August 12, 2008

AP, As Usual, Botches Its Monthly Report on the US Deficit

Last month, it was the Associated Press’s Jeannine Aversa’s turn to mishandle the reporting on Uncle Sam’s Monthly Treasury Statement on the government’s receipts, spending, and deficit.

Aversa’s usual specialty is hallucinating over “blizzards of pink slips” and “jobs vanishing into thin air” when she does her “report,” aka her downbeat propaganda piece, on the government’s monthly jobs release.

In covering June’s Monthly Treasury Statement, Aversa selectively rounded the data she presented (covered at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog) to make receipts look less impressive and to minimize the true extent of the government’s current year spending spree.

To cover July’s Monthly Treasury Statement, the AP brought in Martin Crutsinger, who once again botched the report in his own unique way (saved at host for future reference).

Crutsinger actually did pretty well through most of the report, but he blew it up in its final two paragraphs, which are also the final two paragraphs in the following excerpt (bolds are mine):

The federal budget deficit soared in July, pushed higher by economic stimulus payments and $15 billion in outlays to protect depositors at failed banks.

The Treasury Department reported that the deficit for July totaled $102.8 billion, nearly triple the $36.4 billion deficit recorded in July 2007.

The deficit outstripped the $97 billion gap that Wall Street economists had been expecting for July.

….. So far this year, the budget deficit totals $371.4 billion, more than double last year’s deficit through the same time period of $157.4 billion.

….. Through July, government revenues total $2.094 trillion, down 1 percent from the same period a year ago. Revenues have been weaker this year, reflecting the sharp slowdown in the overall economy.

Government spending so far this budget year totals $2.466 trillion, 8.5 percent higher than a year ago. That’s in part due to the $168 billion stimulus package Congress passed at the beginning of the year in an effort to keep the country out of a deep recession and because of increased spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The points Crutsinger attempted to make in his final two paragraphs are directly contradicted by the year-to-date data in this graphic:

UncleSamTreasStmtSumm0708

As to receipts, Uncle Sam considers the fiscal stimulus payments to be “negative receipts.” If it weren’t for those payments, as you can see in the red box, reported year-to-date receipts would be 3.4% higher. Since receipts from all other sources are up by only 1% or so less than the rate of inflation, Crutsinger’s contention that their reported decline reflects “the sharp slowdown in the overall economy” is demonstrably false. It’s ALL because of the stimulus payments, Martin.

Crutsinger then compounds his error in discussing outlays. In a way, it would be nice if the ridiculous 8.5% increase in spending seen in the orange box was partially due to “the $168 billion stimulus package Congress passed at the beginning of the year.” But that stimulus package has absolutely nothing to do with that increase. As you can see, the stimulus payments of over $92 billion, which are a large part of Crutsinger’s $168 billion, are considered “negative receipts.” They aren’t part of “outlays.” The rest of the stimulus package consisted of tax breaks given to businesses, predominantly for purchasing new equipment. To they extent they are reflected in current year results, they will reduce receipts, as businesses that indeed invest in capital equipement will be able to make lower estimated payments throughout the remainder of the calendar year.

Crutsinger’s partial explanation for the $192 billion increase in year-to-date spending (over $56 billion of it in July alone) has everything to do with ongoing government spending. His allusion to avoiding a “deep recession” is farcical. We’re nowhere near a recession. His reference to “increased spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” can probably also be disproven, given that a substantial portion of the surge’s ramp-up occurred in fiscal 2007. But I’ll defer looking into that, because poor Martin has been sufficiently flogged already, and his reporting, as usual, thoroughly discredited.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

La. Sen. Landrieu Not Hosting Obama Fundraiser; AP Not Curious As to Why

Filed under: Life-Based News,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:17 pm

ObamaVsLandrieu0808.jpgIt’s a bit early for politicians to be creating distance between themselves and their party’s presidential candidate, is it not?

Whether it’s because of a (cough, cough) “clerical error” or an exercise in political self-defense, Louisiana Democrat Senator Mary Landrieu has done that.

But in a report early this afternoon, Associated Press writer Melinda Deslatte was curiously incurious (saved at host for future reference) as to why Landrieu might be concerned about being tied too closely to the Illinois senator. Instead, Deslatte turned her report into an exercise in charge-trading between the incumbent and her Republican challenger, the deliciously named John Kennedy:

Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who faces a tough re-election, has had her name removed from a fundraiser announcement for presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Landrieu will attend the “Lipstick, Laughter and Libations” fundraiser for Barack Obama at a Washington restaurant next week, but she won’t help host it.

