If a congressional Democrat blocks economic relief efforts, and no one bothers to report it, does it really happen? The editors at CNNMoney.com are apparently on a quest to find the answer.
After weeks of pounding Republicans for stalling unemployment benefits in the Senate, the site is suddenly disinterested in doing the same to Democrats.
The political battle du jour? Republicans and moderate Democrats want to continue tax cuts set to expire across the board. Liberals want to preserve the cuts for lower-income families while revoking those for the wealthy.
This time Republicans are the ones with bipartisan support while infighting among Democrats is causing delay. Yet while reporting on the breakdown, CNN Money managed to write 500 words without saying the word Democrat once. Prepare yourself for the vaguest explanation one could possibly write:
Get ready for a smaller paycheck.
At least that's what could happen if Congress doesn't approve President Obama's proposal to extend the Making Work Pay tax credit soon. [...]
In his $3.8 trillion budget for 2011, Obama proposed a year-long extension to the Making Work Pay credit and pushed to make the tax cuts passed during the Bush administration permanent, except those aiding households that earn more than $250,000 a year.
If the extension isn't passed, the 110 million families that received higher paychecks in 2009 and 2010 will be back to where they started and will owe more taxes than they did during those two years.
And because of the steep cost of keeping the Making Work Pay tax break around -- about $60 billion to extend it one year -- Marr said he wouldn't be surprised if Congress doesn't end up passing the extension.
That's as deep as it gets. Nameless members of unknown parties in Congress are finding themselves unable to approve something President Obama is asking for. When faced with a choice between tax relief in a recession or losing out on $60 billion, lawmakers suddenly need to slow down and think about it.
Fortunately, some news sources are doing a better job. The Financial Times on Sunday reported all the gritty details that CNN Money didn't want readers to see:
If the Obama administration has its way, the highest tax rate for high-income earners would rise from 35 per cent to 39.6 per cent, while capital gains and dividend taxes would also increase for richer Americans from 15 per cent to at least 20 per cent.
Some members of the president's own party are nervous. Last week, Kent Conrad, the North Dakota Democrat who chairs the Senate budget committee, said Congress might want to keep tax rates where they are for another 18 to 24 months, until the economy had improved.
"The general rule of thumb would be you'd not want to do tax changes, tax increases . . . until the recovery is on more solid ground," Mr Conrad said, joining other conservative Democrats in the Senate, including Evan Bayh of Indiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, in opposing the expiry of tax relief for upper income brackets.
As the possibility of defections within Democratic ranks increased last week, both Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, and Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, reiterated their determination to end the tax cuts for the wealthy.
Liberal Democrats are apparently willing to stall tax relief for the middle class if that's what it takes to punish the wealthy. Centrist Democrats fearful of losing reelection are siding with Republicans on the grounds that no tax increase is worth the political fight this year.
And the best that CNN Money can do is a half-hearted report on how "Congress" is failing to act.
Of course, when Democrats are united and Republicans are the ones balking, CNN Money is all over it. Observe the website's coverage of the recent battle over paying for unemployment benefits:
- March 26: "Republicans - in particular, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla. - are balking at extending benefits without finding a pot of money to offset the spending. Extending benefits costs about $10 billion a month."
- July 1: "House Democrats have struggled to get support from Republicans, who oppose the extension because it adds to the nation's $1.4 trillion deficit."
- July 19: "The president focused his frustration on Republicans, calling them out for supporting unemployment extensions under GOP presidents while refusing to help middle-class families now."
- July 21: "The jobless stopped getting their checks in early June, after Congress failed to extend the deadline to apply for benefits. Senate Republicans, as well as Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, prevented the legislation's passage, saying it should be paid for first. They suggested covering the $34 billion tab with unused stimulus money, a step the Senate Democratic leadership rejected."
- July 22: "Senate Republicans, as well as Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, prevented the legislation's passage, saying it should be paid for first. They suggested covering the $34 billion tab with unused stimulus money, a step the Senate Democratic leadership rejected."
Amazing how a mere five days later, CNN Money stopped feeling a need to identify obstructionists.