2 of 3 'Newspapers of Record' Fail to Record Federal Fiscal-Year Deficit News

The Heritage Foundation's Robert Bluey reported in his Sunday Townhall column that there was disinterest at the hallowed "newspapers of record" in the government's news about the just-ended fiscal year's deficit (links to White House deficit announcement and to Business and Media Institute report are in the original):

The U.S. budget deficit fell to the lowest level in five years last week, but three of America’s leading newspapers -- the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times -- couldn’t find the space to mention the dramatic drop.

Journalists who have spent years trashing President Bush’s tax cuts appeared to suddenly lose interest when the budget picture brightened. That’s not surprising, however, considering that mainstream reporters frequently ignore upbeat economic news.

For 49 straight months, dating back to August 2003, the U.S. economy has added jobs. More than 8 million, in fact. Yet the only time economic news seems to hit the front page is when there’s something bad to report. No wonder Bush gets little credit.

See for yourself at the NY Times, the Post, and the LA Times (searches are on "deficit billion" -- not in quotes):

  • The Post's Neil Irwin wrote a 600-word article ("Economy Signals Damage Control") about supposedly weak retail sales (you're wrong, Neil -- they were "stronger than expected") and the deficit. But it was the trade deficit and not the US budget deficit, which Irwin ignored. The Post did carry the uncharacteristically balanced deficit coverage of the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger, but apparently only online, as there is no print edition page indicator at the link.
  • Bluey had one minor oversight, as the New York Times did carry a one-paragraph Associated Press item -- on Page A22 in the October 12 print edition. That hardly counts as "All the News That's Fit to Print," especially considering that the Times, like the Post, also did an in-house piece on the trade deficit.
  • The LA Times had no report relating to the federal budget deficit. That's like the paper's sports editor deciding not to report on the previous night's Dodgers game because it wasn't interesting.

Does anyone seriously believe that the news would have been almost completely ignored if the deficit had instead gone up?

Because the "newspapers of record" won't cover it, yours truly will. Rather than provide 2,000 words, I'll provide two pictures, which are worth 1,000 each (:-->):

FederalReceipts2003thru2007
DeficitReduction2003thru2007

Now for some cold water: I hope I'm wrong, but I believe that the long run of increased tax receipts is over, and that receipts in future years will go up by no more than 4%-5% annually -- if we're lucky. That's because none of the economy-prodding suggestions made at the end of this post last year have been put into place. The current Congressional majority has no interest in making the Bush 2001-2003 tax cuts permanent. If that were miraculously to happen, the economy would likely go into orbit at the sudden rush of bi-partisan sanity. But that makes too much sense.

If, as appears likely, the Bush cuts are instead allowed to expire at the end of 2010, that will in reality represent a huge tax increase after seven years of a mostly-static tax structure. Worse still, a Democratic presidential victory in 2008 could not only mean a probable earlier end to the Bush cuts, but steep additional taxes on top of that. All three major Dem candidates have already promised exactly that.

Because of these things, it would not surprise me in the least that investors and corporate managers considering expansion are becoming more cautious, hindering current economic growth.
What's really needed, as I've suggested several times in the past few months, is another tax cut. It would nice to hear at least one GOP presidential candidate talking about that, and not merely holding the line on the Bush cuts.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.