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Budget Cuts as Covered in the Press

July 7, 2017

The following is an email I sent to a Washington Post writer about an article she authored that spoke about ‘cuts’ to the Medicaid program proposed by the Trump administration.  Spending would still increase under the proposal but at a slower pace than under current law.

The article concludes that the Trump administration’s statement that spending will still increase is misleading.

At the bottom I wrote about an analogous situation during the Reagan administration.

 

Email to Washington Post writer July 2, 2017

Michelle Lee

I couldn’t figure out how to post a comment so I am writing to you this way.

The article gets to the 8th paragraph before it says this:

Spending still increases, but at a much slower rate than under current law. Based on the way the CBO analyzes legislation, this would be considered a cut in federal spending relative to current projections. 

Therein lies the problem; a slower rate of spending increases means a CUT in spending.  This is part of the distortion that pervades political rhetoric.  Furthermore, this country is in deep financial trouble and needs to drastically curtail spending.  I don’t like cutting programs directed at low-income people but cuts might be needed even there if we are to get out of our long-term fiscal mess.  A mess that will bankrupt our own children.

I believe your article reflects bias in favor of a program that has not been shown to actually better the health of the low-income insured.

Rick Miller

New York City

Press Esc or click anywhere to return to Mail.

Try the new Yahoo Mail

The day after writing this I remembered something similar during the Reagan Administration.  When President Reagan began his administration headlines stated that the administration was cutting $35 billion from the budget.  To put it in context, the total Federal budget was around $700 billion at the time.

Ah, but was there a cut of $35 billion?  No, the administration was cutting $35 billion off the projected increase of $105 billion, leaving a net increase of $70 billion.  Yet the press often portrayed this reduction in the increase as a budget cut of $35 billion.

To frame the context, inflation was very high in those years, sometimes in double digits.  So in real terms it is possible there was a slight decrease in spending as a result of Reagan’s cuts that year.

My point is that the press often reports reductions in spending increases as actual reductions.  I believe this reflects bias.

I have not checked the accuracy of the figures I used for the Reagan administration’s budget.  I am going on memory.

 

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