Cutting the "Cut": The Difference One Word Makes

December 2nd, 2011 · No Comments · tax policy

By Arthur Alpert

There I was, slaving over a lengthy post about how the Albuquerque Journal manipulates its opinion columns to fit its narrative on political economy when a terrible headline grabbed me.

I’m sorry. The Journal’s penchant for headlines that distort, obscure, ridicule, confuse or promote its agenda presents such an easy target that I promised (remember?) to minimize nailing them here.

But I said “minimize,” not ignore. And I couldn’t overlook the headline Journal editors put on an AP story Thursday, Dec. 1 on A2:

“Obama Pushes Tax Extension”

That’s perfectly clear, right? The President wants to keep a tax going.

Except, he doesn’t.

Mr. Obama was pushing the extension of a cut in the payroll tax, you see.

Now to be fair to the Journal, AP reporter Jim Kuhnhenn’s lead paragraph provided justification for the rubric:

“Blending governing with re-election politics, President Barack Obama roused a cheering northeast Pennsylvania crowd Wednesday as he warned of a ‘massive blow to the economy’ if Republicans block a payroll tax extension.”

So the Journal and AP Washington were in cahoots – big surprise – on postponing use of the word “cut” until paragraph four, thereby allowing casual readers to draw an inaccurate conclusion.

Why? I cannot say.

Perhaps there’s a clue, though, in the original AP story, which ran about twice as long as the Journal’s.

If you have the time, please read the first three paragraphs, in particular, of what didn’t get published. Then make your own call.

Me, I must get back to demonstrating that Journal management would rather campaign for the one percent against the 99 than practice journalism.

Come to think of it, that’s an easy target, too.

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  • Reader

    As Mark Twain said, the difference between the right word and the almost-right is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. How on earth could any sentient editor confuse a tax extension with a tax cut extension?

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