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How The Media Helped The GOP Turn Defunding The Tax Police Into Fiscal Responsibility

Stenography is just another way to pass along lies

No big windup today, particularly because House Republicans can’t seem to pass their plan to hold Israel aid hostage to cuts to the IRS enforcement budget anymore than they can pass anything else. They refuse adamantly to work on a bipartisan basis—beyond the point of reason, seemingly out of spite—so for the time being basically everything is on hold.

But reporters, at least on first mention, continue to describe this demand (defunding the tax police) as a prudent budgeting measure rather than a ransom that will deepen deficits. And the problem is pervasive.

If you watch or listen to the episode, or read the transcript, you’ll notice I cite Jake Sherman of Punchbowl News as the biggest offender. But that’s only because he got the ball rolling on the trend when he broke the story on Twitter, and (thus) got dinged in this Popular Information piece, which is where I got the idea.

But he’s far from the only offender. You can see the same thing here, from NBC News, starting at the subheadline, or in this CBS News article, or this NPR piece, or…


The modal approach seems to be to first echo false GOP claims that cutting the IRS enforcement budget can “offset” or “pay for” anything, then, if we’re lucky, to clarify later in the article or segment that cutting the IRS enforcement budget actually increases deficits (according to independent budget analysts, naturally). That’s a pretty bad place for the coverage to land, because it treats the mathematics as an open question, and thus precludes further examination of why the GOP might refuse to pass aid to Israel unless the IRS is stripped of the resources it needs to enforce the law against rich tax cheats.

And it’s bad as a general matter, because it reveals that beltway political reporters remain primed to launder GOP deceptions, even when they know they’re false, as a kind of appeasement. Which is what this episode is about.

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Decoding the News
Why mainstream political media misses the mark so often, and how to consume it like a news professional.