In the February 2 edition of The Washington Post, staff writer Michael A. Fletcher incorrectly reported that the 2004 federal budget deficit was $521 billion. In fact, the actual figure is $412 billion. The $521 billion figure is the amount that the president's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) projected in February 2004. Around the same time, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected the amount would be $477 billion.
Fletcher's erroneous citation of the higher number helps President Bush, who has repeatedly said that he has a "plan to cut the deficit in half" by 2009. But as Associated Press writer Alan Fram noted January 13, Bush is proposing to reduce the deficit by half of the OMB's projected deficit number, not half of the actual deficit in 2004. Half of $521 billion is approximately $260 billion, whereas if he were to cut the deficit by half of the real 2004 figure, the U.S. deficit would be only $206 billion. The task is easier if a $521 billion deficit is wrongly assumed.
From the February 2 Post article:
The budget, to be announced Monday, will propose a virtual freeze in discretionary spending unrelated to defense or homeland security, as part of Bush's plan to cut the deficit in half by 2009 from a 2004 deficit of $521 billion.