Another Front Page Washington Post Editorial on the Deficit

Fox on 15th ran another front page editorial whining about the budget deficit today. The editorial begins: "Under mounting pressure to rein in mammoth budget deficits, President Obama will propose in his State of the Union address a three-year freeze on federal funding that is not related to national security,..." A real news story would have left out the word "mammoth" which conveys the newspaper's view, but provides readers with no information.

The article then describes President Obama's proposal to freeze spending on the domestic discretionary portion of the budget and tells readers that:
"discretionary spending -- which unlike entitlement spending is approved annually by Congress -- has risen rapidly over the past decade, by about 7.5 percent a year, according to the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget."
Instead of relying on the "bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget," the Post could have examined the data from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (Table 1-3), which shows that non-defense discretionary spending rose by 6.0 percent annually from 1998-2008. That is slightly less rapid than the rate of growth of entitlement spending over this period and considerably less rapid than the rate of growth of defense spending, which is never mentioned in this piece. Non-defense discretionary spending has risen rapidly in the last two years, although this has been primarily the result of stimulus policies intended to counteract the recession.

Remarkably, the piece never once mentions the recession in its discussion of the deficit, even though it is the major reason it has grown to "mammoth" proportions. However, the article did give a spokesperson for House Minority Leader John Boehner the opportunity to mock the proposal for a spending freeze: "given Washington Democrats' unprecedented spending binge, this is like announcing you're going on a diet after winning a pie-eating contest." The piece found no room for any political figure or economist to provide an alternative perspective on the deficit.

--Dean Baker

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