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Compare and contrast

As I’ve said more than once, we subscribe to three daily newspapers. It’s often instructive to compare and contrast how an event is covered.

Today the main story was Trump’s tax “plan”, if you can call it that.

Let’s see how the three papers covered it. I’m referring here to the print editions. I haven’t checked to see if anything is different on-line.

The New York Times headline reads: Tax Overhaul Would Aid Wealthiest. A sub headline (is that the term?) reads: Radical Revision of Code, on a Single Page.

The Globe has two articles, the main one bearing a headline: Trump plan takes ax to tax rates. The sub headline reads: GOP says it’s a good start; Democrats call it a giveaway to the rich. The second article is headlined: Breaking down potential winners, losers of cuts. There’s a sidebar note (again, I’m not sure that’s the correct nomenclature), in which Gary Cohn, director of the White House National Economic Council, is quoted as saying that Trump “cares about making the economy work better for all American people”.

The Day reports: Trump proposes major tax cuts. The subheadline reads: New plan with few specifics would also mean huge deficits.

I’m not going to get into the weeds of the substance of the articles, for I think we can stipulate that most people might read a paragraph or two rather than the whole thing. My premise here is that the initial presentation matters a lot, because most people will form their impressions based on what I’ve related above.

So, lets rate them, first to last.

The Times wins running away. Given that it’s a one page document, there aren’t many weeds to get into, but what there is, is clear: the “plan” is a massive giveaway to the rich. One thing it is going to allow the rich to do, in addition to paying almost no taxes, is corporatize themselves, avoid personal liability for their sins, and pay the new low corporate tax rate on their personal income. The rest of us will be paying personal tax rates.

Surprisingly enough, the Day comes in second, if only by a hair. The caveat in the subheadline is probably the least of the problems the plan would cause, but at least it’s not covering for the Donald.

The Globe, for once, loses. The blaring headline about Trump taking an “ax” to tax rates sets the table, since who in this benighted land, where we expect infinite government services without paying for them, isn’t for lower taxes. The subheadline is a perfect example of both sideism. The fact is that one of those statements is true in essence, rather than simply from a propaganda standpoint. But the most egregious sin on the Globe’s part is giving prominence to Cohn’s bullshit about Trump caring about the American people. As numerous people have pointed out, if you wanted to design a tax code to maximize Trump’s wealth, this would be that code. The manner in which that quote was presented amounts to an endorsement of Cohn’s quote. The Globe would disagree with me, and I’m sure they’d be making that claim in good faith, but the fact is that the effect on the casual reader is just that. After all, if Cohn was bullshitting (which, of course, he was) why, muses our casual observer, would the Globe promote that quote? Actually, the musing would never take place, except on a subconscious level. That same observer might discover, if he or she read the entire piece, that Cohn was, in fact, bullshitting, but again, we must stipulate that if one in a hundred does so, that would be surprising.

The Times got it right, and it’s refreshing to see it covered honestly, without, at least in the headlines, any attempt to give Trump the undeserved benefit of the doubt. More of this, please.

UPDATE: Just noticed that the Globe added to it’s sins in the caption to the picture accompanying the piece, in which it quotes the Treasury Secretary as saying “We will unlock economic growth”, an implicit endorsement of that statement as well. 

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