hundreds of billions = 0 ?

Robert Waldmann

The Headline and abstract person has outdone himself or herself writing

CBO sees debt estimates soar

Analysts say health law has not improved budget and Obama’s tax agenda will make things worse.

Lori Montgomery

As Kevin Drum says always click the link. Lori Montgomery actually wrote

President Obama’s overhaul of the health-care system has done little to improve the nation’s budget outlook, congressional budget analysts said Wednesday.

So “little” has become none. The abstract contradicts the actual story.

Finally well down in the story we get to what Doug Elmendorf said

The health-care overhaul made “steps in the direction of a sustainable fiscal policy. But they are small steps relative to the journey that will be needed for fiscal sustainability,” CBO director Douglas Elmendorf said Wednesday in testimony before Obama’s bipartisan commission on the deficit.

small “relative to the journey that will be needed for fiscal sustainability” is not small. We do not normally measure sums of money “relative to the journey that will be needed for fiscal sustainability”. Another way of putting that would be “unimagninable huge immense and gigantic but nowhere near as colossal as the long term budget shortfall”.

So in the hands of the Washington Post small “relative to the journey that will be needed for fiscal sustainability” becomes “small” and then none. Too the Post hundreds of billions of dollars are zero.

Clearly that organization is not qualified to report the news. Even the simplest most cut and dried gigantic numbers are too subtle for them.

This is the end of my short punchy post. A general rant follows after the jump.

Beyond this, the CBO report isn’t news. All we learn is that the CBO headline number must be based on what Congress claims it will do, so it is based on the the assumption of no more alternative minimum tax fixes and no more doc fixed and, especially, all Bush tax cuts expire.

Pretending it is news is hyping a fact. It fits the panic about the deficit agenda. This is part of the agenda of the Washington Post opinion pages. It is not good that the news staff is hyping non news about how the long run deficit picture is grim.

Also Montgomery’s next sentence miss-allocates blame

They also said the president’s tax agenda — including a pledge to extend an array of tax cuts for the middle class — would only make things worse.

This is only true if one interprets “the president” to be George W Bush. Obama is reversing some but not all of the Bush tax cuts. The silly trick of saying they would sunset makes the change in law a tax cut, but the change in policy is a tax increase. Montgomery is blaming Obama for not undoing all of the damage that Bush did.

This is the general slant. Obama is blamed for the long run budgetary shortfall, because the huge gigantic improvements that he has achieved plus the huge gigantic and popular improvements which he has proposed are not huge and gigantic enough to undo the damage the Republicans did when they were in control.

He’s been Posted.