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January 06, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another New York Times Edition)

Max Sawicky continues to dog the trail:

MaxSpeak, You Listen!: JUST SHOOT ME: The Olympic torch for stupidity in economics reporting is passed to John M. Broder of the New York Timesin a story about Governor Schnatzengrabber: "He warned that if the Legislature did not heed his call, he would take his program to the voters in a special election, as he did last year to secure passage of a $15 billion bond to help balance the state's budget."

Posted by DeLong at January 6, 2005 09:29 AM

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Rather than snideness and arrogance, why not explain to the thoughtful readers of the New York Times or blogs why issuing $15 billion in bonds can not be considered balancing the budget?

[Go ahead. My time is limited. Max's time is limited.]

Californians need to understand that going further into debt is not a way to balance the budget, but most Californians have surely believed that their Governor and Legislators did indeed balance the budget and avoided a tax increase in doing so.

There are clever, well educated people who would appreciate an explanation rather than a sneer, so they can make political decisions from an increasingly informed perspective.

Posted by: anne at January 6, 2005 10:08 AM


well anne, i think the NYT sells more newspapers when the story is one of political brinksmanship...they sell fewer papers when they tell voters how stupid they are for electing a nitwit liar as their governor.

also: sneering is much easier than 'splainin stuff...information be damned!

Posted by: sampo at January 6, 2005 10:33 AM


"Rather than snideness and arrogance, why not explain to the thoughtful readers of the New York Times or blogs why issuing $15 billion in bonds can not be considered balancing the budget?"

Anne, on the face of things, balancing the budget by borrowing the money to pay for your spending is an oxymoron--does that really need explaining?

You remind me of one of my clients who, asked to list his assets, included the amount by which his credit cards were short of being maxed out . . .

Posted by: rea at January 6, 2005 10:43 AM


http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/06/national/06arnold.html

Schwarzenegger Proposes Overhaul of Redistricting
By JOHN M. BRODER

SACRAMENTO - A little over a year after Arnold Schwarzenegger did an end run around politics as usual in the recall election that made him governor of California, he is embarking on a new campaign against the status quo here.

In his annual State of the State address on Wednesday night, the governor called on the Democratic-controlled Legislature to enact a fundamental overhaul that would include that most sacred of political cows, the way Congressional and legislative districts are drawn.

Mr. Schwarzenegger proposed turning over the drawing of the state's political map to a panel of retired judges, taking it out of the hands of lawmakers who for decades have used the redistricting process in a cozy bipartisan deal to choose their voters and cement their incumbency. He threatened to take the issue directly to the voters if the Legislature does not act on the plan in a special session he called for.

Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, noted that of the 153 seats in the California Congressional delegation and Legislature that were on the ballot in November, not one changed party hands.

"What kind of a democracy is that?" he asked in his address.

"The current system is rigged to benefit the interests of those in office and not those who put them there," he said. "We must reform it."

The proposal sets up a collision between the governor and the Democrats who control the Legislature, and holds risks for both. Democrats fear the changes could hurt the party, while a bitter political clash could damage Mr. Schwarzenegger's carefully honed image as a man above simple partisanship.

Although Mr. Schwarzenegger rode to office as the action-figure anti-politician ready to take on the entrenched interests in Sacramento, little has changed in the political culture here. Well-heeled interests still set the agenda, and the state still faces a huge budget gap.

The governor made clear in his address that he seeks to change all that. He endorsed a controversial proposal to convert the state's public employee retirement system from a traditional pension plan to an employee-directed program similar to the 401(k) plans often used in the private sector. He proposed a constitutional amendment that would impose automatic across-the-board spending cuts if state spending grew faster than revenues. And, calling California's public schools a disaster, he proposed that new teachers be paid based on merit, not just seniority.

He warned that if the Legislature does not heed his call, he will take his program to the voters in a special election, as he did last year to secure passage of a $15 billion bond to help balance the state's budget.

"If we here in this chamber do not work together to reform the government," the governor said, "the people will rise up and reform it themselves. And, you know something, I will join them. And I will fight with them."

Posted by: anne at January 6, 2005 10:50 AM


Why did we recall Gray Davis??? OK, we had deficits and Davis angered liberal Democrats with proposed spending cuts as he angered Republicans with suggestions of tax increases. ARNOLD is not angering anyone - except for those of us who really care about balancing the budget.

Posted by: pgl at January 6, 2005 11:00 AM


Rea,

That wasn't Anne saying her charge cards weren't maxxed out. That was the governor of California.

Posted by: kharris at January 6, 2005 11:04 AM


Well, a sense of humor just now is awfully necessary :)

Posted by: anne at January 6, 2005 11:21 AM


"There are clever, well educated people who would appreciate an explanation rather than a sneer, so they can make political decisions from an increasingly informed perspective."

