Matt Miller - The Archives
What the press isn't telling you about Obama's budget
The Washington Post, February 14, 2011

The amazing thing about the budget debate is how easily mainstream press coverage is steered toward the conversation our two major political parties prefer to have, as opposed to the debate the country needs. This week, the stenographic coverage our "leaders" count on features the administration's proposed $1.1 trillion in ten years deficit reduction versus the House Republicans' battles to shave up to $100 billion from this year's spending. Any independent look at what the parties are proposing would instead result in screaming headlines like these:

—ADMINISTRATION PROPOSES 1 PERCENT CUT IN PLANNED SPENDING OVER NEXT TEN YEARS: Plan to Trim $400 billion of $45 Trillion Weirdly Touted By President As "Walking The Walk On Fiscal Discipline"

—OBAMA CALLS FOR $7.2 TRILLION IN NEW BORROWING OVER NEXT DECADE: By 2021, Would Double National Debt Accumulated Between Nation's Founding and 2010

—PUNY DEFENSE TRIMS HYPED AS BIG DEAL: Gates Plan to Shave 2 Percent Off Next $3.5 Trillion in Pentagon Spending Somehow Mutes Critics; U.S. To Still Spend Vastly More On Arms Than Rest Of World Combined

—WHITE HOUSE TOUTS EDUCATION "INVESTMENTS" THAT ACCOMPLISH LITTLE COMPARED TO NEED: "Expanded" Pell Grants Cover Much Smaller Portion of Tuition Than They Did in 1970s; Tiny 'Race To The Top' Sequel Assures 'Small Ball' On Schools for Rest of President's Term

—FEDERAL INTEREST EXPENSE TO QUADRUPLE FROM $207 BILLION TO $844 BILLION A DECADE FROM NOW; Amount Diverted to Unproductive Use Could Have Funded Serious American Renewal Agenda

—ROSY SCENARIO LETS WHITE HOUSE CLAIM DEFICIT WILL STABILIZE AT 3 PERCENT OF GDP; Administration's Growth Assumptions Exceed Private Forecasters', But Make Numbers Work Politically

Of course, the charades are bipartisan:

—GOP DEBT KING STILL CALLING KETTLE BLACK: Paul Ryan, Whose 'Roadmap' Doesn't Balance Budget for Decades and Adds $62 Trillion In Debt, Still Dubbed "Fiscal Conservative" As He Slams Obama For Spending, Debt

—DEFICIT REVEALED AS MOSTLY REVENUE, NOT SPENDING PROBLEM; Obama Plan to Run Government at 22.7 Percent Of GDP vs. Reagan's 22 Percent, But With Older Population Confirms That Taxes Must Rise To Balance Budget As Boomers Age

More on how we should think about all this in my column Wednesday. For now, the question is what kind of new third political force would be needed to make these kinds of headlines the ones the press actually gives us, instead of abetting the bipartisan sideshows that just aren't serious about the challenges we face.