on financing higher education, Thomas Kane of Harvard University, has criticized the means test for the programs for being "backward looking" -- in other words, the student gets the grant if he and his parents are poor when the student enters college, but the student doesn't have to pay the grant back, even if he graduates and becomes an investment banker. At many well-endowed private colleges, expanding the federal grant programs just means that the colleges can spend less of their endowment income on scholarships and more on things such as a car and driver and a fancy mansion for the college president. At most such colleges, there is already a private income redistribution system in place, because only the well-off pay full tuition. Even an official in the Clinton administration's own Department of Education, John Oberg, has acknowledged that there's no proven link between the Pell Grant program and access by the poor to higher education. He writes that "several studies have been unable to find a specific relationship between access and the federal government's largest grant effort, Pell Grants. One explanation for this failure is that federal student-aid is fungible in institutions' budgets, and is offset by changes in institutional grants." That is a bureaucrat's way of saying that if you increase the Pell Grant money, it doesn't mean any more poor students go to college, it just means there's more money left over for landscaping in front of the college president's mansion. In this case, the bureaucrat has a good point. It would be great if the Times would challenge the Bush-Cheney team by raising issues like this, rather than by carting out partisan experts to deny the obvious on military readiness.
'Today's Reading List': The arts section of this morning's New York Times contains a large story about the Catskills as a topic of literature. The article runs under a headline on the front of the section, reading "Yesterday's Borscht and Knishes Return as Today's Reading List." Inside, there is a sidebar listing "Today's Reading List." The most recently published book on the Times's "Today's Reading List" was published in 1998. Some of the books are as old as the 1970s. Which suggests that the article in today's Times could have been written any time in the past two years. Or else that the Times is a little behind in its reading. Or that a more accurate headline would have referred to a "Last Few Decades' Reading List."
Late Again: A story in the metro section of this morning's New York Times reports that Geraldo Rivera, the television journalist, is thinking about running for mayor of New York City. This is old news to readers of the New York Post, which reported yesterday in its Page Six column that Geraldo was considering a run for mayor. The story in today's Times does not credit the Post.
Subscribe to the Mailing List
© 2017 FutureOfCapitalism LLC