March 10, 2011

Reporting on Record One-Month Deficit, AP’s Crutsinger Blames Lower Taxes, Not Spending

This evening’s report by the Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger on the government’s February Monthly Treasury Statement, which shows the highest single-month deficit in U.S. history, has more spin in it than the complete library of this group’s songs.

A complete rundown would take more space than readers could stand, so let’s just concentrate on two paragraphs. Here’s the first:

The widening deficit reflects the impact of the tax-cut package President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans brokered in December.

Well yes, but it reflects higher spending to a greater degree.

Consider the results of the past two months, the only two affected by the “tax-cut package,” compared to January and February of last year:

MTSjanAndFFeb2011and2010

Despite the “tax-cut package,” which kept income tax rates the same, receipts are up by $25 billion. They might be higher by about $22 billion but for the 2-point reduction in employee Social Security taxes this year. But since receipts are up anyway, how can one claim that they are “widening the deficit”?

But spending is up by more $33 billion, which, for Marty Crutsinger’s information, is more than the roughly $22 billion in foregone receipts. If anything, spending should be going down, because the “stimulus” spending of the past two years, which stimulated nothing, is supposed to be almost over. The bigger problem than the “tax-cut package” is that Nancy Pelosi’s and Harry Reid’s last Congress left spending on auto-pilot when they failed to pass a budget. February’s total spending of $333 billion was also an all-time single-month record, something Crutsinger “somehow” forgot to tell his readers.

Speaking of the “stimulus,” that brings us to Crutsinger’s second putrid paragraph:

It’s unusual for an economy to be running record-high deficits this far into a recovery. The recession that began in December 2007 ended in June 2009. The problem is that the financial crisis and the recession that followed fueled explosive deficit growth.

(Aside: The recession as normal people define it began in July 2008 and ended in June 2009. No amount of propagandizing by the National Bureau of Economic Research will ever change that.)

What’s “unusual” is that instead of doing what works, i.e., cutting taxes and lightening up on oppressive regulation, the administration did the opposite, spending like mad and intervening in the economy on an unprecedented scale, thereby introducing massive uncertainty into the economy when it could least afford it.

Crutsinger acts as if the government and the administration had no choice, and as if “stimulus” and explosive deficit growth (try over $4 trillion in three years by the time we get to the end of the current fiscal year) was the only available solution. It wasn’t.

Beyond that, the ridiculous growth in spending in many areas of the government has nothing to do with either the “financial crisis” or the recession. Some specific examples through five months of the fiscal year compared to last year’s first five months (increases are calculated on actual and not rounded numbers):

  • Dept. of Energy — $14.0 billion vs. $11.1 billion, a 26% increase
  • EPA — $5.0 billion vs. $3.6 billion, a 37% increase
  • Dept. of Agriculture — $63.3 billion vs. $59.0 billion, a 7% increase (with the unemployment rate declining, shouldn’t Food Stamp spending be stabilizing or going down?)
  • HHS — $358 billion vs. $342 billion, a 4.7% increase (how much of this is illegal Obamacare implementation spending?)

One more mini-example: Crustsinger joins the “keep spending like mad or economic growth will stall” chorus when he writes that “Even if Republicans achieved their target for spending cuts this year, the 2011 deficit would still be on track to hit a record.” So I guess they’re supposed to decide that controlling spending isn’t worth the bother. Zheesh.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

A Free Pro-Union, Pro-Democrat Political Announcement, Courtesy of the AP’s Scott Bauer

The instinct here is that an Associated Press “story” by Scott Bauer in Madison, Wisconsin, will get lots of radio and TV time tomorrow.

That would be a reasonable expectation, because what Bauer writes isn’t really a “story” as much as it is a free political announcement. I’m predicting that the establishment press will love it, especially the opening paragraph:

Wis. defeat could help launch counterattack on GOP

With the labor movement suffering an epic defeat in Wisconsin and perhaps other states, union leaders plan to use the setback to fire up their members nationwide and mount a major counterattack against Republicans at the ballot box in 2012.

