Bozell Column: The Media's Budget Fantasy Land

Reporters letting Obama paint himself as Mr. Deep Cuts are showing they lack elementary mathematics or political-science skills, or they're simply practicing dishonest journalism.

Jaws dropped across the nation's capital at the audacious annihilation of the truth on the front page of the February 15 Washington Post. The top headline read "Obama budget makes deep cuts, cautious trades." It's another day at the Post, where every day is an April Fool's joke.

Reporter Lori Montgomery didn't exactly say "deep cuts" in her first sentence. She explained that Obama's budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2012 made "surgical cuts and cautious trade-offs." But two paragraphs later, the reporter admitted "the president's offer to freeze funding for domestic programs would produce minimal savings in the short term." That doesn't match the "deep cuts" headline in large, bold type - because there are none.

Post readers could look at the Fiscal 2012 budget outline right under the headline. Projected spending: $3.7 trillion. Expected tax revenue is $2.6 trillion. The expected deficit is $1.1 trillion, "down" from the estimated Fiscal 2011 deficit of $1.6 trillion. What about the "deep cuts" for 2012? Obama's policies actually add $11 billion to the deficit. Any deficit reduction would only come from economic growth and the end of "stimulus" projects.

All this is dizzying when near the end of the Reagan presidency, the entire budget in Fiscal Year 1988 was $1.06 trillion, less than the red ink from Obama's pen.

But the headlines were selling Obama as a "deep cutter." The Post's free tabloid Express carried this weird, blaring headline: "Burned by the Budget: Obama's $3.7T fiscal blueprint would spread the pain to just about every American." The Boston Globe identified "Deep Cuts, Chance of Gains for State in Obama Budget."The Fort Worth Star-Telegram was also favorable: "Obama Plan Aims to Rein In Deficits."

On National Public Radio, reporter Mara Liasson relayed that Obama said his budget freezes "would bring domestic spending down to a 50-year low as a share of GDP." She then quoted Obama saying "this share of spending" is going to be "lower than it was under the last three administrations. And it will be lower than it was under Ronald Reagan."

Let that sink in: Obama, more fiscally conservative than Ronald Reagan.

Liasson then added: "Mr. Obama said his budget did that by cutting that hearty perennial, waste, fraud and abuse, but also by making deep, painful cuts in important programs."

Once again, this is absolutely false. There are not "deep, painful cuts" in Obama's domestic spending. Media outlets like NPR are letting the White House isolate one small fraction of the budget - "discretionary domestic non-defense spending" - and then letting them claim that it's going down, but only as a percentage of the (growing) gross domestic product.

Surely, NPR knows that in his first two years, Obama exploded domestic spending with his failed "stimulus" plan. The idea that they can now let him paint himself as Mr. Deep Cuts shows how they lack elementary mathematics or political-science skills. The alternative is they know what they're doing, making them projectors of dishonest journalism.

Every American who voted last fall for fiscal sanity should now take his placards and pitchforks to the offices of the national newspapers and the studios of the national TV and radio networks. The American people should demand that every news story on the federal spending debate deal with the entire $3.7 trillion budget, not just isolated fractions.

When you change your outlook from Fiscal 2012 to the next decade, it's even more shocking. ABC reporter Jake Tapper was atypically blunt: "President Obama later today will propose a 10-year budget plan that would increase the national debt by $7.2 trillion over 10 years - $1.1 trillion less than if it weren't implemented."

In other words, the best this president can do is oversee bankruptcy.

One major reason we're in this fiscal morass is our national media. Forget any real cuts. For decades now, any attempt to even try to trim increases in growth in entitlements like Medicare have been trashed by the media as "draconian cuts."

Our top reporters have spent the last two years letting Barack Obama spew the insanity that he could add millions of uninsured people to the goverment's health-insurance programs and simultaneously cut the deficit. Now they're calling him responsible for "deep cuts." They truly live in a parallel universe.