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NYT Adopts Conservative Jargon

By Brendan Nyhan

Since when do New York Times reporters use "big government" as an adjective? The lede of a Jackie Calmes story on Friday predicts "a new round of big-government financial regulation" that is vaguely attributed to "experts":

Modernizing the nation's New Deal-era defenses against financial disaster is not high among the priorities that either Barack Obama or John McCain list for the next president. But events could well plop the issue right in the middle of the winner's plate.

After a string of financial scandals and crises, a quarter century of deregulation and free-market experimentation is giving way to a new round of big-government financial regulation, regardless of who captures the White House, experts say.

Though a single expert (Alan Greenspan) is quoted expressing opposition to aggressive new regulation, the characterization of proposed rule changes as "big-government" is an embellishment added by Calmes. It's reminiscent of the way that newspapers adopted the jargon of "death tax" and "partial birth abortion" in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

What's especially striking is that the Times, which is frequently accused of having a liberal bias, used language that is more conservative than even the Bush White House. In a recent interview with Tom Brokaw on Meet the Press, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson called for "[m]ore modern regulation":

[W]e have a regulatory system that is very outdated. It was put in place many years ago, and...

MR. BROKAW: There's going to have to be more modern regulation...

SEC'Y PAULSON: Yes, absolutely.

MR. BROKAW: ...of Wall Street across the board.

SEC'Y PAULSON: Across the board. More modern regulation and more authorities.

Liberal media critics, take note.

Brendan blogs at