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May 07, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another New York Times Edition)

Today it's the nearly-always-unreliable John Tierney, claiming that Social security is in trouble because: Place Your Bets: "Congress spent our money, leaving the Social Security trust fund with a file cabinet full of i.o.u.'s in the form of Treasury bills."

Congress... Isn't it a fact that the *President's* signature is also required on legislation? Isn't it a fact that the President proposes to Congress a budget for the United States for each fiscal year? Isn't it a fact that those budgets--even those declared "dead on arrival" substantially guide taxing and spending decisions? That it is very, very rare for actual spending and taxes to significantly deviate from what the President wishes?

Different Presidents wish for very different things. The Congress in 2002 was very similar to the Congress in 2000; the Congress in 1994 was very similar to the Congress in 1992; and the Congress in 1982 was very similar to the Congress in 1980. Yet the Presidents were different--and the deficit outcomes were very different.

One of the most striking patterns in recent American budgetary history is the way that every newly-elected Republican President blows the budget deficit wide open in his first term. Here's the federal "on budget" budget balance--the thing that doesn't count the Social Security surplus, and that would under a good government be at or moving toward balance:

But this is not something that Tierney is anxious to tell his readers, is it? No responsibility allowed. There are no "Reagans," "Bush Is," and "Bush IIs" in the text of his article--none of the Presidents who submit the exploding-deficit budgets, are there? There are not even any of the budget-busting Republican Congressional leaders--no Bakers, no Doles, no Gingriches, no Armeys, no DeLays, no Lotts appear. Just a faceless "Congress."

But people do make a difference. In fact, let's add another President to our graph: here's what happens to the budget deficit in the first term after we elect a Democratic President--Clinton.

Again, not something Tierney is eager to remind his readers of, is it?

Bill Keller, this is pathetic: you need to change your lineup, and you need to do it fast.

Posted by DeLong at May 7, 2005 05:23 PM