The press has mostly gone off the rails in covering President Trump's proposal to rescind $15 billion in unspent funds, insisting on characterizing the move as "cuts."
The competition for the worst coverage is fierce, but Andrew Taylor's story at the Associated Press, as carried at the Washington Post, probably wins the prize for the most incoherent headline: "Administration proposes cutting $15 billion in unused funds."
In one sense, the AP reporter's headline is an improvement, and his opening paragraphs at least try to explain the situation better than most other press reports. That said, his story used uncalled-for scare-inducing words:
Taylor at least acknowledged that the funds are "unused." Despite recognizing that fact, he failed to recognize these realities:
- One can't justifiably headline the idea of pulling back previous years' money never spent as "cuts." One can't even resort to the Beltway's fundamentally dishonest regular definition of a "cut," used to describe what is really "a reduction in projected but not legislated future spending."
- Money returned to the treasury isn't "wiped off the government's books." It could be used to "wipe" out a tiny portion of the $15.33 trillion balance as of Friday in "Debt Held by the Public," or held temporarily to reduce the amount of additional future debt issued.
- "Other budget priorities" is a nonsensical term. Congress has already passed a (quite bloated) budget which sets fiscal "priorities."
The Atlanta Journal Constitution (of all places, even with a strong headline: "Trump sending $15 billion budget savings plan to Congress") did a very good job of succinctly explaining the situation:
It's all downhill from there in most of the rest of the press, starting with the reports Google chose to highlight in a web search on "Trump rescission" (not in quotes) done at 1:30 p.m. ET Tuesday:
This is ridiculous:
- You can't "pull back $15 billion in spending" which never occurred.
- Trump's proposal does not "cut government spending" (A same-term Google News search placed this deceptive headline at the top of its results.)
- Trump is not clawing back "$15 million in spending." These funds are just sitting there.
Other headlines which are completely untethered from reality which can fairly be labeled "fake news":
- HuffPost — "White House Prepares To Send Congress $15 Billion Spending Cuts Package"
- USA Today — "Trump proposes clawing back $15 billion in federal spending, hits children's insurance"
- Business Insider — "Trump is attempting to use an obscure tactic to cut $15 billion from programs — including children's health insurance"
- Even the Washington Times got it wrong — "Trump to demand Congress cut $15B in spending ‘rescission’ package"
The press is also predictably allowing Democrats to mischaracterize what rescission is. House Democratic Minority leader Nancy Pelosi has called Trump's proposal, which has no impact on current spending, as showing "the hypocrisy of a GOP Congress that insists on tight budgets for children and families while handing enormous, unpaid-for giveaways to corporations and the wealthiest." Good grief.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.