Landrieu’s campaign said her name only was added to the online announcement of the fundraiser on Obama’s Web site as a mistake. Her Republican opponent’s campaign said she is trying to keep her distance from her party’s presidential candidate and removed her name after they pointed it out.

“She was never scheduled to host,” said Landrieu campaign spokesman Scott Schneider. “She is attending, and there was some sort of clerical error in which somebody said she was hosting, but she is not.”

A spokesman for Landrieu’s GOP opponent, John Kennedy, said he believes the senator removed her name because she doesn’t want to be too closely connected with Obama in Louisiana, which has trended Republican in federal elections.

Deslatte didn’t investigate why Landrieu might be worried about hosting Obama. Why, one would think that she would be doing anything she could to be a host.

The Louisiana senator’s concern, simply stated, is most likely this: Barack Obama is radically proabortion; Louisiana is not.

In 2002, in a contentious re-election battle, Landrieu was so concerned about abortion being her undoing that she reversed her previous position on partial-birth abortion and came out in favor of a ban.

The radical feminist organization Emily’s List, which insists that all of its endorsed candidates “back abortion rights, including the right to late-term (or ‘partial birth’) abortions; be a Democrat; and, in primary elections, be a woman,” had supported Landrieu’s candidacy in 1996. In 2002, the group renounced their support:

The organization was heavily credited with getting Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., elected in 1996 in the closest Senate race in the country that year. But the PAC withdrew its support after Landrieu came out for a ban on controversial late-term abortions, referred to by opponents as ‘partial birth’ abortions.

But Barack Obama isn’t “merely” a clear supporter of reinstating partial-birth abortion now that the US Supreme Court has ruled the federal law prohibiting the practice constitutional.

Obama, as an Illinois state senator, even voted down a bill (HT Michelle Malkin; paper trail index here) to “protect live-born survivors of abortion – even after the (senate) panel had amended the bill to contain verbatim language, copied from a federal bill passed by Congress without objection in 2002, explicitly foreclosing any impact on abortion.”

You read that right.

Given the Illinois Senator’s positions and Louisiana’s still-strong Catholic constituency, it’s understandable why Landrieu would have wanted to avoid being the host of his fundraiser, whether her name “somehow” got included because of a (cough, cough) “clerical error” or not.

Instead, Deslatte’s readers are left to wonder what the fuss is all about. Her readers deserved to know, or to at least be made aware of some possibilities. But the AP writer, like so many of her wire service colleagues, let them down.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Couldn’t Help But Comment (081208, Morning)

Whoa — Nancy Pelosi, T. Boone Pickens, and a monstrous energy conflict of interest (HT Michelle Malkin):

(Pickens’s) energy company, CLNE, was offered for public investment in an IPO in May of 2007, an IPO that was not advertised, but which resulted in Nancy Pelosi quickly jumping on board. Nancy Pelosi Purchased between $50,000-$100,000 in CLNE stock on May 25, 2007 apparently on it’s (sic) initial public offering.

Read the whole thing, especially about Pickens’s apparent plans to disrupt what is said to be a fragile water supply in Texas.

It may be worse than indicated at dontgomovement.com. It’s one thing if Pelosi got in on the initial subscription at between $13 and $17. It’s another if she got the stock at about $3-$4, which is what many of the founders appear to have paid in.

Oh, and has anyone told you that William R. Hambrecht, Founder and CEO of WR Hambrecht & Co., one of CLNE’s underwriters, is a very involved Democrat who has made political contributions of over $640,000 since the 2000 campaign cycle — with, from all appearances, every single dollar going to Democrats and leftist causes (2000 – $374K; 2002 – $40K; 2004 – $76K; 2006 – $91K; 2008 – $65K)? That includes $6,300 in those five cycles to Nancy Pelosi for Congress, $2,300 to OH-05 congressional stealth candidate Robin Weirauch in 2007, and $2,000 to OH-01 challenger John Cranley in 2006.

Just d**n, for a lot of reasons.

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Clear-cut – “The One” I refer to as “Mr. BOOHOO-OUCH” (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama – Objectively Unfit Coddler of Haters) voted down an Illinois bill (HT Michelle Malkin; paper trail index here) to “protect live-born survivors of abortion – even after the panel had amended the bill to contain verbatim language, copied from a federal bill passed by Congress without objection in 2002, explicitly foreclosing any impact on abortion.”

Malkin: “(This is) abortion militancy you can believe in.”

Me: Thank God for Jill Stanek.

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Here’s the good news: Shale oil reserves are being developed.

