Four years ago, Barack Obama campaigned for president on a promise to cut annual federal budget deficits in half by the end of his term. Then came financial calamity, $1.4 trillion in stimulus measures and a maddeningly slow economic recovery.
Now, despite small annual improvements, the deficit for the fiscal year that ends on Sunday will surpass $1 trillion for the fourth straight time. Against that headline-grabbing figure, Mr. Obama's explanation–that the deficit he inherited is actually on a path to be cut in half just a year later than he promised, measured as a percentage of the economy's total output–risks sounding professorial at best.
Huh. So the deficit will be cut in half in four years instead of five. How is that too "professorial"?
What Calmes means is that Obama is talking about the size of the deficit as a percentage of the size of the economy rather than as a dollar amount. This makes more sense than talking about the deficit as a big number isolated from any meaningful context. But that was apparently the approach the Times' headline writer favored: "Test for Obama as Deficit Stays Over $1 Trillion."