Does the Post Have to Say "Tame the Debt" In Every Budget Article?

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Thursday, 20 December 2012 05:32

That's undoubtedly what readers are asking after seeing this strange and inaccurate phrase appear yet again in an article about the latest tax plan Speaker Boehner put forward. Of course it is inaccurate since it implies that debt and deficits have been out of control.

As every budget analyst knows, deficits were actually quite modest until the economy plummeted in 2008 following the collapse of the housing bubble. The deficit in 2007 was just 1.2 percent of GDP. The economy can run deficits of this size forever, since the debt to GDP ratio was actually falling. The deficit was projected to remain low for the next several years until the projected expiration of the Bush tax cuts pushed the budget into surplus in 2012.

deficits-per-GDP-10-2012

Source: Congressional Budget Office.

There have been no large unfunded increases in spending nor permanent tax cuts since these projections were made. The sole reason that the deficits came in much higher than projected was the impact of the recession on tax and spending and the stimulus measures taken to counter the downturn.

The Post has consistently misrepresented the nature of current deficits. This helps to promote its agenda of cutting Social Security and Medicare.

The Post also misrepresented the risks of missing the December 31 deadline of reaching a budget deal. It told readers:

"If no action is taken before the end of the year, taxes will rise for nearly 90 percent of taxpayers in January, potentially sparking a new recession, according to many economists."

In fact it is not clear that any economists say that missing the deadline will cause a recession. The Congressional Budget Office and others have projected that if the higher tax rates and spending cuts remain in place all year that the economy will likely fall into a recession. They did not say that this would be the result of waiting one or two weeks into January to work out a deal.

Most analysts think that President Obama's negotiating position will improve after the tax cuts expire. If this is the case then trying to maintain pressure on President Obama to reach a deal before the end of the year would also advance the Post's agenda for cutting Social Security and Medicare.