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CNN on the “Meanest” Cuts

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Posted on April 15 2011 6:15 pm
Accuracy in Media is a citizens' media watchdog whose mission is to promote accuracy, fairness and balance in news reporting. AIM exposes politically motivated media bias; teaches consumers to think critically about their news sources; and holds the mainstream press accountable for its misreporting.
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From Accuracy in Media‘s Allie Duzett:

CNN’s homepage today featured a prominent link to a page on CNNMoney.com entitled “Meanest budget cuts.” The subtitle of the article reads, “From heating for the poor to removing unexploded landmines, the budget compromise takes the ax to some very worthy programs.”

What is a supposedly unbiased news network doing calling any budget cut “mean?”

CNN has taken a break from impartiality to mourn the defunding of programs it deems “worthy.” Worthiness is in the eye of the beholder, and for CNN to deem one program more “worthy” than another, or even to claim that all programs are “worthy” regardless of cost, is biased.

Strangely, while the title of the article indicated that the budget cuts were “mean,” the seven “worthy” programs CNN featured were not nearly as affected by the cuts as one might assume. Even more strangely, CNN is open about this fact.

In the text detailing the cuts to the first featured program, taxpayer-funded community health centers, CNN explains that “under the sweeping health care legislation passed last year, the centers will actually see a $400 million increase in funding.” So why is this program featured in an article about “mean” budget cuts? Apparently because the money that they do receive will come with “restrictions” that will require centers to “make adjustments.”

In the text explaining the second featured program (“land mine removal”), the article explains that “It’s not clear if the $14 million in cuts will come out of the land mine program’s budget.” This is because land mine removal is only one aspect of the larger State Department project that has seen its budget cut. Yet the cut here is “mean,” even though it’s not even clear that the cut would affect land mine removal.

CNN notes that the third featured program, food stamps, actually received less of a cut than President Obama proposed. (Was President Obama “mean” for suggesting an even larger cut in the first place?) President Obama also proposed large cuts to another “worthy” program, “Housing Assistance for Native Americans” (the fifth listed program). Yet, CNN noted, that program got less of a cut than President Obama originally asked for—by $70 million.  Was Obama “mean” for suggesting even higher cuts?

The final “worthy” program covered—“Administration on aging”—did feature The Heritage Foundation’s Brian Riedl in defense of the “mean” cut, but the overall conclusion of the piece went as follows:

“We need to keep in mind that these programs serve less advantaged families,” said Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow in the economic studies program at the Brookings Institution. “No sacrifice has been asked of the wealthy who don’t rely on such programs but do pay taxes.”

After admitting throughout the article that the “mean” budget cuts were not actually that “mean,” CNN ended on a quotation blaming the “wealthy” who apparently have not even “been asked” to “sacrifice.” Never mind that the top 1% of income earners in America already pay about 40% of total income taxes.

If CNN hopes to be considered an unbiased source of news, perhaps it ought to reconsider publishing articles such as “Meanest budget cuts.”

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