Budgeting Narratives: What should we cut?

For my News Editing class, I am required to document a “mistake a week” in the news, typically articles that are either grammatically erroneous or structurally clueless.

I ended up recently posting an article by FOX News, which completely misled readers on the recent proposals for President Obama’s 2011 budget; here’s an abridged version of my analysis:

‘this story, like its sister pieces from other mainstream sites like CNN and the Wall Street Journal, build a collective narrative around the political binary — one in which the Democrats and Republicans have just two, separate plans to fix the budget deficit for the U.S., completely ignoring their patent similarity (cutting and freezing domestic spending) and those who disagree with mainstream Democratic views (including self-identified progressives or socialists in the Senate and House).

In the article, FOX News only quotes one Democrat while it includes lengthy quotes from several GOP leaders like Sen. John McCain and Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Besides being imbalanced by providing only one “left-side” quote, the quote itself is couched by suggestive phrasing.

”’In the face of criticism from Democrats that the cuts are too far-reaching and ideologically driven, Republicans say Democrats have offered no credible plan of their own.
White House Budget Director Jacob Lew, pressed to weigh in, reserved comment on the GOP plan Sunday.
‘We look forward to working with Congress,’ Lew said three times, without elaborating, when asked about the GOP proposal on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.”’

Lew’s quote is not only useless, but was clearly put in the story to make it seem as though no one on the Democrat side wants to comment on the budget, despite the collection of officials willing to speak — at least as many as the Republicans whose quotes are sprinkled generously throughout the article…this kind of biased quoting distorts an already distorted picture — that there are only two perspectives in Congress on how to handle the budget, which simultaneously assumes Americans would only want one of two options.’

I still stand by this argument that the quoting was purposefully disproprotationate, and believe that today’s interview with John Nichols on Democracy Now! only reenforces the idea that these budgets aren’t two against each other, but rather one of the same.

Nichols mentioned how Obama compared his budget to previous leaders, noting it would include as little spending as we’ve seen since Eisenhower, the very president who said that buying bullets and bombs reduces available funds for schools or health. But Obama’s requests should not be molded as either a financial concession, a congressional dual between Dems and Republicans, or both. Nevertheless that’s the narrative we keep getting. When the plans include cutting energy assistance to the poor — things that are “life or death” situations, as Nicols said, we cannot accept the kind of story line that renders this decision simply “spending cuts.”


Amy Goodman noted that while Obama did propose eradicating some of the Bush Era tax-cuts and raising the Estate Tax (both of which only benefit the upper echelon of society), his sacrifices and de-prioritized agenda of social and domestic spending hurt the American population.

If you ask me personally, I say it isn’t hard to see where cuts need to be taken more seriously and put into practice: defense spending in Afghanistan and Pakistan; military aid to countries like Israel and Yemen who abuse their military finances to oppress others; taxes on financial transactions and corporate loopholes that continue to lead the parade of deception at Wall Street — there’s PLENTY being left out of this narrative, and while some individuals in the mass media certainly address these issues (Paul Krugman at The Times, for instance), there is not enough holistic coverage out there.

The indy media helps reshape and reorganize the national perspective of what constitues an ethically sound budget, but we need more people out there listening, too!


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