NYT Bias by Omission Helps Clinton Campaign and Obama Legacy on Coal

August 18th, 2016 10:12 AM

The New York Times did its part for the Hillary Clinton campaign (and President Obama’s legacy) in Thursday’s edition, offering happy talk about lost coal jobs in Kentucky, skipping over some inconvenient facts that would cloud the pro-Democratic narrative, while another story bashing Donald Trump’s tax plan passed up a golden opportunity to revive Clinton’s infamous “dead broke” comment.

In Appalachia, Breaking the Coal Mine Habit – Kentucky Coal Region, Its Industry Dying, Looks for Opportunities Above Ground,” reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg managed to talk around Barack Obama’s war on the coal industry via EPA regulatory actions. (During the 2008 campaign Obama promised to bankrupt new coal-fired power plants.)

Here in the heart of central Appalachian coal country, an economic experiment is underway inside an airy renovated Coca-Cola bottling plant. Most days, Michael Harrison, a former mine electrician and “buggy man” who once drove trucks 700 feet underground, can be found hunched over a silver laptop, designing websites for clients like the Pikeville tourism board.

Mr. Harrison, 36, is one of 10 former mine workers employed at BitSource, an internet start-up founded by two Pikeville businessmen determined to prove a point: that with training and encouragement, Kentucky miners can learn to code.


Nearly 13,000 coal jobs -- and countless more in related industries -- have disappeared in Kentucky since President Obama took office; coal employment is at its lowest level since 1898. In Washington, Democrats and Republicans remain locked in a feud over whether Mr. Obama’s aggressive environmental regulations amount to a “war on coal.” On the presidential campaign trail, Donald J. Trump is vowing to “put our miners back to work.”

But across central Appalachia and especially here in eastern Kentucky, elected officials, business leaders, environmentalists and community advocates are looking beyond politics to wrestle with a question essential to the region’s survival: What comes after coal?

Stolberg’s sunnily optimistic story about turning coal miners into computer coders also omitted the infamous Hillary Clinton quote at a March 13 town hall: “So for example, I'm the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right?”

Also on Thursday, campaign reporter Amy Chozick sounded a bit cocky with the Clinton campaign in “Getting Down to Details, Clinton Twists the Knife In Trump’s Tax Proposals.” The text box: “Focusing on an area where most voters agree with her ideas.”

Hillary Clinton leaned into her plans to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans on Wednesday, denouncing Donald J. Trump’s tax proposals as a boondoggle for billionaires.


Just as President Obama attacked his 2012 rival, Mitt Romney, for paying a lower effective tax rate than the vast majority of Americans, Mrs. Clinton said that Mr. Trump’s plan would benefit people in his own income bracket, declaring that he “would pay a lower rate than middle-class families” if it were put into effect. Mr. Trump has recommended cutting the top marginal income tax rate to 33 percent from the current 39.6 percent, and broadening deductions for things like child care.

Chozick praised Clinton with a faint damn.

Mrs. Clinton, who is sometimes mocked for the attention she pays to granular policy details, has taken particular aim at Mr. Trump’s proposal to cut taxes on what are known as pass-through entities: businesses that do not pay corporate income taxes, but whose owners are taxed on individual profits.

Calling this provision “the Trump loophole,” Mrs. Clinton asserted on Wednesday that it would allow Mr. Trump and business owners like him to pay less than half the current tax rate on income from their own companies.

Even some Republicans who support Mr. Trump’s promise to slash the tax rate on corporate profits to 15 percent, from the current 35 percent, have criticized the pass-through provision.

“While reducing corporate income rates is generally good, the pass-through exemption is a bad policy,” said Kyle E. Pomerleau, the director of federal projects at the Tax Foundation, a conservative think tank. He explained that the provision would “create a lot of behavioral incentives” for people to restructure how they earn income “in order to get a more favorable rate.”

Polling suggests that Mrs. Clinton’s focus on tax issues could resonate with voters, because most Americans agree with the thrust of her ideas.

Almost two-thirds, 64 percent, of Americans said they were bothered a lot by the feeling that some corporations are not paying what is fair in federal taxes, and 61 percent said the same about some wealthy people, according to a 2015 poll from the Pew Research Center.

Many people agree with Trump on immigration, though the Times certainly doesn’t sell that as proof of the correctness of his position.

While the weeds of tax policy can be a difficult sell to voters, the broader issue of income inequality has motivated voters this election year.

Some standard labeling bias. While the Tax Foundation was called “conservative,” a liberal group was merely “an advocacy organization.”

“The tax system is the poster child for all of that,” said Frank Clemente, the executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, an advocacy organization. “It’s through this lens that people really see the system as corrupt and benefiting rich people.”


“Donald Trump doesn’t need a tax cut,” she said. She waited for the crowd to quiet down, and then Mrs. Clinton, whose tax returns show that she and former President Bill Clinton earned an adjusted gross income of $10.6 million in 2015, added, “I don’t need a tax cut.”

That was a gold-plated pretext for a crack about Hillary Clinton’s infamous “dead broke” comment from June 2014: "You have no reason to remember, but we came out of the White House not only dead broke, but in debt. We had no money when we got there, and we struggled to piece together the resources for mortgages for houses, for Chelsea's education. It was not easy.” After leaving the White House, the “dead broke” Clintons bought a $2.85 million in D.C. But Chozick let it pass.