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October 31, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Carl Hulse of the New York Times Edition)

Carl Hulse of the New York Times takes a baby step toward becoming a real journalist. He writes:

Congress Mounts Drive for Big Budget Cuts - New York Times: WASHINGTON, Oct. 30 - Congress will embark this week on a major cost-cutting drive that conservative Republicans see as their party's chance to revive its reputation for frugality. But the conservatives face stiff resistance from united Democrats and skeptical fellow Republicans.

With Republican leaders pointing to a need to reduce spending elsewhere to pay for hurricane recovery, the Senate will begin considering a plan on Monday to pare $39 billion over the next five years. The House is assembling its own $50 billion package with an eye toward additional across-the-board cuts this year.

Those pushing hardest for Congress to tighten the federal belt say this is a crucial moment for Republicans who have strayed far from their fiscally responsible roots by engaging in profligate spending and overseeing a vast expansion of government programs. "I think this is a test of character for the Republican majority in Congress," said Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican, who leads a caucus of House conservatives. "The American people are watching and waiting."...

The baby step is that he is including the fact that the $39 billion and $50 billion numbers that are being thrown around are not for this fiscal year but are over five years--i.e., between $8 billion and $10 billion a year.

But he is still very far from being a real journalist: a real journalist would remind his readers in the first two paragraphs that $10 billion a year is 2% of the on-budget deficit (i.e., excluding the Social Security surplus), 0.4% of annual federal spending, and 0.1% of annual GDP. It would need 50 successful "major cost-cutting drives" like this to get the budget to where it ought to be.

It's a big deal only in the propaganda of Republican congressional leaders who want to pretend to fiscal responsibility, and reporters who don't see anything wrong with being their megaphones.

Posted by DeLong at October 31, 2005 09:41 AM