Gosh, about the only thing Bauer’s lacking is a bullhorn.

Here are other choice, union activism-promoting excerpts, followed by the resurrection of an objectively incorrect term (in bold):

But labor leaders say the events in Wisconsin have helped galvanize support for unions across the country. They hope to use the momentum to help fight off other attacks and grow their membership.

Said the president of the AFL-CIO: “I guess I ought to say thank you particularly to Scott Walker. We should have invited him here today to receive the Mobilizer of the Year award from us!”

… The passage drew shouts of “shame, shame, shame” from protesters in the gallery and came only a day after dramatic action in the Republican-controlled Senate, which used a legislative maneuver Wednesday to quickly adopt the bill without any of the 14 Democrats who fled to Illinois three weeks ago.

Democrats said their counterattack efforts were already beginning to bear fruit in the form of donations: The party’s Wisconsin chapter said it raised $300,000 overnight and has collected $800,000 from 32,000 donors in just five days.

Party chairman Mike Tate said Senate Democrats have raised $750,000 over the past month alone.

Republicans said they were simply doing what voters wanted.

… Walker had repeatedly argued that ending collective bargaining would give local governments the flexibility they needed to confront the cuts in state aid necessary to fix Wisconsin’s deficit, which is projected to grow to $3.6 billion deficit over several years.

Lord have mercy.

Three weeks ago, Bauer himself wrote, in a piece which also claimed that the Wisconsin law involved “eliminating collective bargaining”:

Unions still could represent workers, but could not seek pay increases above those pegged to the Consumer Price Index unless approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold annual votes to stay organized.

Once again, Scott, if “Unions still could represent workers,” then some degree of collective bargaining still exists. You can’t write that the legislation is “ending collective bargaining” above (while “cleverly” stuffing words into Scott Walker’s mouth that he more than likely never said; if he did say them, why aren’t the words in quote marks?), or three weeks ago that it is “eliminating collective-bargaining rights” and still be telling the truth. Period.

Also, Scott, if you’re going to write about people who are “galvanized” by what has happened in Madison during the past three weeks, you might go out and interview some of the people who are upset that:

  • GOP State Senators have received ugly death threats such as this one (HT NB’s Lachlan Markay), threatening not only them but also their families (other examples here).
  • The atmosphere in the Capitol area was so hostile last night that GOP lawmakers had to leave under police escort and endured people who “were literally trying to break the windows of the cars we were in as we were driving away.”
  • As the Badger 14 blog notes (HT Ann Althouse), “Democrat staff engineered mob’s unlawful invasion of Wisconsin Capitol Building” today.

They shouldn’t be too hard to find — but they would interrupt your free public-sector union political announcement.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

‘Civility’ Update: About Last Night, and Today, in Madison (Updates: Althouse Asks the Question, WH Doesn’t Condemn Leftist Threats)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 2:58 pm

Robert Costa at National Review runs it down (bolds are mine):

… though similar to Walker’s original outline, (the bill which passed last night) required a simple majority. It easily passed at around 6 p.m., with one only one member of the 19-strong GOP caucus, moderate senator Dale Schultz, objecting.

Mayhem engulfed the state capitol following the vote. Thousands of protesters streamed into the four wings of the historic white-granite building, screaming at the GOP lawmakers, who were quickly escorted out by police. College students from the University of Wisconsin’s Madison campus mingled with union leaders, teachers raised fists with progressive organizers. Cries of “Shame!” echoed throughout the marble halls.

Senate Republicans were harried by swarming crowds. “We tried to get out of the building after the vote, because they were rushing the chamber, and we were escorted by security through a tunnel system to another building. But, after being tipped off by a Democrat, they mobbed the exit at that building, and were literally trying to break the windows of the cars we were in as we were driving away,” Republican senator Randy Hopper tells NRO. Such tactics, he sighs, were hardly unexpected. “I got a phone call yesterday saying that we should be executed. I’ve had messages saying that they want to beat me with a billy club.”

