Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Scranton Times Needs an Ombudsman

Most newspapers have an editorial slant. In the old days, it was more apparent. Papers would proclaim their political ideology in their title. The valley of Scranton hosted papers such as The Daily Democrat, the Scranton Republican, Scranton Daily Republican, Tribune Republican, etc. They all wore their political persuasion on their sleeve.

Some papers still preserve that identity throughout the country but many of our area papers have moved away from it…that does not however prevent them from being blindingly partisan on occasion.

Today was one of those occasions.

Contained in the opinion page of today’s Scranton Times was an editorial about the current struggle in the legislature over how best to extend the tax cuts that expire at the close of 2011 in the Making Work Pay legislation passed previously. Also contained in the editorial, was an outright lie. The lie goes as follows:

“Those intrepid anti-tax men of the people, U.S. Reps. Tom Marino and Lou Barletta, voted Wednesday to impose a major tax increase on 160 million working Americans.”

Marino and Barletta did nothing of the sort.

What the House did was oppose the band-aid proposed by Democrats that will cut Social Security contributions for the first 60 days of 2012. And they didn’t just say no. They proposed and passed their own bill that would extend the tax cuts for one year instead of just 60 days as the Democrats proposed.

Republicans also called for the formation of a committee to continue negotiations with the Senate and reconcile the bills. Republicans recognize and are trying to avoid the predictable replay of this exact same fight, over the exact same tax issue, with the exact same people, just at a later date. Presumably round two would occur in February or whenever the Senate decides to return from its current vacation.

Republicans rightly wanted a full one year extension of the payroll tax cut to offer more stability, certainty, and ease of use of the tax code for employers – something sadly missing in today’s economy.

There is nothing stable about a tax code that has the potential to change every two months. Yet, that is exactly what the Democrats proposed. Employers should have at least the certainty of knowing what payroll calculations need to be for the year. They should also not have to undergo the added expense of reprogramming their accounting software every time the government decides to get in a fight with itself.

Common sense dictates that tax codes be uniform, consistent, fair, and workable. Upon careful examination of the Democratic proposal, the National Payroll Reporting Consortium found that the Democratic proposal is so bad that it cannot be implemented properly. And this is from an independent, non-partisan group.

In short, Republicans did not vote to increase taxes. The claim that they did by the Scranton Times editorial today is so far from accurate that it can only accurately be described as a lie.

Even a casual reader of the Scranton Times would come to the conclusion that it is a Democratic paper, even if their masthead doesn’t declare it to be a Democratic paper as was the tradition in years past. There is nothing wrong with a paper having an editorial slant. Most of them do. It becomes problematic when the pursuit of the truth becomes clouded by the pursuit of partisan politics as it was today.

It is even more problematic when there is only one daily paper in town, the offending paper, with no competition to keep them honest.

Given their propensity to veer from the truth into propaganda and the absence of any real competition in the market, perhaps it is time for the public to demand an ombudsman at the Scranton Times.

One can only dream.

In the interim, the editorial staff of the Scranton Times should at least apologize to their readers and these members of Congress for allowing their writing to be blinded by partisan politics as well as a correction of the record, which they carelessly allowed to be distorted to serve the aforementioned partisan political pursuits of their staff.

1 comment:

Matt said...

This has happened forever. The GOP had a health care reform bill in 2009, it was quickly killed, and never publicized. The House has passed many measures to deal with a multitude of problems, but that doesn't fit the narrative, so they are ignored.