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Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Washington Post Budget Coverage Edition)

UPDATE: Brian Reidl justly complains. He's right. I apologize. He said the same things about Bush administration fiscal policy that Chris Edwards said--the things that should have been Montgomery and and Henderson's lead, but they cherry-picked the quote from their interview with him:

And what makes you think, in the course of a 20-minute interview, I did not make also those points? Points that often *do* get quoted in countless other articles. At one point in the interview, the reporter asked me what the Administration's strategy seemed to be. You seemed to be confusing my description of a strategy with its endorsement.

That's just lazy blogging, especially from a college professor.

Brian Riedl

Lori Montgomery and Nell Henderson give yet another reason why in a just world the Washington Post would have to pay people to read it:

Burden Set to Shift On Balanced Budget - washingtonpost.com: When he takes the House rostrum next week for the State of the Union address, President Bush will list among his goals a balanced federal budget, a shift for a president who has presided over record deficits while aggressively cutting taxes.... "The Democrats have assailed deficits under President Bush. The White House is telling Democrats to walk the walk," said Brian M. Riedl, a budget analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation...

Montgomery and Henderson's first paragraph assumes--falsely--that Bush's shift in rhetoric signals a shift in policy. Montgomery and Henderson's first quote is from one of the very very few people still willing to shill for the Bush administration's fiscal policy. Only afterwards do they concede a smidgeon to reality:

Budget experts and economists from across the political spectrum, including some who worked in the Bush White House, say that Bush is unlikely to offer real concessions toward a balanced budget in the plan he delivers to Congress next month...

Which they then take back:

Still, the administration appears to be stepping away from an economic argument that has worked well for Republicans throughout Bush's presidency: that federal deficits... offer little cause for concern...

The first quote from a critic of the Bush administration is delayed until paragraph 7:

But that view ignores some important facts, U.S. comptroller general David Walker said. The government is living far beyond its means.... Take away the Social Security money, and the deficit would have been $434 billion.... [T]he Social Security surplus will begin to shrink in 2009, as the baby boomers start to retire. It is it estimated that the fund will dry up completely in 2017. At that point, the nation's rosy fiscal picture will darken rapidly...

Only in paragraph 18 do we get the story's proper lead:

"I get the impression they're trying to beef up his reputation for fiscal responsibility, not by doing heavy lifting and actually targeting programs like farm subsidies, but through rhetoric and projections and changes in rules and things that are easy for a president to propose," said Chris Edwards, tax director at the Cato Institute...