What is the Washington Post smoking?

The paper says the government's deficit projection for 2009 "soared." Not true. It went down

Published August 25, 2009 4:57PM (EDT)

File this under Brad DeLong's "Washington Post Crashed-and-Burned-and-Smoking Watch." The White House and the Congressional Budget Office reported new estimations of upcoming budget deficits today.

The Wall Street Journal's headline:

"White House Sharply Increases Deficit Projection to $1.6 Trillion"

The first paragraph:

The federal deficit will soar to nearly $1.6 trillion this year, miring the nation in the deepest pool of red ink since the end of World War II, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the White House reported Tuesday.

The Post is being incredibly misleading. As the writer, Lori Montgomery, notes later in the story, the projected budget deficit is actually $200 billion lower than the initial White House estimate earlier this year, primarily because the government will not be spending as much TARP money as expected:

"The Troubled Asset Relief Program cost only $133 billion this year, the CBO said -- about $200 billion less than expected in March.

Montgomery calls the reduction "slightly lower." I don't know about you, but $200 billion does not seem like pocket change to me. But that's a matter of perspective. What is really outrageous is that a more accurate headline for this story would be "White House Lowers Deficit Projection for 2009."

What the heck were they thinking?

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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