July 29, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

What does half-a-trillion dollars really mean to you and yours?

How much is half- a-trillion dollars? That’s what many dailies are telling their readers about where the U.S. budget deficit is headed. We were hoping that at least one newspaper would tell us that “if you stacked half a trillion dollar bills (or put them end to end, they would stretch from here to there,” or “every man, woman and child in the country will be in hock XXX dollars next year.” The story is there but not the “what it all means.”

The Birmingham News in Alabama leads with a simple “U.S. deficit estimated to pass half-trillion,” the Dispatch in Casa Grande, Ariz., hits its readers with the head “Further in the red” by putting RED in second-coming type size caps and in red ink, while the Arkansas Democrat Gazette in Little Rock leads with a sedate “Deficit forecast hits $482 billion.” The Herald in Monterey, Calif., tacks it on the administration with the lead head “Bush to leave office with record deficit,” The Gazette in Colorado Springs, Colo., spreads the story across the top of Page One with a story proclaiming that “Federal deficit will hit a record $482 billion” plus a graph showing surplus and deficit years” while The Day in New London, Conn., does something similar with “Deficit nears half-trillion dollars” plus that same graph. The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., looks ahead with “Record deficit to greet next President,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution makes it sound awful with the head at the bottom of the page about “’09 budget deficit is record, and it could get even worse,” and The Lewiston Tribune out in Idaho, leads with “U.S. deficit approaches half-trillion.” It’s the off-lead story in the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, Ill., with a simple “Budget deficit growing,” The Detroit News offers a bottom-of-the-page “U.S. deficit expected to hit record $482B in 2009,” while the St. Joseph News-Press in Missouri tells its readers in its off-lead that “Record budget deficit looms.” The Lincoln Journal Star in Nebraska whoops it up with “U.S. deficit skyrockets,” the Billings Gazette in Montana says the deficit is “zooming” and The Post-Standard in Syracuse, N.Y., says the next president faces “sobering” reality.

Then we looked at The Forum out in Fargo, N.D., and smiled. That deficit is worth 482 billion cheeseburgers, or 135 billion gallons of gasoline, amounts to $1,581.79 per U.S. resident — and more. Thank you, Forum folks, the deficit story also is worth today’s blue ribbon or gold star, your choice.

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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