Deficit Headline Writing, a Quick MSM How-to

March 12th, 2007 4:26 PM

Here are the facts: The federal deficit is "down sharply"...

WASHINGTON - The deficit for the first five months of the budget year is down sharply from a year ago as the growth in government tax collections continues to outpace growth in spending.

...and "down sharply" means more than 25 percent over last year.

The Treasury Department reported that the deficit from October through February totaled $162.2 billion, down 25.5 percent from the same period last year.

The federal deficit was up 0.6 percent to $120 billion in February...

That improvement came even though the deficit in February hit $120 billion, up 0.6 percent from last February's deficit of $119.2 billion.

...but that's normal for this time of year as the numbers get skewed up because the government is sending out more money in the form of tax refunds to earlier tax filers.

One factor that contributes to higher deficits in February are the refund payments the Internal Revenue Service is mailing out during the month to people who have filed early tax returns. The February 2006 imbalance was the largest monthly deficit for that year.

...add this little tidbit to the story:

The $248.2 billion deficit for 2006 was the smallest deficit in four years and down significantly from the all-time high...

And you end up with an article that suggests that the federal deficit is down more than 25% from last year, and is around the smallest number in 4 years, despite seeing a slight increase that is standard for this time of year due to IRS refund disbursements. So how does MSM choose to headline the story?

"Deficit grows to $120B in February"

Focus on the negative, ignore the positive, and hope most people won't read past the headline. It's a tried and true formula... and they're obviously sticking to it.