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"Even Handed" Does Not Equal "Accurate"

Gerald Seib has a classic of faux journalistic even-handedness today in his efforts to mete out equal, or at least equivalent-sounding, blame to both parties for the deficit:

[B]oth parties could start by being honest about what they've done recently to make this problem worse.
Republicans could acknowledge that they sinned in recent years by launching a giant new entitlement program during the George W. Bush administration—a prescription-drug benefit for Medicare recipients—without really paying for it. They prosecuted two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, without asking for either tax payments or spending discipline to pay for them.
For their part, Democrats should acknowledge that they have sinned in two big ways during the Obama administration. First, they set out to trim billions of dollars in prospective Medicare spending but used the money to expand health care for others rather than to extend the life of Medicare itself. And second, the president's pledge not to raise taxes on any family making under $250,000 is a straitjacket that creates the impression you can solve a problem of this magnitude while leaving about 95% of taxpayers off the hook.

So let's see. The Republicans created trillions upon trillions of dollars worth of deficits by implementing a new entitlement, two wars, and a series of tax cuts without offsetting a penny of the cost of any of these things. And what have the Democrats done? Well, they reformed health care in such a way as to only reduce the deficit by $143 billion over a decade. (Seib thinks all the savings should have gone to deficit reduction, though he doesn't explain how this could be feasibly accomplished, given that most of the savings were bargained for in exchange for the benefits of expanded coverage.) And the Democrats would eliminate some of the Bush tax cuts but not all. (Note also that Seib starts the story with Bush, omitting the Clinton administration's role in reducing the deficit, over GOP opposition.)

In other words, one party has made the probably massively, overwhelmingly worse. And the other party has only taken limited steps toward solving the problem the first party created. They're both guilty!

Seib is smart enough to know what has actually caused the deficit, but he also feels the need to present his case in a bipartisan manner. So he stacks the deck as far as he can without writing anything that's actually untrue.

One standard to judge the two parties guilt here would be whether they made the problem better or worse. But that would lead to an unacceptable partisan conclusion. So instead the question is changed to, Has either party reduced the deficit as much as would be ideal in a world without political constraints? Thus we can arrive at the comforting, non-partisan answer that both parties have fallen short.

Seib, like Jeffrey Dahmer, is an imperfect human being.