Re: NYTimes and media bias -- was RE: greenspan (and more media bias)

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From: Matt Jensen (
Date: Tue Jan 30 2001 - 16:02:54 PST

That's not quite what I'd call "media bias", Yangkun; it's clearly-marked
opinion. Even if all of Mr. Seligman's facts and conclusions are valid, he
is not providing (nor does he claim to provide) an example of media bias.
Not in the sense of (allegedly) biased reporting, which is what the
Greenspan thread was about.

Mr. Seligman made it clear that he was searching through NYTimes
editorials, not news articles. And he claimed that the editorial writers
preferred to keep taxes high, but he didn't claim that that affects NYT
news reporting. Of course, editorial opinions can affect reporting (just
look at FAIR's analysis of 20/20 [1]). But most reporters fight those
pressures, and hasn't been shown by this Forbes commentary.

Now, as to the facts in Mr. Seligman's opinion piece, I started
fact-checking it and stopped after the first factual claim. He wrote that
federal revenues are over 20% of GDP, and it's the first time since WWII.
I looked up the report he cites[2], and factually it is true, but
misleading. Taxes have been about 18% of GDP since the 1950s, not very
far from 20%. And taxes have been greater than 19% numerous times (4
times before Clinton).

If you want to see a simple chart of Revenue as % of GDP since WWII, I've
made one, from Mr. Seligman's source, at . I've also included a graph of
the turnaround from budget deficits to budget surpluses, which seems to
coincide with the bump up from 18% to 20% [3].
-Matt Jensen

[1] For example, John Stossel is in a strange position. He offers
opinions, but he's generally treated as a reporter. Yet producers and
staffers have been told to bury evidence that disagrees with the opinion
he wants to take. See
Also, see FAIR's comments on Victor Neufeld, 20/20's executive producer,
in 1994. For example, "[his] wife is a PR agent who has represented the
nuclear, chemical, and plastics industries," and "[s]ince Neufeld took
over 20/20 in 1987, the only piece the show has done involving nuclear
energy was a 1991 Stossel segment extolling the irradiation of food." .


[3] The budget surpluses are also due to slowing spending growth. During
Carter's era, spending grew around 13% a year. During Reagan and Bush Sr.,
7.5%. During Clinton, 3.4%. If the revenue stayed at 18% of GDP, and if
spending kept growing at Reagan-Bush's 7.5%, and if there were no
macroeconomic feedback to this (i.e., if the economy grew as it has), my
figures show the deficit for 2000 would have been -477 billion, rather
than a $166 surplus. This are all computations I made from that CEA

On Mon, 29 Jan 2001, Zhang, Yangkun wrote:

> > > The Taxophiliacs > Dan Seligman, Forbes Magazine, 02.05.01 > ... > What I kept hoping to find in the world's greatest newspaper was some > awareness that taxes could be too high. This seems like a reasonable thing > to be aware of, as it says right there in the February 2000 report of the > Council of Economic Advisers that the federal government takes in tax > revenues in excess of 20% of gross domestic product, a level never > previously attained except during World War II. Adding in state and local > taxes gets you over 30%. And yet I cannot find the awareness I am looking > for.

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