Four commas times three is madness.

Check in on any political blog today and you’ll see mention of President Bush’s proposed budget for FY2009 (which starts Oct. 1st). Much of the attack has already been made in better detail, so, other than pointing out that 3 trillion dollars is $3,000,000,000,000, the only budgetary point I’m going to mention is this:

The document also assumes $70 billion in costs for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars next year, a fraction of the true costs, which could reach $200 billion in 2008. Beyond 2009, the budget includes no war costs at all.

Lying, in addition to not being very Christian, is an interesting way of “supporting the troops”. I wonder if he’s trying to be snarky to indicate what he expects will happen if Obama or Clinton wins in November. That would require more foresight and less middle-finger-waving than the Bush administration has shown in the last seven years, so I doubt it. Regardless, it’s a significant political abuse of our money to ignore what will eventually be taken from us.

However, as awful as that is, this poor reporting from the article is embarrassing (emphasis mine).

Budget analysts and Democrats say the good news in later year is likely illusory. The Bush budget plan makes room for $61 billion in 2009 to stop the growth of the alternative minimum tax, a parallel tax system enacted in 1969 to make sure the rich pay income tax that is increasingly squeezing the middle class. The cost of an AMT fix will continue to grow each year, but the budget makes no more allowances for the cost of that fix.

This is simply devoid of any historical accuracy.

Why Was the AMT Enacted?
Congress enacted the AMT in 1969 following testimony by the Secretary of the Treasury that 155 people with adjusted gross income above $200,000 had paid zero federal income tax on their 1967 tax returns. … In inflation-adjusted terms, those 1967 incomes would be roughly $1.17 million in today‚Äôs [ed. note: the article is from May 2005] dollars.

The Washington Post article can’t believe that 155 people in 1969 constituted “the rich”. Details matter with the AMT because its egregiousness becomes more apparent to the typical voter who doesn’t dwell on such details. The goal in reporting is not to convince him that it is egregious, but omitting specifics deprives him of a relevant fact necessary for him to reach an informed conclusion. Omitting specifics becomes a method for endorsing the policy. Maybe we can’t expect the average voter to seek out The Tax Foundation, but presumably he does read a mass-market source of information.

Also, while I agree with concern that the AMT is “squeezing” the middle class, it’s irrational to believe that we should fix “middle class” rather than “squeezing”. See here.