September 15, 2010

Request for Corrections Sent to the Associated Press

Just sent the following to and to what I believe is Martin Crutsinger’s e-mail address:

Dear AP:

I am requesting that AP follow its “News Values and Principles” statement and correct clear errors present in Economics Writer Martin Crutsinger’s 2:56 p.m. report on Monday, September 13 covering the federal government’s release of its August 2010 Monthly Treasury Statement.

These three statements from Mr. Crutsinger’s report (“Budget deficit on pace to hit $1.3 trillion”) are incorrect:

1. “Deficits of $1 trillion in a single year had never happened until two years ago.”

Deficits of $1 trillion in a single year never happened until one year ago (i.e., fiscal 2009).

2. “Through August, government revenues totaled $1.92 trillion, 1.6 percent higher than a year ago, reflecting small increases in government tax collections compared to 2009.”

While “government revenues” (a better term would be “government receipts,” as “revenues” is a term usually reserved for sales of goods and services) are up, they are not up because of increased tax collections. Tax collections have decreased by about 0.5%. “Government revenues” are up only because of increased deposits from the Federal Reserve of its profits on investments. These investment profits are not “tax collections.”

3. “(Federal) Spending has totaled $3.18 trillion, down 2.5 percent from the same period a year ago.”

“Spending” is defined as “pay(ing) out, disburs(ing), or expend(ing) funds.” Spending as properly defined is not down 2.5 percent; it is up 4.4%.

The only reason why what the government refers to as “outlays” is down is that the government made a $115 billion non-cash accounting entry in March reducing reported “outlays” (Mr. Crutsinger and the AP reported on this entry when it occurred). This entry was a de facto acknowledgment that fiscal 2009′s reported “outlays” were $115 billion too high. After reducing fiscal 2009′s “outlays” by $115 billion and increasing 2010′s by the same amount, fiscal year 2010 “spending” is really up by about 4.4% over fiscal 2009.

In the circumstances, Mr. Crutsinger could have remedied the need for delving into and explaining the details just described by referring to the “government’s reported outlays” instead of using the word “spending.”

For more details concerning the three errors just described, please refer to this post at my blog:
AP, Crutsinger Publish Three Clear Falsehoods in August Report on Deficit

If the AP takes its pledge that “we will not knowingly introduce false information into material intended for publication or broadcast” seriously, it will take appropriate action to correct these three clear and irrefutable errors, in accordance with its stated policies for handling them in “CORRECTIONS/CORRECTIVES.”

If these errors are not addressed, I will have to assume that the Associated Press only follows its “News Values and Principles” when it’s not inconvenient or uncomfortable to do so. If these errors are not addressed, I would request that AP take down its “News Values and Principles” statement, as it will be clear at that point that it is not an operative document.

I also expect AP, as a professional organization, to respond specifically to this request via return e-mail to me as to how it has chosen to address this corrections request.

The opening statement in your organization’s “News Values and Principles” statement says that “When mistakes are made, they must be corrected – fully, quickly and ungrudgingly.” I look forward to AP’s full, quick and ungrudging corrections of Mr. Crutsinger’s three clear mistakes.


Thomas W. Blumer

Graphics supporting Item 2 above which appeared at the original post are here and here.


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