October 12, 2007

Stop the Presses: AP Reporter Changes Tune on Deficit Causes

Is Associated Press economics writer Martin Crutsinger quietly converting to supply-side economics?

This is noteworthy, because Crutsinger has usually been the go-to reporter for uncalled-for gloom and doom about the economy for at least the past few years (a few examples are here, here, here, and here).

Here are the specifics about Crutsinger’s possible epiphany. In May, covering the record US Treasury receipts in April, the AP reporter told readers the following about why the Uncle Sam’s budget was running at a deficit (though there is no byline at the MSNBC link, Crutsinger is indeed the author; the now-expired Yahoo! story I linked to in May at this post did have his byline; bold is mine):

The federal budget was in surplus for four years from 1998 through 2001 as the long economic expansion helped push revenues higher. But the 2001 recession, the cost of fighting a global war on terror and the loss of revenue from President Bush’s tax cuts sent the budget back into the red starting in 2002.

But Thursday, in writing about the full fiscal year ended September 30 deficit of $162.8 billion just reported by the US Treasury — over 34% lower than it was in fiscal 2006, and $249 billion lower than in fiscal 2004 — Crutsinger had quite a different take (bold is mine):

While there were projections that the budget would run up surpluses of $5.6 trillion over the next decade, the bursting of the stock market bubble in 2000, the recession that followed in 2001 and the terrorist attacks, which led to increased military spending to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, pushed the country back into deficit spending.

Okay, the gratuitous mention of the projected multitrillion-dollar surpluses that no one believed at the time wasn’t necessary. But unlike his May report, Crutsinger’s Thursday piece quite correctly did not tag the Bush tax cuts as a deficit contributor. Also unlike May, Crutsinger acknowledged, by mentioning it first, that the stock market bubble burst was chronologically the leading cause of the “recession” and the return to deficit spending. He even managed to deliver the core of the Bush Administration’s take on the fiscal year’s deficit without delivering his customary string of “yeah, buts.”

(For the record, as noted at this March 2006 BizzyBlog post, there was a “recession” only because the the Business Cycle Dating Committee at the “nonpartisan” National Bureau of Economic Research [NBER] said so. According to the traditional definition of a recession, which is two quarters in a row of negative growth, there never was a recession. See for yourself.)

There are still a couple of glaring factual errors in Crutsinger’s report:

  • First, he writes that “The national debt is the accumulation of the annual deficits.” If only that were so. In reality, thanks to budgetary shenanigans that go all the way back to the 1960s, the national debt is the sum of the reported “on-budget” deficit his report covers plus a number of other “off-budget” items. The national debt was $8.507 trillion at the end of fiscal 2006, and $9.008 trillion at the end of fiscal 2007 (the $9,007,653 million found at this link). The reported deficit of of $163 billion accounts for less than 1/3 of the $501 billion increase in the national debt between fiscal year-ends.
  • He also claims that “Republican candidates are vowing to make permanent Bush’s tax cuts, which are due to expire at the end of 2010; Democrats want to roll back the tax cuts received by the wealthiest taxpayers.” In fact, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards have each proposed tax increases that go beyond reinstating the Bush cuts, and congressmen like Charlie Rangel want even further increases than the ones outlined by the presidential candidates.

So by no means was Crutsinger’s coverage a model of perfection, but it represents a significant improvement. May the improvement continue without backsliding.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org and Wide Open.

So Many Posts Backed Up, So Little Time

Filed under: Economy,Health Care,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:10 pm

I DO hope, but am not sure, that I can get to doing more with the items briefly described below (and others), but not until at least this evening.

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Fellow Wide Open blogger Jeff inadvertently reveals a crucial difference between left and right, as in this comment he advocates throwing more money at SCHIP (which, based on this post, should be renamed ParisCare — thanks to commenter Mike of Mike’s Noise for the suggestion), despite acknowledged problems, instead of fixing it first. 30-plus years of that mindset gave us the monster known as Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). It took a Herculean effort to finally fix AFDC, now known as Taxpayer Assistance for Need Families (TANF), in 1996. Welfare Reform has been a stunning success.

SCHIP is the old AFDC writ large. It has a built-in constituency of sob-story poster children who can and will be dragged onto the national stage any time serious reform is suggested. It will get worse, and, because of the hype machine, will be even harder to fix than AFDC was — which is why SCHIP — and for that matter, Medicaid — should be fixed FIRST. Period.

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Patrick Poole’s last four posts have been awesome must-reads for anyone concerned about the frightening degree of dhimmitude that seems to have set in around Metro Columbus –

  • Oct. 3 — “Censorship State: Columbus State administrators censor anti-terror student group” (related FrontPage column here)
  • Oct. 7 — “Former congresswoman encourages Columbus State censorship of anti-terror student group” (also conveniently answers the question, “What ever happended to Mary Rose ‘I wrote even more NSF checks on the House Bank than Bob McEwen’ Oakar?)
  • Oct. 8 — “HAMAS in the (Ohio State) House: HAMAS operative to speak at Ohio State Capitol later this month”
  • Oct. 12 — “HAMAS operative nearly appointed to Columbus Public School Board” (related item at Pajamas Media — hey, how did you do that, Patrick?)

This, plus Poole’s FOIA requests that ultimately led to the removal of a non-citizen (!) from a Franklin County board involved with homeland security not long ago, makes both the criticisms of Poole’s work (the ones I’ve seen so lack substance they aren’t even worth linking to), and lack of Columbus Dispatch follow-up, very hard to fathom.

