Jimmie Gates of the Clarion Ledger did a quick drive by piece on the effects of sequestration. Yesterday the Obama White House sent out a list of state by state impacts, and we posted the piece regarding Mississippi that was distributed.
The picture they ran was a typical classroom picture with the caption of “Education funding in Mississippi could take a big hit if a budget deal isn’t reached by Congress and the White House by Friday.”
How big you might ask? Well, the first sentence said that Mississippi stood to lose $5,486,000 in federal funds as a result of sequestration and that 80 teachers and/or teachers aid jobs would be put at risk.
But in context, Mississippi according to the Bigger Pie Forum has total education spending of $4,760,000,000. That’s $4.76 billion. So a reduction of $5.4M is only a reduction of .11%. That’s .(point)11 percent. It’s a tiny and almost statistically insignificant number. However, in the hands of a reporter just griding out content at the state’s largest newspaper, you’d think that Sequester would wind up shutting down schools. It won’t. I didn’t waltz through the analysis on every single line item in Gates’ story because that’s not the point. The point is context and there was very little (or no) effort done whatsoever into putting this into any kind of meaningful context. An average reader would see the picture, read the article and get instantly scared.
Don’t get me wrong. There are parts of sequester that may one day be less than palateable, but this is one of those times where lazy reporting really helps the political cause of one side over the other.