NYT on Obama’s Deficit Talk: Get a Load of Brainiac

The New York TimesJackie Calmes has a piece yesterday (9/26/12) on Obama’s failure to rein in the budget deficit. The big problem is that Obama’s explanation is apparently hard to follow:

Barack Obama at Michigan commencement, 2009.

Professor Obama? (photo by Natsuko)

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.”

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.