Washington Times senior White House correspondent Bill Sammon inaccurately reported in a February 8 article that the federal deficit is $521 billion -- giving credence to President Bush's misleading claim that his proposed budget will cut the federal deficit in half in dollar terms by 2009. Sammon asserted that shrinking the deficit to $233 billion by 2009, as Bush's budget projects, "would fulfill the president's promise to cut in half the deficit of fiscal 2005 -- which is projected at $521 billion, or 4.5 percent of the GDP [gross domestic product]." But the $521 billion projection (which was actually the estimate for fiscal year 2004, not 2005) was made in February 2004 by the president's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and turned out to overstate the actual deficit by more than $100 billion.
As Media Matters for America has previously noted, President Bush has proposed to reduce the deficit by half of the OMB's projected deficit number for fiscal year 2004, not half of that year's actual deficit. In fact, the OMB's 2004 projected deficit was $521 billion; one month earlier, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projected that it would be $477 billion. The actual figure turned out to be $412 billion. If Bush were to cut the deficit by half of the real 2004 figure in five years, the U.S. deficit would be only $206 billion in 2009, whereas half of $521 billion is approximately $260 billion, or $54 billion more. Bush's task is easier if a $521 billion deficit is wrongly assumed, as it was in Sammon's article.
The OMB-projected budget deficit for fiscal year 2005 is $427 billion.