From March 23, 2010 – Comparison of Sun editorial and NYT Op-Ed

Earlier this week I wrote about the amazing similarities between a January 7th Lowell Sun editorial and a January 5th Boston Globe article (which Gerry Nutter investigated further HERE). In a comment to my post, Mike Luciano alluded to a piece he had written several years ago in which he identified another case of “amazing similarities” between a Sun editorial and a New York Times Op-Ed column. Although Mike’s original post is not now on this site due to past technical difficulties, I dug through my backup files and retrieved it. The following post, by Mike Luciano, originally appeared here on March 23, 2010 under the title “Copy and paste journalism in the Lowell Sun”:

Mike Luciano has offered his critiques of the Lowell Sun’s editorial page on this site before. Today, he sent along a comparison of an Op-Ed piece by Douglas Holtz-Eakin (former head of the Congressional Budget Office during the George W Bush administration) that appeared in Saturday’s New York Times and an editorial that appeared in today’s Lowell Sun. Mike helpfully highlighted lines from both articles that looked remarkably alike. Here’s what Mike wrote:

As I was reading today’s Lowell Sun editorial titled “Obamacare will cripple the U.S.,” a strong sense of deja  vu overcame me. And then I realized that I had already read an incredibly similar Op-Ed by former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin in the New York Times over the weekend. In that Op-Ed, Holtz-Eakin presents his own figures about how much the recently passed health reform bill will cost. They may be accurate; they may not. That is immaterial to this post. What is relevant is the fact that these projections are Holtz-Eakin’s and his alone. But amazingly, the Lowell Sun cites four of Holtz-Eakin’s statistics in the exact order he lays them out while at a few points even using the same words as Holtz-Eakin. Worst of all, the Sun never credits him or the Times. To be clear, Holtz-Eakin is the only source for these numbers, so it’s a bit strange that a newspaper would cite them authoritatively and without attribution.

See for yourself:

1a. On March 20, Mr. Holtz-Eakin wrote:

The health care reform legislation would raise, not lower, federal deficits, by $562 billion
…To operate the new programs over the first 10 years, future Congresses would need to vote for $114 billion in additional annual spending. But this so-called discretionary spending is excluded from the Congressional Budget Office’s tabulation.

1b. On March 23, the Lowell Sun wrote:

The end result is that the newly approved health-care reform legislation will raise the federal deficits by $562 billion. Additionally, Congress will need to vote another $114 billion in additional annual spending to operate the new programs during the first decade. This money isn’t even included in the Congressional Budget Office’s calculations.

2a. On March 20, Holtz-Eakin wrote:

Gimmick No. 1 is the way the bill front-loads revenues and backloads spending. That is, the taxes and fees it calls for are set to begin immediately, but its new subsidies would be deferred so that the first 10 years of revenue would be used to pay for only 6 years of spending.

2b. On March 23, the Lowell Sun wrote:

The health-care reform legislation hides much of the cost by front-loading revenues and back-loading expenditures. Taxes and fees designed to pay for the measure will begin immediately, but new subsidies will be deferred. Thus, the nation will use 10 years of revenue to pay for only six years of spending.

3a. On March 20, Holtz-Eakin wrote:

In addition to this accounting sleight of hand, the legislation would blithely rob Peter to pay Paul. For example, it would use $53 billion in anticipated higher Social Security taxes to offset health care spending. Social Security revenues are expected to rise as employers shift from paying for health insurance to paying higher wages. But if workers have higher wages, they will also qualify for increased Social Security benefits when they retire. .

3b. On March 23, the Lowell Sun wrote:

Another monetary concern that has been swept under the rug is the fact that the legislation calls for using $53 billion in anticipated higher Social Security taxes to offset health-care spending. The Social Security revenues are expected to increase as employers move from funding health insurance to paying higher wages. Of course, if employees make more money, they will qualify for increased Social Security benefits upon retirement.

4a. On March 20, Holtz-Eakin wrote:

Finally, in perhaps the most amazing bit of unrealistic accounting, the legislation proposes to trim $463 billion from Medicare spending and use it to finance insurance subsidies. But Medicare is already bleeding red ink, and the health care bill has no reforms that would enable the program to operate more cheaply in the future. Instead, Congress is likely to continue to regularly override scheduled cuts in payments to Medicare doctors and other providers.

4b. On March 23, the Lowell Sun wrote:

Perhaps saddest of all is the ridiculous estimate of $463 billion in annual Medicare savings. Medicare is already suffering from a considerable deficit, and no changes have been proposed to alter that situation. The likely scenario is that doctors, nurses and other health-care providers will see their payments again reduced.

Many high school and college students try to pull this stuff all the time. Copy and paste a few lines, change a word here, change a word there, no citation, and boom! It’s as good as an original work. Except this isn’t a teenager who procrastinated right up until the deadline. This is Lowell’s only newspaper, and it just screwed up bigtime.