Wednesday's CBS Evening News With Katie Couric and Thursday's Early show
completely ignored any mention of the fact that the deficit has risen to a
staggering $1.4 trillion, triple what it was a year ago. The Early Show,
however, did find time to report the incredibly important news that Levi
Johnston will be posing for Playgirl.
Just one year ago, on October 7, 2008, Katie Couric made sure to single out the "record federal deficit." She intoned, "Today the Congressional Budget Office reported the red ink totaled $438 billion for the budget year that ended last week. Now, that's nearly three times last year's deficit." Apparently, tripling the deficit is only interesting when it's done by a Republican.
ABC and NBC's morning shows all managed to report the new numbers, though mostly in news briefs only. On Wednesday, however, World News anchor Charles Gibson highlighted the report by the Congressional Budget Office on Barack Obama's health care bill, but skipped the deficit.
On Wednesday's Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams discussed both the CBO numbers and the record deficit. But, while reciting the reasons for the debt, he somehow left out the $787 billion stimulus, asserting that the deficit was "driven higher this year by a huge drop in tax revenue because of the recession and spending on Wall Street and the mortgage agency bailouts."
On Thursday, Today and Good Morning America mentioned the
$1.4 trillion deficit and referenced spending and bailouts as a reason. But, the
stories were certainly not expansive. After giving a reason for the exploding
debt in the 7am hour, news anchor Ann Curry provided this skimpy news brief at
9am: "New figures show the U.S. budget deficit has more than tripled since last
year. It is now $1.4 trillion."
So, while ABC and NBC have a mixed record on covering the new deficit report, CBS certainly should be embarrassed for ignoring this important economic story. The absence is even more glaring when one considers the fact that the Early Show  did find time for a fawning piece on how Obama's health care bill "pays for itself." (It should be noted that the Evening News was focusing heavily on Afghanistan on Wednesday. But, they did find time for a story on teen violence in Chicago.)
A transcript of the October 8 Today news briefs:
ANN CURRY: New figures show the U.S. budget deficit has more than tripled since last year. It is now $1.4 trillion. And joining us now to talk about this is NBC's White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie. Savannah, based on what you're hearing, how might this number affect the health care debate?
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Well, it definitely complicates it when you're talking about eye-popping numbers like that. People are concerned about spending even more. And, you know, this budget deficit is a direct effect of the recession. Tax revenues are way down, a result of all that unemployment, and government spending way up because of the bailout from the stimulus package. The White House did get a little bit of good news yesterday. That key Senate bill, the one that a lot of people think is going to be the template for the final bill, was analyzed by the independent Congressional Budget Office and it found that it actually will shave $81 billion off the deficit over ten years. So, a bit of a bright spot in an otherwise bleak budget picture.
CURRY: New figures show the U.S. budget deficit has more than tripled since last year. It is now $1.4 trillion.
The October 8 Good Morning America news brief:
BILL WEIR: And we're going to begin with a number this morning. And it helps if you have a wide-screen TV. We're going to show it to you here. It has a 1, a 4 and 11 zeros. And according to projections, that is the federal deficit. $1.4 trillion. Not only an all-time high. It's three-times higher than the previous record. Key reasons for that red: Iraq, Afghanistan, bailout, stimulus, and lower tax revenues because of the recession.
The October 7 Nightly News anchor read:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Congressional Budget Office is out with its estimate of the cost of the Senate Finance Committee's health care reform plan. The price tag, $829 billion over ten years. It's actually lower than analysts had expected. The CBO says the number of uninsured would be reduced by 29 million. The budget deficit would actually be reduced by $81 billion if the plan were enacted. If that deficit hit- and that deficit, rather, hit an unprecedented 1.4 trillion for the fiscal year that ended last week. That's triple last year's federal deficit, driven higher this year by a huge drop in tax revenue because of the recession and spending on Wall Street and the mortgage agency bailouts.
The October 7 World News anchor brief:
CHARLES GIBSON: Next, we turn to health care. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said today the key version of the health care reform bill now before the Senate Finance Committee will cost $829 billion and will cut the federal deficit $81 billion over ten years, meeting President Obama's pledge to reduce spending. Under the bill, 29 million more Americans would have health insurance.
-Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center.