The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune

Another day, another bad budget article in The Washington Post. Describing what happened after the 1997 budget deal, we learn:

The deficit disappeared sooner than that, and when Clinton left office the nation had its first surplus in three decades. But fiscal fortunes took a turn under Bush as he ushered in huge tax cuts, an early recession took its toll and the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, prompted a wave of new spending on the military and homeland defense.

9/11 and the small economic downturn early in Bush’s term were “fortunes.” Bush tax cuts, however, were not luck, they were policy choices. Similarly, while we can assume any president would have engage in 9/11-related defense spending, we can’t just describe Bush’s decision to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on invading Iraq as a straightforward consequence of 9/11. Worse, not only is all of this lumped in as “fortunes” but we’re given no sense of the magnitude. How big were the tax cuts compared to revenue lost from the downturn? How much defense spending has there been and how much of that has been in Iraq? With information like that, readers might learn something from reading their morning paper.

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People seeking information about the federal budget would be well-advised to look at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ slide show and their general federal budget page. The Washington Post offers pretty good Wizards coverage and their DC Sports Blog is a treat.