… “In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin,” said Sen. Mark Miller, the Democratic leader, in an interview with the Associated Press. “Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten.”

No sir. What we won’t forget are the death threats, the utter disrespect for precious public property, and the personal abuse inflicted by Wisconsin’s pubic-sector unions and their supporters, and the cowardly abandonment of their legislative duties by Badger State politicians representing the “Party of Compassion My A**.”

Continuing:

Despite his misgivings, Miller acknowledges that Walker’s bill is now set to become law. “It’s a done deal,” he said. Republican Darling, however, remains worried about how the drama will unfold in Madison — especially if the protesters continue to occupy, and nearly control, the state capitol. “It’s like we are in a foreign country or in Chicago during the 1920s and 1930s,” she says. “I have had death threats. I have had my home protected by our local police. That’s not the America I know.”

For now, state Republicans are optimistic. As the jeers increase and the recalls pick up speed, they are determined to pass Walker’s bill. “Look, from Day One, the [unions] have been threatening physical violence and political recalls,” Hopper says. “But it’s more important for us to do our jobs than keep our jobs. This is not something that we are going to run our next political campaign on. This is something that we are going to tell our grandchildren about, that we fixed the state for them.”

If there’s been a comment from the White House condemning the violence and death threats, I’ve “somehow” missed it. I certainly can’t find it, from the White House or Obama.

I would argue that the president is providing the protesters aid and comfort by remaining silent. After all, this is the guy who in late 2008 said that those who had occupied an employer’s factory were “absolutely right.” If I remember that, many of the protesters surely do, and absent contrary evidence, are justified in believing that he supports them in all they are doing.

__________________________________________________

UPDATE: Althouse asks the question no one in the establishment press will ask —

AlthouseWhereIsObama031011

UPDATE 2, March 11, 12:30 a.m.: Well, the “White House” has spoken, per AP late this afternoon

The White House is denouncing a vote by the Wisconsin Senate to strip nearly all collective bargaining rights from government workers, calling it an assault on public employees.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said President Barack Obama believes it is wrong for Wisconsin to use its budget troubles “to denigrate or vilify public sector employees.”

Y’know, the public sector employees and their Organizing for America-driven supporters did a pretty good job of denigrating and vilifying themselves.

Here is everything Carney had to say on the topic in his Thursday press briefing:

Q And if I can, one more. Can you respond to Wisconsin, the vote in Wisconsin yesterday?

MR. CARNEY: Look, the President has said that we all need to come together at the federal level and the state level to deal with the budget issues we face. He’s very mindful of that fact that states have some serious budget problems and they need to address them. And in that process, he thinks everyone needs to share in the sacrifice, and that would include public sector employees as well as others. He also believes that it is wrong to use those budget problems to denigrate or vilify public sector employees. And he believes that the actions last night taken in Wisconsin violate the principles that he laid out about coming together and addressing these issues together, rather than pursuing partisan goals. And that’s his view on that.

… Q Does the President still view the Wisconsin legislation as a assault on unions? And would he concede that Scott Walker is trying to make sure people in Wisconsin still have jobs and that state employees still have jobs in the same way that he’s trying do nationally? Would he concede this is a good faith effort to try to keep state employees hired?

MR. CARNEY: I would say — I would point to my first answer on this question, which the President absolutely believes that it is not helpful to make the tough decisions that states face, as we face in Washington, on their budgets, to turn that process into an assault on public sector employees.

Q How is it an assault on –

MR. CARNEY: And then I will point now, in answering Perry, to the — to what I said before, which is the actions taken last night, which divorced the issue of the state’s budget problems from the issue of the rights of public sector employees I think pretty clearly showed that the actions were not following the principle that we need to all come together and work together and not denigrate or vilify public sector employees, but bring them into the process and make them part of the solution. Because everybody has to sacrifice and there are examples around the country where governors and legislators, state legislatures, have worked together with public sector unions and employees to address costs in an effective way, in a way that’s not partisan or divisive. And the President believes that that is a better path.

