Cognitive Dissonance on Federal Spending

Governors David A. Paterson of New York and Martin O’Malley of Maryland deplore the federal government’s fiscal irresponsibility:

The Bush administration announced this week that the federal deficit could reach an unprecedented high, $482 billion, next year.

Time to stop spending, eh? That would be most people’s response to an unprecedented deficit. And they do mention “irresponsible spending” later in the piece. But somehow, it appears that the governors thought that was a good lead for an article in the Washington Post demanding more federal spending to subsidize state governments.

They lamented the plight of the state budgets; New York, for instance, asked state agencies “to slash their state budgets by 3.35 percent.” Now, if I had to cut my budget for a new sofa, say, from $1,000 to $966.50, I don’t think I’d call that a “slash”; it’s more like margin of error. And I’d be willing to bet that New York State’s budget wasn’t cut by 3.35 percent from last year’s levels. But maybe it’s a trim of some kinds of state spending. But their point is to demand that taxpayers across America send more money to Washington, which — despite that $482 billion deficit — should take a cut of it and send the rest to America’s governors:

No matter how prudent states are, they cannot solve the nation’s economic problems on their own. The federal government must provide serious leadership and resources and be willing to make difficult short- and long-term decisions to move our country forward.

In the short term, federal officials must pass a second stimulus package that includes investments in our nation’s infrastructure… .

Other short-term stimulus investments should include an additional extension of unemployment insurance and assistance for low-income Americans.

That’s making those difficult decisions in an era of unprecedented deficits!

And then, the final summation:

In the long term, our federal government should examine its fiscal track record from the past several years. We can no longer allow irresponsible spending, chronic underfunding of critical programs and a refusal to partner with state governments to determine the economic future of our country. It is time for fiscal responsibility.

What the heck is this article about? It begins with “an unprecedented deficit,” ends with “irresponsible spending” and “time for fiscal responsibility,” but is in fact simply a demand for huge new federal transfers to state governments. Who wrote this thing? And did the editors read it?