On Tuesday Republicans in Congress released a budget resolution covering the next ten years through 2024, and on Wednesday, right on cue, the New York Times went apoplectic. Wednesday's print edition contains both a "news" article by Jonathan Weisman on page A16 ("Republicans Propose Budget With Deep Cuts") and an unsigned editorial on the Editorial Page ("The House Budget Disaster"). I'll quote some of the main passages, and then, here is the one-question quiz that you will be asked to take after reading them: Does the budget resolution propose that federal spending will increase or decrease over the period in question? As fair warning, I will advise you that neither the article nor the editorial mentions any actual numbers as to the amounts of spending proposed, either in the aggregate or on any particular program.
In the editorial, the point is not only that there are deep cuts, but that they are directed specifically at the poor and innocent.
The plan’s deep cuts land squarely on the people who most need help: the poor and the working class. . . . [T]he plan proposes deep cuts to “mandatory” nondefense spending, which includes Medicaid, federal pensions, food stamps, farm supports and tax credits for the working poor. . . . Over all, at least two-thirds of the $5 trillion in cuts over 10 years would come from programs that focus on low- and modest-income Americans, even though such programs account for less than one-fourth of all federal program costs. . . . House Republicans are sticking to their tired themes of spending cuts, no matter the need or consequences, and tax cuts above all.
I've got the word "cuts" in there four times, two of them "deep cuts," just in that short excerpt. Then there's the "news" article:
The prescribed cuts would be deep. . . . The plan would cut billions of dollars from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. . . . Domestic programs would be cut $519 billion below the already restrictive caps set in 2011. . . .
So get ready and take the quiz. It must be that with these "deep cuts" and "$5 trillion in cuts" over the next ten years that federal spending will be going down at least a little, right? Wrong! In fact, the budget resolution proposes that federal spending will increase in every year, and over the ten years will go from $3.664 trillion in FY2015 to $4.995 trillion in FY2024. Here is a link to a chart attached to the resolution materials with the proposed year-by-year spending. The "$5 trillion in cuts" is not a real cut in the sense that any normal person would use the word, but rather a "cut" from a higher previously proposed rate of spending increase to a somewhat lower trajectory of spending increase. If we kept spending at this year's level, we would spend $36.6 trillion over the next ten years. We were previously projecting that we were actually going to spend $47 trillion, but now we're "cutting" our projection to $42 trillion, which is still almost $7 trillion more than keeping spending level.
Am I the only one offended by reading what purports to be news coverage of spending "cuts" that somehow never mentions that the spending is not going down, but rather up, and not by a small amount? New York Times, this is how you have earned yourself the name of "Pravda." You can argue all you want that spending going forward should be higher than the Republicans propose, but can't you at least be honest with us and let us know that even under their proposal spending is going up and not down? Back in the Soviet Union, everyone knew that what was in Pravda was ridiculous, but nobody had any way of getting at the real facts. Even in the U.S. it used to be that you had to go to Washington to look at these government documents, and nobody really questioned the New York Times narrative, no matter how preposterous. Today, we can get the government documents online, and people like the Manhattan Contrarian can read them and see what they say.
And while we're discussing this subject, the food stamp program, aka SNAP, needs some special mention. Before Obama, this program had at least some semblance of a real safety net item, and beneficiaries and spending generally went up and down with economic cycles. Under Obama, there has been an aggressive effort to sign up absolutely as many people as possible onto SNAP and thereby hook them onto government dependency. During a period of so-called economic recovery since 2009, beneficiaries have almost doubled to close to 50 million, and spending has more than doubled to about $80 billion per year. Read about the aggressive campaign to sign up new recipients here. Also, on the campaign to prevent any cuts, no matter how small, even though the program has somehow doubled when by any reasonable standard it should have been shrinking, see here.