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November 09, 2005

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Jonathan Weisman, Please Stop Writing Edition)

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman takes another dive for his Republican masters.

Paul McLeary writes:

CJR Daily: Archives: [B]ack to the Post, where Weisman isn't done distorting by omission. Down toward the middle of the piece, the Post buries a major part of the story -- "a $70 billion tax cut that could come to a vote soon after the budget bill, more than wiping out the first bill's deficit reduction." (Emphasis ours.) With that, Weisman qualifies for the Buried Lede of the Week Award.

As Sam Rosenfeld noted on the American Prospect's "Tapped" blog this morning, "could it have hurt Jonathan Weisman to mention somewhere before the tenth paragraph of the piece (and less obliquely than in the passing reference he makes there) that there's a second component to the reconciliation package that's been artificially severed from the spending one, which will cut taxes for the wealthy by $70 billion? As Harry Reid and virtually every other Democrat has been saying ad infinitum during this debate: 'While the majority has divided its budget in a way that obscures its overall effect, nobody should be fooled. Viewed as a whole, budget reconciliation would increase the deficit by more than $30 billion.'"

Given that, the Post's headline for the piece, "Senate Passes Plan to Cut $35 Billion From Deficit"... gives the reader precisely the wrong impression. Someone forgot to warn the Post's copyeditors that the news -- and the headline -- were actually tucked into that tenth paragraph.

And Daniel Gross is equally annoyed:

Daniel Gross: October 30, 2005 - November 05, 2005 Archives: Writing in the Washington Post, Jonathan Weisman today gives Republicans in Congress way too much credit for finally addressing the issue of deficit spending.

The Senate approved sweeping deficit-reduction legislation last night that would save about $35 billion over the next five years by cutting federal spending on prescription drugs, agriculture supports and student loans, while clamping down on fraud in the Medicaid program. The measure would also open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, a long-sought goal of the oil industry that took a major step forward after years of political struggle. A bipartisan effort to strip the drilling provision narrowly failed. The Senate bill, which passed 52 to 47, is the first in nearly a decade to tackle the growth of entitlement spending, the part of the federal budget that rises automatically based on set formulas and population changes.

Sweeping? Tackling the growth of entitlement spending? Let's be clear what is being talked about here. Bear with me for a little elementary math. $35 billion in cuts over 5 years comes out to $7 billion per year. Here's the most recent take from the Office of Management and Budget on the budget for the currrent fiscal year and the outlook for the next several years. Scroll down to Table 5 on Page 19. There it is revealed that spending for Fiscal 2006 is estimated to be $2.613 trillion. For fiscal 2006 and the next four fiscal years, spending is set to total $13.975 trillion.

In this package of sweeping deficit reduction that tackles entitlement spending, Congress proposes to cut $35 billion out of some $13.975 trillion in spending over five years. Divide $13.975 trillion into $35 billion and you get: .0025447. In other words, Congress is proposing to cut spending over the next five years by one quarter of one percent.

Sweeping, baby.

Why Weisman's editors haven't fired him by this point is incomprehensible. It's in Weisman's short-run interest to shill for the Republican leadership--he would have a hard time getting his quotes for his stories if he didn't. It's not in his editors' interest--either short or long run--to employ him.

Posted by DeLong at November 9, 2005 02:36 PM