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Schieffer Hyperventilates Over Imaginary ‘Horrendous...Gargantuan Cuts’ in Impending Sequester

Reflecting the typical Washington definition of a budget “cut” – in which a slight reduction in a projected increase is a “cut” and a measurable decrease in the rate of growth is a “draconian” cut -- on Sunday’s Face the Nation CBS’s Bob Schieffer despaired over how “to stave off these horrendous, these gargantuan cuts in defense and social programs” in the sequester?

In fact, as Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University pointed out, “without a sequester,” by 2021, “federal spending would increase $1.7 trillion (blue line). With a sequester, federal spending would increase by $1.6 trillion (red line).”

An accompanying chart shows barely separated spending growth lines. She explained: “With sequestration, defense increases 18% (vs. 20%); non-defense discretionary increases 12% (vs. 14%); Medicare roughly increases at the same rate; and net interest increases 136% (vs. 152%).”

De Rugy outlined how the distortion furthered by Schieffer, and many others in the media, misleads the public:

While the sequester projections are nominal spending increases, most budget plans count them as cuts. Referring to decreases in the rate of growth of spending as “cuts” influences public perceptions about the budget. When the public hears “cut,” it thinks that spending has been significantly reduced below current levels, not that spending has increased. Thus, calling a reduced growth rate of projected spending a “cut” leads to confusion, a growing deficit, and an ever-larger burden for future generations.

Just what liberals want and journalists help enable.

From the January 13 Face the Nation:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think that the big fight is going to be over whether to raise the debt ceiling, or will it be over the so-called sequester, and that is to stave off these horrendous, these gargantuan cuts in defense and social programs?

JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: I think probably the sequester, although there’s a big fight among Republicans about this because the debt ceiling is more powerful because the pain – if we blow the debt ceiling – is real. And so the idea, for some Republicans, is because the pain is so big it will get the White House-

SCHIEFFER: What would be the impact on the Defense Department, Rajiv, if those cuts goes into effect?

RAJIV CHANRASEKARAN, WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL EDITOR: You know what it does? It takes us back to levels of defense spending that we had back in 2006 and ‘07. Really, you know, it’s far more than we were spending in 2001...

-- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Brent Baker on Twitter.