NYT and WSJ react to Obama’s budget: Through the looking glass

Obama’s 2013 budget was released yesterday. In today’s papers, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have shared their reactions. They could not be more different.

In their piece titledĀ A Responsible Budget, the NYT totally buys into the Democratic narrative of how the world works and what the Federal government’s priorities should be. Even as it runs up an unprecedented fourth year in a row with a $1T+ deficit, they do not question a single thing, except to assert that Obama was too soft on defense and could have found more than a measely $5b in cuts.

As is common in liberal analysis (even analysis of budgets), they use very few numbers or charts. In this case, their write-up contains a grand total of 4 numbers (dollar amounts, percentages, dates, etc.) and no charts at all. You’d think that commenting on such a numerically-driven document would require greater use of figures, but why get bogged down with objective reality? The NYT keeps their focus squarely on the liberal plotline.

Not surprisingly, the WSJ has a completely different take in their piece titled The Amazing Obama Budget. Not surprisingly, they don’t like much of anything about it – and offer solid reasons why. I agree with most of them.
Being more rigorous and quantitatively grounded, they use about 38 numbers in their write-up (dollar amounts and percentages) while citing a dozen or more dates as a basis of comparing this current budget with prior ones. They also include two charts with time-series data going back to 2000 (shown below). They use these numbers to explain to their readers what the budget actually does — what an old-fashioned idea.

I find this difference in the use of numbers striking. I see it over and over again when comparing commentary from left and right. My conclusion: Democrats are drawn to abstract narrative like moths to light and they think thatĀ numbers are for a**holes. Republicans are drawn to more rigorous analysis and believe numbers are crucial to comprehension.

This difference is one of the main reasons Republicans and Democrats cannot communicate easily, let alone formulate ‘compromises’. It’s like the idea behind the ‘Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus’ book: the two sides are speaking a different language borne of differences in perception and belief.

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