Saturday, January 14, 2012

Adjective trouble at the NY Times

How does the Times get from paragraph 1:
President Obama on Friday announced an aggressive campaign to shrink the size of the federal government, a proposal less notable for its goal - the fight against bloat has been embraced by every modern-day president - than for the political challenge it poses to a hostile Congress. paragraph 3...
The White House estimated that the consolidation would save $3 billion over 10 years and result in reductions of 1,000 to 2,000 jobs. The savings is a mere rounding error in the $3.7 trillion annual budget, but the numbers may be less important than the message that Mr. Obama wants to cut wasteful spending.
...without somebody in the news room laughing out loud?

Calling this an "aggressive" campaign is an insult to the English language, or aggressiveness, or both.  Tom Elia does the math:
So, according to the Times' reporters, President Obama's proposed annual cut of $300 million to a $3.7 trillion budget, amounting to a cut of about 0.0081% -- or less than than one-tenth of one-tenth of one-tenth of one-tenth of one percent -- constitutes "an aggressive campaign to shrink the size of the federal government."
To put this in perspective, it's such an infinitesimal amount that it's like saying "I'm going on a diet" then cutting off a toenail.  Bold and aggressive!  Maybe these are these new "facts" I've been hearing about.

(For the record: Tom went overboard with "one tenths" but his percentage is correct.)


Bram said...

Cutting a thousand jobs out of 2 million plus federal employees? If people weren't so ignorant, they would be laughing at him.

another Eric Lindholm said...

Did you misread it? The Times said that Obama's campaign was aggressive, not that the cuts would be. The proposed cuts' newsworthiness may indeed be laughable, but there's nothing intrinsically silly about the article itself.