Friday, January 9, 2009

Hey Obama, Forget The Stimulus Package, And Give Ken Prewitt That Census Job Already!

Where was the Times editorial today on the Obama stimulus package? Still in the planning stages? Maybe the gang is just overworked from finally pulling together a half-baked opinion on the Gaza War.

Still, you might have expected the paper to weigh in on the matter, given its monumental importance to our nation's future -- not to mention the fact that it's the first issue to divide Democrats since the Obama coronation in November.

The Washington Post managed to address it with an editorial this morning that raised real doubts about Obama's plan. "[Obama] alluded to 'tough choices' but proposed none," the Post editorial charged. Harsh words came from several other newspapers around the country with far fewer editorial writers than the Times keeps employed.

The Times's front page story -- "Senate Allies Fault Obama On Stimulus" -- took on the debate yesterday with gusto, treating Obama's plan with skepticism based on objections raised by leading Democrats.

"Senate Democrats complained that major components of his plan were not bold enough," wrote reporters Peter Baker and David M. Herszenhorn, "and urged more focus on creating jobs and rebuilding the nation’s energy infrastructure rather than cutting taxes."

Paul Krugman also managed to move quickly, pulling together a passionate column on today's op-ed page, "The Obama Gap," that excoriated the President-elect for his failure to put forward an adequate plan:

But Mr. Obama’s prescription doesn’t live up to his diagnosis. The economic plan he’s offering isn’t as strong as his language about the economic threat. In fact, it falls well short of what’s needed.

In classic Krugman fashion, the Nobel laureate explained the "gap" created between Obama's stimulus package and what's needed to increase spending. He questioned the ultimate benefit of tax cuts, and wondered whether Obama might be putting political expedience ahead of the country's needs.

That's the kind of quick, daring commentary that the Times editorial board ought to be able to come up with on deadline. These aren't times for slow deliberation. Obama wants to have a plan in place by Inauguration Day; the Times needs to stay on top of his proposals, and use its authority to guide the public debate.

The editorial page shows no such caution when it comes to the 2010 Census, one of its favorite topics; today's editorial, "Census Crunch Time," marks its seventh editorial on the Census in less than two years. (see The Nytpicker, "Today's Editorial About The 2010 Census Is The Sixth One In Two Years. We Counted," December 4, 2008.)

Today's editorial counsels President-elect Obama to move quickly to name a new director for the Census Bureau or face the prospect of an undercount that could hurt the Democrats.

For the second time in two months, the Times is pushing for Obama to name Kenneth Prewitt, a former Census Bureau director, back to his old job. This time around, the paper doesn't even bother stating Prewitt's credentials; it just defies Obama to come up with someone better:

If the Obama team has a better candidate, it's past time to put his or her name forward.

It's also past time for the Times to get its act together, and produce more timely editorials on the grave matters facing this country and the world.

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