02/24/2014 01:19 pm ET Updated Feb 24, 2014

WaPo Editors Express Dismay With The Monster They Created

The Washington Post via Getty Images

The editors of The Washington Post are shocked -- shocked! -- to find that deficit panic is happening in their backyard:

Virginia Republicans, having been swept from power at the hands of an electorate alienated by their tilt toward extremism, retain just one bastion in Richmond: the state House of Delegates. From that redoubt, they have resorted to political stunts and budgetary gimmicks as a means of derailing Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s proposal to extend health coverage to hundreds of thousands of Virginians by expanding Medicaid. They seem content that the impasse may end in a state government shutdown, from which they evidently hope to gain political advantage by blaming it on Democrats. We doubt it’s a winning strategy for Republicans. It’s certainly a losing strategy for Virginia.

At issue is a budget proposal passed by Democrats and "a few moderate Republicans" in the state Senate. The proposal evidently calls for much more spending than the GOP-controlled Virginia House of Delegates is willing to countenance. And so here come "stunts" and "gimmicks" and a possible government shutdown. All of which the Post "doubts" is a winning strategy.

But the only "new" thing here is the Post's deficit-schmeficit attitude. In the years leading up to this moment, the Post seemed pretty certain that the deficit hysteria now guiding the Republicans in the House of Delegates was, on a national level, all too real. And the paper fed the beast on a regular basis. In December 2012, economist and media commentator Dean Baker noted the WaPo's unnecessary alarmism in its article about "time running out" to "tame" the national deficit. A year later, Mother Jones' Kevin Drum pointed out another case of the Post's hysterics in an article where the paper expressed sadness that both parties were "laying down arms" and "abandoning their deficit reduction goals."

Drum highlighted the obvious:

This is done with no mention of the fact that Congress has already slashed the 10-year deficit by nearly $4 trillion over the past couple of years. No mention that we've been engaged in this frenzy of deficit cutting despite the fact that the economy is still fragile, which means that reducing the deficit is almost certainly a terrible idea. No mention that deficit cutting of any size in the wake of recession is unprecedented in recent history. No mention of the fact that the deficit has been falling for years and will continue to decline in 2014 and 2015.

Wait. That's not true. There is a mention that the deficit will continue to fall over the next two years. It gets one sentence at the very tail end of the story.

The Post's message over the years has been pretty clear: When it comes to deficit battles, please, please, please don't lay down your arms! The Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates have simply honored this request, so they've a right to wonder why this editorial calls them out for doing nothing more than following instructions.

"How did this happen?" lament the Post's hapless editors. This is like driving a drunk to the bar and then complaining about his unseemly behavior. But that's what you get when you mainstream hysterics.

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