The Washington Post gave us some good frat boy budget reporting in a front page story on the farm bill this morning. Frat boy budget reporting is when you write a piece that provides no information to the vast majority of readers but lets you go down to the budget reporters' frat house and give each other the budget reporters' secret handshake. In this case, the piece told us that the farm bill will cost $956.4 billion over the next decade, it will reduce spending on SNAP by $8 billion and save $16 billion in total.
Yes, this is really helpful. At least 0.1 percent of Washington Post readers have any clue what these numbers mean for the budget over the next decade. It is possible and easy to express these numbers in ways that would be meaningful.
CEPR's extraordinary Responsible Budget Reporting Calculator would allow any budget reporters to determine in seconds that the total bill is 2.05 percent of projected spending, which immediately would give the vast majority of Post readers a clear idea of the farm bill's importance to the budget. They could also quickly recognize that the cuts to the SNAP bill are 0.017 percent of projected spending and the total savings on the bill are 0.034 percent of projected spending.
It's really not hard to do budget reporting in a way that provides information to its audience. However the Post simply chooses not to.