Dana Milbank’s False Equivalency
Dana Milbank has an article in the Washington Post titled “If Progressives Ran the World“, where he condescendingly portrays The People’s Budget, unveiled by the more than 80-member Progressive Caucus, as naive. He actually uses the term “starry-eyed” to describe what he believes is an unrealistic, far-left proposal. Milbank even likens it to the left’s version of the Paul Ryan Plan.
For a moment, let’s put aside Milbank’s mocking tone and utter disdain for progressives, and test the legitimacy of his claims. Is the People’s Budget really far to the left of Americans, as Milbank believes? As I pointed out here, the American public overwhelmingly supports raising taxes on the wealthy and reducing defense spending over cutting programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. The People’s Budget proposes doing just that, by increasing taxes on millionaires and billionaires, closing tax loopholes to force large corporations to pay their fair share, and ending our financially draining and increasingly unpopular wars as methods for deficit reduction.
Contrary to Milbank’s analysis, the Progressive Caucus is far more in line with public opinion, while Paul Ryan’s plan — to finance further tax breaks for the rich by slashing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security — is the complete opposite. Even Obama’s proposal, which Milbank touts as moderate and centrist, is to the right of the public’s position.
Milbank argues that the Progressive plan can’t possibly work because it relies on 80% tax increases while the President’s more rational proposal is 2/3’s spending cuts and 1/3 tax increases. His evidence is that “even Bob Greenstein of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says fifty-fifty would be a reasonable mix.” Suggesting that fifty-fifty is “reasonable”, doesn’t make it the only option, and is a poor argument to base his claim on.
If the The People’s Budget is truly insane, as Milbank suggests, then why does world-renowned economist Dr. Jeffrey Sachs endorse it? Robert Reich, another leading economist who has consistently been right about our economic instability, also supports raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires to decrease the deficit. So does Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. I suggest Milbank educate these experts, since he is so confident that their silly ideas are unrealistic and “starry-eyed”.
Milbank is entitled to his own opinion about what is best for the economy, but to pretend that the Progressive Plan is equally as extreme as the right’s in its distance from reality and public opinion, is disingenuous at best. My intention is not to assign all blame to Dana Milbank for distorting progressive ideas in his reporting, but to highlight the false equivalency obsession that is rampant throughout the mainstream media. The constant need to balance criticism of the right with criticism of the left, regardless of the facts, is a deceptive practice and a rather desperate, pathetic attempt to maintain a fake appearance of objectivity.
Ironically, Milbank ends his article with this:
The Progressive Caucus will win that argument, just as soon as they gain control of the weather. The drizzle, alas, did not let up.
He is right that Progressives are unlikely to win the budget debate. However, it will not be because their proposal is too idealistic, leftist, or impractical, but because Dana Milbank and his fellow establishment journalists, have once again manipulated the facts to satisfy their “objective” and “balanced” ego’s.