Newspapers Saw the U.S. Budgets Slightly Smaller Shadow

     On Groundhog Day this year, newspaper readers may have had a sense of dj vu reading about budget cuts in a narrowly-passed bill which scales back increases in government spending. But instead of a Bill Murray comedy, the media presented a slasher flick. The Washington Post and The New York Times cast congressional Republicans as the axe murderers, even though a federal budget expert found the projected reductions in spending paltry compared to budgets from the Clinton administration.

     While the Posts Jonathan Weisman and the Timess Sheryl Gay Stolberg did explain that the budget cuts were really reductions in the growth of social program spending, both reporters cast the federal budget trimming as full-scale bloodletting, amplifying the outrage from the legislations detractors.

      Weisman rang alarm bells over Medicaid changes which would impose new costs on 13 million poor recipients and end insurance coverage for 65,000 Medicaid enrollees, while Stolberg portrayed the final vote as an agonizing call for moderate Republicans made nervous by intensive lobbying from advocacy groups.

     The motives for lobbyists for the bill were unquestioned while both papers aired criticism of backers of the spending plan. This bill is Exhibit A for special interest and lobbyists at the expense of the ordinary citizen, Weisman quoted the dean of the House Democrats, Michigans Rep. John Dingell, in the February 2 paper. Stolberg also cited Dingells gripe in her February 2 story, as well as reaction from two left-leaning groups, the AARP and Americans United, both of which lobbied hard against the budget bills adoption. Neither reporter consulted conservative think tanks like The Heritage Foundation for reaction.

     Heritages senior budget analyst, Brian Riedl, told theBusiness & Media Institute that $40 billion in five-year savings are remarkably modest when compared to budget bills from the late 1990s, which saved an inflation-adjusted average of $308 billion over five years. In other words, the cuts which the media are now lamenting were seven times larger during President Bill Clintons second term.

     Riedl was also quoted in a Los Angeles Times story on the budgets passage.

     In June 2005 The Business & Media Institute issued a report which documented how the media often categorize reductions in the growth of government programs as cuts.