Why Oh Why Are We Ruled by These Incompetents?
Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another Washington Post Edition)

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

UPDATE: Eric Umansky weighs in:

Deficit Distraction By Eric Umansky : The New York Times and Washington Post all lead with the House barely passing $40 billion in cuts, mostly to student loans, crop subsidies, and Medicaid. The Senate passed the bill in December, so now it goes to the White House for the president's signature. The Los Angeles Times also leads with the cuts but focuses on the roughly $2 billion in aid California is expected to lose. USA Today leads with the U.S. plan to rehab Iraq's health-care system running into serious snafus. One-hundred-eighty clinics were supposed to have been built by December 2005. Number actually finished so far: four. Number that have opened: zero....

The budget bill, which passed by only two votes and got no Democratic support, was pitched by Republican leaders as a key part of a big push to rein in the deficit. It wasn't. As the Post [Jonathan Weisman] notes, "The impact of the bill on the deficit is likely to be negligible, slicing less than one-half of 1 percent from the estimated $14.3 trillion in federal spending over the next five years." That bit of reality comes well-past-the-fold. Instead, higher up we're treated to that ever-informative practice of dueling quotes, including this fine bit of flab from a Republican rep., "American taxpayers, and anyone concerned with the nation's long-term fiscal stability, have won a great victory today."

The NYT [Sheryl Gay Stolberg] plays up the politics of the close vote, then plays dumb: "The vote helped President Bush deliver on his promise to rein in federal spending."

The LAT [Richard Simon and Joel Havema] isn't so slow. It notes that not only were the cuts themselves "mild," Congress is about to pump up the deficit a bit. As the House was voting on the budget tweaking, "the Senate was debating a $56-billion tax cut that the House had already passed." The net result of the two measures would "add $16 billion to federal deficits."


Sheryl Gay Stolberg needs to take Susan Rasky's and my course--badly:

Congress Narrowly Approves $39 Billion in Budget Cuts - New York Times : House Republicans, handing a close-fought victory to President Bush on the heels of his State of the Union address, pushed through a measure today to rein in spending by nearly $40 billion over the next five years, with cuts in student loans, crop subsidies and Medicaid, the government's health insurance program for the poor. The bill, approved 216 to 214, largely along party lines, is the first major attempt in eight years to curb what is known as entitlement spending.... President Bush, who has made controlling the growth of government spending one of his signature domestic issues, has promised to sign it.... The bill would cut the growth of education spending by more than $16 billion between 2006 and 2010, and make reductions in the spending on Medicaid and Medicare, the health insurance program for the elderly, as well. Republicans cast it as an important step toward restraining programs that, they said, would gobble up the entire federal budget if left unchecked.

But with the Senate taking up a tax-cutting measure at the same time, Democrats sounded what will be a prominent election year theme: that Republicans were cutting taxes for the rich at the expense of services for the poor. And at a time when Congress is consumed by a lobbying scandal, Democrats also complained bitterly that the measure was written without them, behind closed doors with the help of paid representatives from the drug and insurance industries.... The budget-cutting bill is actually a holdover from last year; it first passed the House in late December in an all-night marathon session...

In our syllabus, we wrote apropos last November's New York Times story on this bill:

http://select.nytimes.com/search/restricted/article?res=F00B11FB3C5A0C778CDDA80994DD404482. [The story totally lacks any placing of the bill's size in context.] The Federal government currently spends money at the rate of $2.6 trillion a year. Total incomes in the entire American economy are about $12 trillion a year. Saving $35 billion over five years means that you are saving $7 billion a year--0.3% of federal spending; 0.06% of GDP. Out of a federal budget that spends $9,000 per person per year, Judd Gregg is saving $27 a year. Thus reading a lead like [Robert Pear's] makes Brad DeLong... foam at the mouth: phrases like "sweeping," "ambitious," "commitment," and "fiscal responsibility" simply have no place here--especially since Pear and Hulse do not give their readers any of the numbers needed as reference points to assess the magnitude of the Senate's action...

Yet here we have Sheryl Gay Stolberg say that this is a "major attempt... to curb entitlement spending." There's nothing "major" about it.

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