One of the most common mistakes that Washington-based reporters make is describing any proposed curb on federal spending as a “cut,” when it may just be a reduction in projected growth. A glance at the front page of Tuesday’s free Express tabloid put out by The Washington Post is Exhibit A. The headline: “Defense Chief Backs Big Cuts.” But the story underneath by AP’s Anne Gearan is commendably direct about the actual trend line of defense spending:
With recession unemployment rising, Congress may balk at many of the cuts in Gates’ proposed $534 billion budget for the coming year.
Still, despite all the talk of cuts, the total figure would rise from $513 billion for 2009, and Gates spoke of using money more wisely, not asking for less.
If only Washington correspondents (not to mention headline writers) could explain the budget this way across the board, that “cuts” are not overall reductions, but often priority shifts or tighter spending formulas or smaller reimbursement rates. The government is hardly starving, especially under the current team of big spenders.