Media Blackout: Progressive Budget vs. Paul Ryan (Again)

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Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)

Media Blackout: Progressive Budget vs. Paul Ryan (Again)

Last year Republican Rep. Paul Ryan presented a budget plan that was, according to one analysis, full of "dubious assertions, questionable assumptions and fishy figures." But Ryan's brand of budget austerity makes the media swoon–hence we saw coverage (FAIR Media Advisory, 4/12/11)  of Ryan's "piercing blue eyes" that dubbed him "a PowerPoint fanatic with an almost unsettling fluency in the fine print of massive budget documents."

Ryan's budget was never going to be adopted, but its release was widely covered across the corporate media. He was given credit for presenting a plan to reduce government deficits, even though his plan didn't really do much of that.

At the same time, the Congressional Progressive Caucus released its People's Budget, which raised taxes on the wealthy, slashed military spending, enacted a public option in healthcare and a Wall Street speculation tax–and unlike Ryan's plan, actually balanced the budget. It got almost no media attention. The most prominent story may have been the attack by Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank (4/13/11), who mocked the "starry-eyed" progressives for, among other things, being poorly dressed and coming up with a name for their plan that "conveyed an unhelpful association with 'the people's republic' and other socialist undertakings."

A year later, we're seeing the very same thing. Paul Ryan has a new budget proposal that looks similar to his last budget. As economist Dean Baker put it:

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan did a great public service when he released his budget last week. By throwing a piece of total garbage on the table and pretending it is a real budget plan, he allowed us to see who in Washington is serious about the budget and who just says things that will push their agenda.

The corporate media have rushed to cover the garbage. And yesterday the Progressive Caucus released its "Budget for All" plan. And the media reaction so far? According to my search of the Nexis news database, it's exactly one article, by Bay Area News Group reporter Josh Richman (3/26/12).

It's a good one, though–in that it presents the debate in a way that is almost unheard of in the rest of the press: "Two vastly different visions of how the government should spend its money were introduced in Congress this past week."

Richman writes that "most of the national buzz" went to the Ryan plan–then goes on to describe the Progressive Caucus budget clearly:

It not only would end the Bush-era tax cuts, but also create new tax brackets for millionaires and billionaires in keeping with the "Buffett rule." Named after multibillionaire Warren Buffett–who's pushing the agenda–the rule posits that the nation's richest shouldn't pay a lower percentage of income in taxes than less-affluent Americans. It ends what critics call "corporate welfare" for fossil-fuel industries, includes public funding of election campaigns and provides more aid to homeowners facing foreclosure.

Richman adds:

Representatives of Ryan's budget committee didn't return emails or a phone call seeking comment on Honda's budget plan.

The piece closes with this quote from Rep. Mike Honda, who is on the Progressive Caucus'  budget task-force: "If people knew what the choices were, I think they'd say, 'Jesus, the progressive caucus budget looks pretty good.' "

Sadly, most people never will–because the media won't report the choice in the first place.

Peter Hart

Peter Hart is the activism director at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting). He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra, and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly" (Seven Stories Press, 2003).

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