Post: Bush Budget Spends Too Much AND Too Little

     The apparently conflicted Washington Post wrote a story that complains Bush’s new budget both creates deficits by overspending and doesn’t fund domestic programs enough.

     The Bush plan, which includes an economic “stimulus” plan approved by the House of Representatives, would end up “forcing his successor to grapple with a range of unpalatable choices to close the gap,” wrote the February 5 Post. Sounds like too much spending.

     Later in the article, reporters Michael Abramowitz and Jonathan Weisman went the opposite direction. “Bush’s budget, for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, is austere except for a handful of agencies including the Defense Department, which would grow by about 7 percent over the discretionary spending approved for the current year.”

     According to the article, the budget “would freeze most domestic spending,” but the companion graphic told a different story. It listed 16 agencies – eight showing increases, seven decreases and one remaining the same. Six of those showing increases were domestic spending – Commerce, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Energy, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development.

     That works out to an increase of $8.4 billion according to the Post’s own chart. The same chart listed seven agencies with a decline of $10.8 billion. That’s a net loss of $2.4 billion on a $3.1 trillion budget, or just a fraction of a percent.

     More telling was the catch-all paragraph where the Post listed what the budget would fund – everything from extending the Bush tax cuts to helping “extend abstinence education programs, create elementary and secondary education vouchers, and guard other White House initiatives.” In summary – more money for defense, abstinence, school vouchers and tax cuts. No wonder the Post wasn’t happy.

     The fiscal 2009 budget would leave short-term deficits of more than $400 billion but “then fall to zero by 2012 if Congress adopts the spending restraints Bush is calling for, according to projections in the new budget.”

     The New York Times ran a similar story February 5, complaining about budget “cuts” that still showed increases. “Notice how Bush is attacked in the Times both for cutting spending and increasing the deficit,” wrote the Media Research Center’s Clay Waters at 

     The media’s aversion to deficits and affinity for distortion when it comes to tax issues are well-documented. The Business & Media Institute highlighted these popular reporting tactics in the Special Report “Tax & Spin: Five Ways the Media Distort Tax Issues.”