Here’s the bad news: Not our shale oil reserves. No-no-no. Jordan’s (HT Powerline).

A point that bears repeating until people see how what hysterical enviro-nonsense is doing to us — We are the ONLY country on earth that fails to see the energy resources it has as gifts from God to be obtained for everyone’s benefit and improved well-being. Instead, we see them as things that have to be locked away, lest they be “greedily” exploited.

The headline of the AFP article referenced says that Jordan’s reserves are “huge.” At the Powerline link, you’ll see that we have 2.118 trillion (with a “tr”) barrels of potential shale oil reserves. That’s “more huge.” At our current usage rate of 20 million barrels a day, that’s a 290-year supply (2.118 trillion divided by 20 million divided by 365.25 equals 289.94 years).

Congress has placed these reserves off-limits. That’s not funny, that’s sick. Update: And conflicted — see first item above.

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Bottly harm – The Tax Policy Blog reports that Chicago, which had been hoping for a flood of tax revenue to go with an air of politically correct superiority from a bottled water tax, is coming up rather thirsty:

Chicago’s new bottled water tax has brought in just $2 million since going into effect on January 1 through the end of May, far off track for the $10.8 million they hoped it would raise this year. Daley claims that tax revenues would pick up as the weather warmed have turned out not to be the case, as consumers buy their bulk water purchases out-of-town.

At this rate, the Windy City will be lucky if its water windfall is $5 million. Meanwhile, stores inside the city, besides losing water sales, are more likely than not selling fewer other things because of reduced store traffic, and possibly paying the city less in sales and other taxes as a result.

City fathers can bury the environmental purity nonsense too — How many extra gallons of gas have been burned by consumers to avoid the tax? A lot more than zero, make it a far from carbon-neutral arrangement.

NixGuy and yours truly threw cold water on this idea months ago.

Is Rich Cordray Counseling, or Campaigning?

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:03 am

I’ve received the following e-mails in the past seven days from the office of Richard Cordray, Ohio Treasurer and Democratic candidate for Attorney General to replace Marc “The Man” Dann aka Marc “My Beloved” Dann (dates are per my e-mails):

Aug. 11 — BORROWER OUTREACH DAY RETURNS TO YOUNGSTOWN ON TUESDAY
Aug. 11 — BORROWER OUTREACH DAY TO BE HELD IN ELYRIA ON MONDAY
Aug. 8 — BORROWER OUTREACH DAY TO BE HELD IN CANTON ON WEDNESDAY
Aug. 5 — BORROWER OUTREACH DAY TO BE HELD IN DAYTON ON AUGUST 20
Aug. 5 — BORROWER OUTREACH DAY TO BE HELD IN LIBERTY TWP. ON AUGUST 19

I may have received one or two others and trashed them before I detected how frequent they have been.

A search on “borrower outreach” (without quotes) at the Treasurer’s yourmoneynowonline.org web site indicates that there has been a great deal of activity in August, while it appears as if the only previously announced “Borrower Outreach” event in 2008 was in March. A review of the Treasurer’s press releases indicates that only three Borrower Outreach events were announced in all of 2007. (I obviously can’t speak to how many events have actually been held, whether more or fewer).

The Ohio Democrats’ Central and Executive committees selected Cordray as the party’s AG candidate on June 21.

My concern is about the increased frequency of these event as opposed to their substance, which for the moment I won’t question. But did the mortgage foreclosure problems in Ohio, which I believe may have peaked some time ago, suddenly take some kind of turn for the worse?

Maybe Rich Cordray’s “Borrower Outreach” events aren’t really thinly-disguised “Rich Cordray for AG” campaign appearances, but their increased frequency is certainly curious — and awfully convenient for a November candidate who needs to get around the state for a different kind of outreach, i.e., “voter outreach.”

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UPDATE: While we’re on Cordray, the AG candidate’s web site boast about his early endorsement of “The One” I refer to as “Mr. BOOHOO-OUCH” (Barack O-bomba Overseas Hussein “Obambi” Obama – Objectively Unfit Coddler of Haters) puts him squarely in the “I’m OK with the reinstatement of partial-birth abortion” camp.

UPDATE 2: Russell Hughlock, who is Communications Technology Director for Mr. Cordray’s office, e-mailed me. I appreciate his response to this post.

He wanted to correct me on the number of previous events announced. But there are six announcements relating to four events at the Treasurer’s web site, so what I’ve posted remains correct.