Dave’s reax posts on Poole’s work (here and here) at Wide Open have also been worthy additions.

UPDATE, Oct. 13: Do not miss Poole’s American Thinker article, “Radical Islam’s Willing Bloggers.” Some people have some explaining to do, and Poole is not among them.

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The federal deficit came in at $162.8 billion, down over 1/3 from last year, and $98 billion lower than where Bush in 2003 or 2004 promised it would be in the 2009-2010 budget, i.e., two years from now. September revenues were right at what I expected, but September spending was even lower than expected. Those who think that divided government in Washington is a good thing have a measure of vindication in the fact that total 2006-2007 spending was only 2.8% higher than 2005-2006 — not much higher than inflation, and the lowest rate of increase in a very long time.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (101207)

I sure hope the eminent-domain law Ohio Governor Strickland signed in July will prevent travesties like this one in New Jersey:

Builders Lose N.J. Eminent Domain Fight

Builders were dealt a blow this week when the U.S. Supreme Court opted not to hear a case in which New Jersey builder MiPro Homes claimed the township of Mt. Laurel, N.J., unlawfully seized a 16-acre parcel that was under site development and had been legally zoned and approved for construction.

The case, which dates back to 2002, pitted the township, which claimed that exercising eminent domain to protect open space was perfectly legal, against the builders, who said the township’s real goal was to halt residential development.

This isn’t even changing the rules in the middle of the game. It’s changing the result after the game is over. That New Jersey’s courts allowed Mt. Laurel’s after-the-fact action to stand is disgraceful. That the US Supremes decided not to hear the cases is, at a minimum, very troubling.

The text of Ohio SB7 appears to leave the possibility of land grabs in the name of open space. What I’m not clear on is whether after-the-fact revocation of zoning approvals is possible. One of the two meanings of “blighted area” in the bill requires two or more conditions on a list of 16 to be present (the list is near the very top of the bill’s text). One of them is:

(c) Inadequate provision for ventilation, light, air, sanitation, or open spaces;

At least a few of the other 15 conditions are often present in many properties under consideration for development.

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Hillary (“Hillzilla“) and BOOHOO (Barack O-Bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama) are campaigning actively in churches, talking about their faith, and how it affects their political positions. Paul Krenger notes that the ACLU and press critics of George Bush’s expressions of faith are nowhere to be found.

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Speaking of expressions of faith, or about faith, this pronouncement from Bush is politically-correct and totally indefensible (but I repeat myself) nonsense.

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Here’s another Administration blooper (HT One News Now) –

In 1994, Jose Medellin was convicted and sentenced to death in Texas for the rape and murder of two teenage girls, Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena.

After his conviction, a controversy erupted when an International Court found that the United States had violated the rights of Medellin and 50 other Mexican nationals sentenced to death here by failing to notify the nationals of their rights to inform the Mexican consulate of their detention.

Article 36 of the Vienna Convention requires authorities to notify “without delay” a detained foreign national of his right to request assistance from the consul of his own state. At the time of Medellin’s arrest, the United States was a signatory to the treaty.

Medellin, a Mexican citizen who had lived in the United States most of his life, claims that had he known that he could inform Mexican consular officers of his detention they could have potentially assisted him by providing funding for experts or investigators or ensuring that he was represented by a competent defense counsel.

Taking the side of Medellin, President Bush issued a statement admitting that the United States had breached an article of the Vienna Convention that requires such consular notification.

The president issued a written determination that the state courts had to abide by the treaty and review and reconsider the sentences and convictions of the death row inmates. Bush claimed that his determination to have the states reconsider the cases came from his “authorized power to effectuate” treaty obligations.

Great. A supposedly strict constructionist president wants international law to prevail in a state matter. Horse manure.

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A side-effect of Michigan’s new tax on financial advice:

Financial planners in Michigan were blindsided last week when the state’s Legislature emerged from a late-night budget session with a new 6% tax on investment advice.

“I think it’s a huge mistake, and as a fee-only planner, it pi**es me off because it gives the commission[-based] guys a big advantage,” said Theodore Feight, owner of Creative Financial Design in Lansing, Mich. “I guess I’m just going to have to tack [this new tax] onto my bill,” he added.

Translation: Objective advice from fee-only planners will cost more. Commission-based “free” advice, where advisers get their money through commissions earned on transactions and referrals, won’t be affected. The Wolverine State has struck a blow supporting conflicts of interest. Thanks, folks (/sarc).

Positivity: Couple celebrates 80 (yes, 80) years married

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:00 am

From Scottsboro, Alabama:

Updated: 2:29 p.m. ET Oct 3, 2007

Wed as teens without parental approval, they’ve been ‘too busy to fight’

A Scottsboro couple recently celebrated the 80th anniversary of their wedding, one of the longest marriages among living people when compared with reports in the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records.

Alonzo, 97, and Beulah Sims, 94, marked the anniversary Sunday — a day early — at the northern Alabama nursing home where they have lived since May 2002.

Without their families’ approval, the two teens married on Oct. 1, 1927, when he was working at a farm, plowing fields with a mule and picking cotton for 50 cents a day.

The Simses, who raised six children, credit their long lives to hard farm work and eating lots of vegetables. They moved frequently around the state to find farm work, going from Paint Rock Valley near Garth to Atchley Bottom in Madison County and then to Woodville in the 1960s.

‘Too busy to fight’
They said their eight decades of marriage have been virtually free of fussing.

”We’ve been too busy to fight,” Beulah Sims said.

Go here for the rest of the story.