Note that there is no condemnation of the death threats, violence, or property damage.

Weekly Initial Unemployment Claims Go Back Up

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:34 pm

The carried news from today’s DOL report is that seasonally adjusted claims were back to almost 400,000 again (397,000).

That’s bad enough, and you never want to read too much into a single week (good or bad), but the more troubling tidbit is that the actual number of claims (i.e., the not seasonally adjusted number) zoomed from 353,000 the previous week to 406,000 — a number that is only about 12% lower than the same week a year ago (vs. 25% lower last week).

Is this early evidence that administration-induced higher energy prices are going to choke off what has been looking like the beginnings of an almost-real recovery?

On Wisconsin: Michael Walsh

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:44 am

At the New York Post:

With the world’s attention focused on Libya and the events in the Arab world, it’s easy to forget that, back in Wisconsin, a group of 14 rogue state senators is still holding representative democracy hostage. Worse, the stunt has now morphed into an attack on the legitimacy of elections.

The 14 “fleebaggers” left the state in mid-February in order to stop an impending vote on Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to defang the public-employee unions — a vote they were certain to lose.

Now, their supporters are organizing recall petitions for the governor and eight targeted Republican senators, and claim to already have reached 15 percent of the number of signatures they need. Yet the whole effort, at least as far as the governor is concerned, is illegal. Under Wisconsin law, public officials aren’t subject to recall until one year into the term for which they were elected. But the man leading the drive to recall Walker, ex-Rep. David Obey, doesn’t care: He argues that Walker’s desire to roll back collective-bargaining rights of public-employee unions is “abusive” and thus justifies ignoring the law.

Let’s call this what it is: a campaign to nullify the 2010 election, by a sore-loser party that doesn’t like the results.

… this fight is no longer simply about Walker’s attempt to balance Wisconsin’s wobbly budget, or even about whether public-employee unions ought to have the right to collective bargaining — they shouldn’t, and in fact they shouldn’t even exist, as FDR himself warned.

It’s now about whether we are to have an orderly democracy or legislative and executive anarchy, whether elections can be delegitimized and even overturned by the daily plebiscites of the polls, by the flouting of sacred oaths of office and by the trampling on the laws of the state.

It’s coming down to the rule of law vs. mob rule. Note whose side the Punk President is on.

Positivity: In a first, Pope Benedict will take questions in Good Friday TV special

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:59 am

From Vatican City:

Mar 9, 2011 / 08:00 pm

Pope Benedict XVI will participate in a first-ever question and answer session that will be televised Italy on Good Friday.

The program is one of several new initiatives aimed at bringing the image and words of the Pope into households around the world.

On March 13, Italy’s national RaiUno Television station will officially launch promotions for a program to be aired on the anniversary of Jesus’ death—Good Friday.

The special is set to begin at 2:10 p.m. so that it is playing at 3:00 p.m., when Jesus is traditionally believed to have taken his last breath. The show will feature the Pope, who will answer three questions posed by viewers.

People will be able to write to RaiUno’s “In His Image” (“A Sua Immagine”) program with suggestions for the three questions. All will focus on the life of Jesus.

Vatican Radio described the April 22 television event as “an absolute first.”

“In His Image” host Rosario Carello said that the idea is to bring “reflection” back to Good Friday programming.

“This sentiment has been lost,” he said. For most television stations, Good Friday is “a day like any other for all the channels, there are even quarrels, idle gossip and things like that.”

In an attempt to swim against the prevailing current, the crew from Carello’s program suggested reviving an old show that examined spectators’ questions about Jesus. They thought there would be no one better than the Pope to respond to them.

It seemed “crazy” to think about proposing the idea to the pontiff, but they saw “something in Pope Benedict’s style that caused them to at least propose this idea to him,” said Carello.

“We proposed it and here the Pope accepted.”

He called the opportunity to see and hear Pope Benedict through the program “extraordinary.” …

Go here for the rest of the story.