Yeah, but it takes a majority to win...

(With all due credit to Adlai Stephenson for the line.)

Actually, what pissed me off most about the Broder story was his warped perspective on Arnie's political grandstanding, not the budget shell game:

"Although Mr. Schwarzenegger rode to office as the action-figure anti-politician ready to take on the entrenched interests in Sacramento, little has changed in the political culture here. Well-heeled interests still set the agenda, and the state still faces a huge budget gap.

The governor made clear in his address that he seeks to change all that."

So trying to destroy CALPERS is taking on the "well heeled interests" instead of relieving Arnie's corporate patrons of a meddlesome shareholder. And taking redistricting out of the hands of the legislative majority is an act of civic virtue, instead of a rather obvious partisan ploy to keep the Democrats from doing to the Republicans what the Republicans did to them in the Texas.

Next Broder will be telling us that Arnie's proposed edit to the Constitution is just a noble campaign to make it possible for Jennifer Granholm to run for president.

Broder Junior is showing all the signs of becoming as much of a fountain of centrist twaddle as his old man.

Posted by: Billmon at January 6, 2005 11:48 AM


I've heard the "Schwarzeneggar balanced the budget with his $15 billion bond issue" line before, too. It made me want to yell. In fact, I think I did yell when I heard it, at my dad, to be specific.

Posted by: Julian Elson at January 6, 2005 12:20 PM


[Be polite.]

Posted by: at January 6, 2005 12:25 PM


Couldn't agree more about "bonds balancing the budget" as nonsense, but what is the accurate and concise way of referring to what they did? Refinancing?

Posted by: trotsky at January 6, 2005 12:28 PM


hey don't laugh just the other day, another credit card company offered to take on my current credit balances.. wasn't that nice of them?.... what? huh? you mean? they're going to ask me to pay them back? awww crap.

i saw grey davis in atlanta's airport over the holidays. i told him how very sorry i was that he was ousted.

Posted by: cali_ at January 6, 2005 02:20 PM


Arnie's minions, the media, will take it to the voters for him. One state of the media, by the media and for the media; we've managed to rid ourselves of real courts, real legislatures and real governors. Making bad movies for idiots is qualification aplenty for us.

Posted by: Ken Melvin at January 6, 2005 02:32 PM


I don't mean to be facetious here. "Balance the budget" has a very specific meaning to most of us who follow US federal budgets, but I think I remember that in emerging markets budget parlance, "balance the budget" means being able to cover outlays by any legitimate means. It may also be true of states, which because of widespread "balanced budget" constitutional requirements, face the hypothetical possibility of defaulting on obligations toward the end of every year. Somebody who knows more about the lingo of state budgeting probably needs to set me straight.

Even if the ambiguity that I suspect does exist, reporters should note the ambiguity and make clear which meaning of "balance the budget" is in use. "Balance the budget" pretty obviously meant "find a way to pay our bills" when Arnie said it. Arnie's use of an ambiguous term may have been intentional, an effort to allow some folks to believe he had done more than just borrow some money. If so, he is guilty of a Bush, and should be called on it.

Posted by: kharris at January 6, 2005 02:41 PM


State after state borrows money through the bond market

[Ahem!]

to balance the budget as legally required each year.

[You mean: to finance a deficit.]

Of course there is a debt to be paid bond holders, but when interest rates are attractive issuing debt may well be am entirely responsible course for a city or state government. Californians might best allow for a tax increase to ease future burdens and allow for more generous social benefit spending, but there is too much opposition to rasing taxes to make the tax option politically viable.

Posted by: anne at January 6, 2005 03:08 PM


Normally, in the context of state budget, one would write

"he closed the budget gap with 15 billions in new bonds"

I think that the "books" have to be "balanced", but this is because some lines basically mean "debt" or "deficit". The person listing his/her unused credit lines as assets could call it "goodwill" or some such.

Posted by: piotr at January 6, 2005 04:18 PM


I have balanced by budget. The Versailles gardening project that I thought was ruined me has been covered by another $50,000 loan. Thank God.

Posted by: Knut Wicksell at January 6, 2005 06:05 PM


..."ARNOLD is not angering anyone - except for those of us who really care about balancing the budget."

This is very true, and Arnold takes his lessons on public fiscal responsibility directly from the Bush Administration. Now if the President would just take his carefully crafted proposals directly to a vote of ....

Posted by: bncthor at January 7, 2005 12:59 PM


Why do I suspect that what irritates Max is not the semantics of the phrase "help to balance the budget", but the very real lesson in the article. I.e. the lesson Tulloch and Buchanan would see in it.

[Because you are wrong?]

Posted by: Patrick R. Sullivan at January 8, 2005 09:21 AM


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