If you want an example of the real drivers of deficit hysteria in Washington, you could not do better than to read Glenn Thrush's State of the Union curtain raiser in Politico:
Some Democrats, including former Obama administration officials, have warned about overplaying his hand during the upcoming fiscal fight: Most of Obama’s positions enjoy fairly broad public support—but voters overwhelmingly say they want him to do more to deal with a deficit that is set to exceed $14 trillion by the end of the fiscal year.
Now, here's the thing: If the deficit really were scheduled to reach $14 trillion in fiscal year 2013, sensible people would be freaking out. But the actual projection is that the deficit will equal $845 billion. As the old saw goes, all the numbers that end in "illion" sound the same to people. But Thrush is overstating the deficit by about 1600 percent here. In other words, the actual deficit is about $13,155,000,000,000 smaller than Thrush thinks it is.
What's remarkable here isn't the occurrence of an error in the article. It's not a piece about fiscal policy, and Thrush isn't a budget specialist. It's how little difference the error makes in practice. The people who are very upset about the "$14 trillion" deficit aren't going to become less upset about it when they realize it's only $845 billion, anymore than the people worried about "out of control" government spending become less worried when they learn that government spending has been flat for almost three years.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola
The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.
I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.
Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.
Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore
And schools are getting worried.
160 Countries Host Marches to Demand Action on Climate Change
- Protesters Take to the Streets to Sound Alarm on Climate Change in New York, Across the World
- Knife-Carrying White House Jumper is Vet who Feared “Atmosphere Was Collapsing”
- North Korea: American Sentenced to Hard Labor Wanted to Become “Second Snowden”
- Almost One in Four Americans Support Idea of Splitting From the Union
Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem
Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology.