The Dumb Question That Reporters Need To Ask Republicans About the "Fiscal Cliff"

A blog about business and economics.
Nov. 12 2012 3:05 PM

The Dumb Question That Reporters Need To Ask Republicans About the "Fiscal Cliff"

Sometimes political reporters' sophistication and knowledge of American politics becomes an impediment to audience understanding. For example, news coverage these days is dominated by the debate between the White House and House Speaker John Boehner over the looming expiration of the Bush tax cuts.

But these articles almost never explain why the Bush tax cuts are expiring. The answer is pretty obvious—they're expiring because the law was written with a sunset provision in place. But why do that? It seems like an obvious question to ask. But reporters tend not to ask it because everyone who follows American politics closely thinks that we already know. The tax cuts were written with a sunset in place in order to disguise their true cost in a 10-year budget window. But as far as I know, the authors never actually said that on the record and still haven't said it today. But it seems like a natural issue to raise. After all, if the tax cuts only looked prudent because of scoring window games that constitutes a strong prima facie case for scaling them down.

Advertisement

Even if you don't buy that, it's an interesting process story. Suppose that Bush and congressional Republicans had settled for a smaller tax cut without a sunset provision. If they'd done that, President Obama would have low leverage today and no realistic shot of raising taxes. So do Republicans think, in retrospect, that they made a tactical error? Shouldn't they have locked the low rates into place?

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.