NYT’s Rejoinder on Obama and the Deficit

Last Wednesday, I got on the Washington Post for a poor page-one story on the $9 trillion budget deficit—a piece that had plenty of blame for Obama, and none for George W. Bush.

So it was nice to see Jackie Calmes take the Post to task (and let’s face it, that’s a good part of what’s going on here) yesterday in The New York Times’s Week in Review section with a short piece headlined “Who Gets the Blame for the Deep Deficit?”

Short answer to that question: Not Obama.

While Mr. Obama has proposed nothing to reduce the nation’s red ink, he also has not deepened it — yet.

More than $7 trillion of the projected deficits is inherited, and the vast majority of the additional $2 trillion or so comes from preserving existing tax code passed by Bush.

Well, this isn’t quite the case, actually. The Times is accepting that Obama will get $627 billion from the cap-and-trade scheme over the next decade, for instance, which looks unlikely at best at the moment. The budget also assumes that Obama will be able to offset his spending with $2.4 trillion in revenue from legislation that hasn’t been passed yet, according to Forbes. But to show how tricky budget land can be, much of the new spending hasn’t been put into law yet either.

Alas, the Times, like the Post doesn’t mention Bush, or calculate how much of the projected deficits are due to his policies and how much are due to previous administrations. And so it doesn’t really answer the question in its own headline, leaving it for someone else to do.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu. Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.