Russell said that “These (events) are an on going effort to help homeowners stay in their homes and avoid foreclosure.” I have not questioned the events’ validity, and I’m not claiming that politicking takes place at them (I doubt it; it would be a total turn-off). My concern is their odd frequency — there are more events taking place in August 2008 than have taken place in the previous 12 months — just as the campaign season is beginning to heat up.

Russell supplied data indicating that Ohio foreclosures are on the rise — “current data indicates there were 84,751 new foreclosure filings in 2007, up from 79,435 in 2006 and 23,697 in the first quarter of 2008 alone.” I’ll take his word for it, though I believe that the number of actual properties involved may be fewer than the number of “new” foreclosure filings.

Given all of that, I would either question why there is so much activity now, or, alternatively, where the Treasurer has been in the past 18 months. This blog post, which I came across after receiving Russell’s e-mail, unfortunately has stats that don’t tie in (not surprising, given how many “filings” can be involved with one property under disclosure), but more importantly gives the impression that the problem has peaked:

The rate of foreclosures in the state of Ohio is flattening as per the reports of a firm that keeps a check on the US real estate foreclosures. It has also been stated by a lawyer, who has been playing a great role in providing help to the homeowners of Ohio to prevent foreclosures, that within a year or so the number of foreclosure homes is further going to come down in Ohio.

It has been reported by RealtyTrac that about 37,689 properties in Ohio got into foreclosure process on 25th July, 2008 (This sentence is very vague, but I’m going to take it to mean “all filings, including duplicates, during the second quarter of 2008.” — Ed.). This is 21 percent more than the records of the previous three months and 27 percent more than the same period in 2007. An attorney of the Equal Justice Foundation, Paul Bellamy said that there is still an ongoing shock due to the boiling down in the sub-prime mortgages. This situation started in Ohio and also in the Midwest before it affected the rest of the nation. Ohio has been facing it for the past 10 years.

I also don’t buy “the past 10 years” claim in the excerpt.

I DO acknowledge that the foreclosure workout process extends over many months after the date of foreclosure filings, and that the workload of those involved in this effort will not likely be going down any time soon.

I still (excuse the expression) “question the timing” of the increase in Borrower Outreach activity. I suppose the best way to demonstrate that the August flurry represents only a legitimate interest in troubled borrowers’ well-being would be to show the voters that no campaigning or politicking has occurred on the days he has previously visited the areas involved, and that none will occur during similar future visits. That’s why diaries and itineraries exist.

If that’s not the case, and campaigning is taking place before or after these events, in the towns in which they have been or will be held, or at locations en route to or on the way back from them, I would think that the Treasurer’s campaign should, at a minimum, be footing the bill, or reimbursing the state, for the costs involved in these trips, as well as all costs not directly related to the Borrower Outreach events. In fairness to Ohio’s Old and New Media, Cordray should also be notifying them that this is what he is doing, so they can decide whether or not to cover him.

Positivity: Teen lifesaver receives award

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:57 am

From Gulfport, Mississippi:

Posted on Fri, Aug. 01, 2008

aysee Seymour turned the compliment around when first responders honored her Thursday for courageous action in an emergency situation.
The 16-year-old Long Beach girl used a belt as a tourniquet on a man’s severed arm on July 6 after a motorcycle crash in Harrison County. First responders said they believe her actions kept the victim alive until they arrived.

“Really, I honestly think he’s the one that saved me,” Kaysee said.

“They say I gave him a second chance at life, but he gave me a second chance. I was going through one of those teenager phases, not handling things the way I should and not sure what I wanted out of life. Doing this helped me realize that life is too short.”

Sheriff Melvin Brisolara presented her with a plaque Thursday in an luncheon sponsored by his office, American Medical Response and Vrazel’s restaurant.

“She saved his life,” Brisolara said. “She kept the victim calm, kept him focused on living, kept him awake, kept him from going into shock. She wouldn’t let him see that his arm was missing.”

Kaysee said she told a friend they needed to pull over when she saw the motorcycle flip that afternoon at Mississippi 67 and Mississippi 605. The victim, who was traveling with friends, was bleeding profusely.

“I told his friends we needed to apply a tourniquet,” Kaysee recalled. “One of them gave me his belt and I held it in place. I couldn’t tie it or clasp it. I kept telling him to talk to me, don’t go to sleep.”

Deputy Henry Hughes, first officer to reach the scene, said Kaysee “did a remarkable job and kept her emotions in check. She was talking to him calmly, telling him he was going to be OK. I go to a lot of accident scenes and I’ve seen a lot of adults panic over injuries of people hurt a lot less than he was. In my personal opinion, she’s a hero in her own right.”

Go here for the rest of the story, and a short slide show.