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