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Progressive Budget’s Media Blackout

No attention for Congressional progressives, as usual
by Peter Hart

Mar 18, 2014 | Media



What if lawmakers put forward a federal budget plan to tax big financial institutions, enact a healthcare public option and increase spending to put millions of Americans to work on badly needed infrastructure projects?

They did. You just didn’t read or hear much about it.

If Paul Ryan had proposed it, you would have heard about it.

We’ve pointed out in the past (Extra!, 6/11) that budget plans put forward by congressional Republicans—especially GOP “wonk” Paul Ryan—get a lot of press attention. But the other “side” of the debate over the federal budget is the one put forth by the congressional Progressive Caucus. And its budgets (which one could argue are more closely aligned with public opinion) tend to be either ignored by journalists (FAIR Blog, 3/27/12) or ridiculed—like when Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank wrote that calling it “The People’s Budget” was painfully reminiscent of “other socialist undertakings” (FAIR Blog, 4/14/11).

This time around the media dynamic wasn’t different. The Progressive Caucus’ “Better Off” budget was released on March 12. And, according to a search of the Nexis news database, it was hardly picked up anywhere.

David Dayen wrote a column for Al Jazeera America (3/12/14) explaining what the budget sought to do. And he noted this phenomenon:

There’s no shortage of news coverage when Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his Republican colleagues in the House release their own version of a national budget, despite the fact that the document has little chance of being passed. But when the 70 liberal Democrats of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) do the same, it passes largely unnoticed in the media–thereby limiting the scope of the debate presented to the US public.

The budget was also covered by Cole Stangler at In These Times (3/13/14) and Pat Garofalo at US News (3/12/14). It was covered on at least one MSNBC show, “Now With Alex Wagner” (3/12/14), where the host declared:

Will it pass? No. But should it be discussed? Most certainly.

When Barack Obama released his budget, a New York Times headline (3/4/14) dubbed it a “Populist Wish List.” While they don’t mean that as a compliment, that might more accurately apply to the Better Off budget—which the Times didn’t cover at all.

Peter Hart is the activism director of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. He wrote this for FAIR’s blog.

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