Friday’s Journal had more of the same on page one, and gave prominent play to a new CBO report that described, again, how bad it would be for the economy if all the scheduled tax hikes and spending cuts go into effect. (A nice graphic broke down the impact of different provisions, according to the CBO.) That’s true, but it’s not news—and it seems unlikely to happen, whether or not a deal is reached by the end of the year.
There is an important “to be fair” point here: assuming the political coverage is accurate, Obama and Senate Democrats do seem to be searching for some bipartisan compromise in the coming weeks. That might mean kicking the can down the road (in other words, calling off the “cliff,” which is an arbitrary creation of Congress in the first place). Or it might mean actually reaching agreement on a big tax and spending deal, of the sort Obama sought in vain for much of 2011. If that’s what’s happening, of course political reporters should tell us about it.
But if that’s the course negotiations take, it’s because important players in Washington chose that course over other possible courses—not because they were at the brink of a cliff, or because they faced up to the “necessary compromises” that had to be made. Readers deserve clear-eyed reporting that says as much.
Update: In the wake of House Speaker John Boehner’s Friday’s press conference, Yglesias has a new column that takes a longer look at the leverage issue. It’s a recommended read.