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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Washington Post Routinely Misleads on Debt Burdens

Washington Post Routinely Misleads on Debt Burdens

Friday, 24 September 2010 05:31

The Washington Post, which is losing circulation rapidly, routinely misleads its readers about the burden of the national debt. First, it rarely puts debt and deficit numbers in any context. Telling readers that the debt will grow by $4 trillion over the next decade due to tax cuts is a meaningless statement to nearly all of its readers, who have no idea how large $4 trillion is. It would be a very simple matter to tell readers that this sum is approximately 2.3 percent of projected GDP over this period.

It also would be important to point out that debt accrued in a period of high unemployment, like the present, does not have to impose any current or future burden on the public since it can be fully financed by the Fed. If the Fed buys and holds the bonds used to finance the debt then the money paid by the government in interest would be refunded by the Fed every year creating no net interest burden for the government. Currently the Fed is refunding $77 billion a year to the government, more than one-third of the interest paid out by the government.

Comments (13)Add Comment
written by izzatzo, September 24, 2010 7:04
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written by sherparick, September 24, 2010 8:02
I guess in journalism/PR school they are taught that fantanstically large figures trigger some sort of emotional reaction (gee, that must be a lot money and since it is the Government that is my tax money!!!) in readers that percentage of GDP does not (and frankly, many readers don't know what GDP or GNP are and the Ivy league tyros who now write for the big papers feel that explaining facts and giving information to readers, reminding them in a story what GDP and that the reason Government deficits exploded the last three years was the result of the Recession that led to a collapse in tax revenue and the automatic increases in payments that go out for unemployment compensation, with the stimulus only adding relatively small % to the deficit (and hence its ineffectiveness).
Compare 1930s Italy
written by Brighton, September 24, 2010 11:48
Until war spending reduced unemployment, Italy and Germany were in roughly the same shape as us, due to roughly the same policies promulgated by republicans. http://brighton-towne.blogspot...scism.html
written by diesel, September 24, 2010 11:50
What happened to a pie chart or simple bar graph to show some of this stuff? Even the dimmest bulb "gets it" when it's broken down into slices of pie. In the popular media, meaningful information is transmitted almost exclusively verbally, though most of our brain is dedicated to interpreting visual input. Advertising knows how potent the visual message is.
blast from the past
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yo diesel- u sound like you were campaign manager for ross perot!?
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The argument plays on their fears that their taxes may be increased as well. Fears, and fear based responses, usually are irrational.
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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.