A Friendly Note to the Copy Desk

A FRIENDLY NOTE TO THE COPY DESK….Sam Rosenfeld, who apparently has a better memory for my own blog than I do, is quite right: I did make a snarky remark about the Washington Post’s headline writers last month, and it’s one I should follow up on. It turns out I owe them half a pat on the back. Only half, though.

Here’s the deal: congressional Republicans have cleverly split next year’s budget bill (technically a “spending reconciliation” bill) in half. In the first half they cut spending and in the second half they cut taxes. The overall result is to increase the deficit, but by splitting the bill in two they make that less obvious. Will our nation’s headline writers fall for this trick?

You be the judge. Here was the Post’s headline for the first half of the bill:

Senate Passes Plan to Cut $35 Billion From Deficit

And here’s their headline for the second half:

House Passes 3 Tax Cuts, Plans a 4th
Cost Would Outstrip Recent Action on Deficit

It’s true that the second headline includes a confusingly worded subhead indicating that the tax cuts will “outstrip” the spending cuts, and that’s better than nothing. So one and a half cheers for the headline writers.

On the other hand, Republicans basically got what they wanted. The first headline tells the world that Congress is cutting the deficit, and the second headline tells the world that Congress is cutting taxes. Instead, why didn’t the second headline mirror the first, something like this:

Senate Passes Plan To Add $94 Billion To Deficit
Planned Tax Cuts Would Far Outstrip Recent Spending Cuts

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.