An open letter to Sam Youngman from The Hill

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Ben Cohen
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To: syoungman@thehill.com

Re: Inaccuracies in "Heckled McCain raps Obama in speech on taxes, economy" 06/10/08 05:29 PM [ET]

Dear Sam,

As an economist, aspiring journalist, and political news junkie I am writing to express my disappointment with your recent article
regarding McCain's comments on Obama's tax policy.  As Paul Krugman,
who is one of the world most respected economists outside the beltway, pointed out the
fact is that Obama's tax raise would effect 481,000 small business
owners who fall into the 2 top tax brackets.  The figure of 21.8
million is for all small businesses in the U.S., the vast majority of
whom do nto fall into either fo those brackets.

Though I respect and understand what you do, the fact that such a bold
falsehood was propagated without question is an issue.  The candidates
statements on each other should be the most vetted of all, as there is
plenty of reason to expect distortion, intentional or otherwise.  Next
time McCain, who has a recent history of being wrong often, says something don't just assume its accurate because his lips spoke the words.

Also on a slightly more personal note I was offended by your wholesale
appropriation of the term 'tax and spend liberal'.  That is a canard.
First all governments are tax and spend.  That's like saying you earn
an income and then pay your bills: how else is it supposed to operate?
Second it is not as if there are no taxes in America right now.  Bush
cut them, he didn't eliminate them.  And he spent a ton to boot...all
on his foolish military adventures.  The difference is, and the
implication when it is said by the right, is the Democrats will use
money to help poor people, where as Republicans will give it back to
you.  By adopting that term, you are complicit in propagating the myth
the Democrats are fiscally irresponsible and the the myth the social
programs and government regulation do not work and aren't necessary.

I would very much like to talk to you further about this, as I believe
there are many factual inaccuracies that have been reported for so long
they are now conventional wisdom that must be acknowledged before the
political discourse in America can truly improve.  As a journalist,
you must protect the interest of the people.  You should verify the
accuracy of all candidates statements, including Obama's, before
repeating them lock, stock, and barrel.  You are not a PR person, so
passing on partisan statements from any party without fact-checking is
not really in your purview. It is one thing to publish a candidates
statement in full.  It is another to select quotes for an article
without checking accuracy.

I hope this letter finds you well, and that you consider what is in the
best interest of the political discourse in this country when you write
your next article.

Best,

Ari Rutenberg