Why oh why can't we have a better press corps?
My bottom line: David Leonhardt needs a weblog.
This morning, David Leonhardt gets a story about John McCain on page A1--and buries the lead in paragraph 23:
The real lead:
McCain’s Fiscal Mantra Becomes Less Is More: On several occasions over the last year, Mr. McCain has said that tax cuts can reduce the deficit by spurring additional activity that, in turn, leads to more taxes being paid. But numerous studies have found that not to be the case.... During his campaign, Mr. McCain has focused much more on spending [cuts] than on taxes. He has called for the end of earmarks.... They are “a very small part of the budget,” he said, “but so symbolic.”... McCain would consider cutting the programs that the White House has identified as ineffective... has not specified which ones it would cut. In addition to Amtrak, the list includes various programs dealing with Defense Department communications, veterans’ disability and low-income heating assistance...
The printed lead:
Senator John McCain said that, if elected, he would do what other presidents had tried but failed to do: cut government spending sharply enough to reduce the budget deficit while lowering taxes at the same time.... Mr. McCain emphasized his experience working on economic matters in Congress and laid out an unorthodox version of conservatism. After initially opposing President Bush’s tax cuts, he has become a supporter of making them permanent and of pursuing additional tax reductions, saying they are the best way to encourage economic growth.
But unlike Mr. Bush — or other Republican presidential candidates this year — Mr. McCain favors government mandates to halt global warming and slow the growth of Medicare costs. His campaign says it would also cut financing for programs that the White House budget office has deemed ineffective, a list that includes Amtrak...
There is only one number in the entire article--"$250,000."
Now David Leonhardt is a smart guy, and his articles in the Business section are nearly always worth reading. But this leaves everybody who knows about taxation and the budget shaking their heads in disgust. And it leaves everybody who isn't already fully briefed-up on tax and budget issues misled and misinformed.
The article printed is very, very different from the post that David Leonhardt would write if he were proprietor of his own weblog. That post would be very much worth reading--it would lay out the long-term fiscal dilemmas, it would be chock-full of numbers about just how "symbolic" and insignificant earmarks are in the total budget context, it would have references to a whole bunch of good studies of the revenue impact of tax-law changes, it would put the entire budget issue in quantitative context. It would be something that David Leonhardt could be proud of. It would be something useful.
David Leonhardt needs his own weblog. He needs it really bad.