The NYT and Washington Post gave us more of their fraternity ritual budget reporting in talking about the new $738 billion military budget agreed to by Congress and Donald Trump. This is known as fraternity ritual reporting because everyone knows that the number $738 billion is completely meaningless to the overwhelming majority of NYT and Post readers. Nonetheless, reporters put it down knowing that it conveys no information, because that is the ritual.

If the papers were actually interested in providing information to their readers they could have told them the budget comes to just under 3.4 percent of GDP. Alternatively, they could have said that it accounts for a bit less than 17 percent of projected federal spending for the fiscal year. But no one expects these newspapers to be in the business of providing information.