Robert Bluey

The U.S. budget deficit fell to the lowest level in five years last week, but three of America’s leading newspapers -- the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times -- couldn’t find the space to mention the dramatic drop.

 Journalists who have spent years trashing President Bush’s tax cuts appeared to suddenly lose interest when the budget picture brightened. That’s not surprising, however, considering that mainstream reporters frequently ignore upbeat economic news.

For 49 straight months, dating back to August 2003, the U.S. economy has added jobs. More than 8 million, in fact. Yet the only time economic news seems to hit the front page is when there’s something bad to report. No wonder Bush gets little credit.

A study by the Business and Media Institute last month revealed the “past four years of media coverage on jobs have been marred by pessimistic predictions, omissions, lack of economic context and focus on job losses instead of gains.” One of the biggest offenders was Katie Couric of the “CBS Evening News,” but she’s hardly alone.

Despite the pessimistic attitude of the press, the U.S. economy keeps ticking. Last week’s encouraging news about the deficit was another indication that the economy is prospering thanks to Bush’s tax cuts, which encouraged economic growth and, as a result, brought in higher revenues to the federal treasury.

The deficit now stands at $163 billion or 1.2 percent of the economy. That’s half of the 40-year average of 2.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). By comparison, during former President Ronald Reagan’s administration, the deficit averaged 4.2 percent of GDP.

For three consecutive years under Bush, the deficit has fallen by $250 billion, putting the federal treasury on course for a surplus in 2012. Keep in mind this is being accomplished at a time when the United States has invested billions to fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, boosted defense spending to make up for shortfalls in the 1990s under former President Bill Clinton, and put more money into protecting the homeland.

The challenge moving forward will be battling back the tax increases that Democrats have proposed to fund new entitlement programs, expand existing ones and pay for pork-barrel projects back home.

Since taking control of Congress, Democrats have proposed spending $205 billion more than Bush has requested for the next five years. How will liberals pay for all that additional government spending? Tax increases, of course. Democrats want to raise taxes by an astonishing $400 billion -- the largest amount in history.

What’s most shameful is the failure of liberals in Congress to take seriously the threat posed by the big three entitlements -- Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. They will grow uncontrollably once Baby Boomers start collecting benefits, yet lawmakers appear content to pass the problem off for another day.

Bush tried to reform Social Security in 2005, only to be thwarted at every turn by Democrats. Now, in an effort to kick the ball down the court, groups on the right and left are working their way across America to educate citizens -- and especially reporters -- about the country’s long-term financial condition. The Fiscal Wake-Up Tour is intended to do just what the name implies -- wake up Americans to the realities of the country’s growing fiscal imbalance.

As entitlement spending continues to grow, Americans will be left with a choice between higher taxes proposed by liberals or free-market solutions offered by conservatives. As the declining deficit and economic growth have shown, Bush’s policies have proven effective. Of course, don’t expect to read about it in the New York Times, Washington Post or Los Angeles Times.

Correction: The New York Times ran a 96-word Associated Press report on the deficit on Page A22 on Friday.


Robert Bluey

Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com