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A Deck Chair Off the Titanic

Posted By Russ Roberts On February 2, 2006 @ 10:26 am In Media,Politics | Comments Disabled

The headline from the lead story [1] in the Washington Post:

Budget Cuts Pass By a Slim Margin
Poor, Elderly and Students to Feel Pinch

Sounds pretty harsh—budget cuts on the backs of the least able members of society.  The story opens:

The House yesterday narrowly approved a contentious budget-cutting
package that would save nearly $40 billion over five years by imposing
substantial changes on programs including Medicaid, welfare, child
support and student lending.

So maybe it’s not so harsh.  Forty billion over five years.  Not exactly a big slice or much of a pinch.  And it turns out they aren’t really cuts at all.  When you go to the continuation of the story to page A7, the headline reads:

House Votes to Stem Increases in Spending

So they aren’t cuts at all.   They’re reductions in future spending increases.  Tiny reductions.  Eight billion a year.  If you read all the way through the article, toward the end comes the real measure of what’s at stake here:

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.

You could ask why this story makes the front page.  It’s not exactly a man-bites-dog story.  More of a man yells atdog story.  But if it makes the front page, the Post might try and describe it correctly as it does on the home page of Post’s web site (even though the linked story has the same misleading headline.

How do you feel the pinch from getting a smaller increase than you might have gotten?

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