May 16, 2011

AP’s Crutsinger Slings More Than the Usual Crud in His Report on April’s Deficit

Martin Crutsinger’s Wednesday, May 11 coverage of that day’s release of Uncle Sam’s April 2011 Monthly Treasury Statement was such a train wreck that I had to turn away before I could get through it, hoping against hope that if I came back a few days later it wouldn’t seem so bad. Of course I was wrong.

How was Marty Crutisinger’s report erroneous, incomplete, misleading, and from all appearances politically-driven? Let me count just some of the ways, as I go through selected segments from his report:

  1. Crutsinger’s opening paragraph: “The government is taking in more tax revenue as the economy improves, but not nearly enough to keep the federal budget deficit from exceeding $1 trillion for a third straight year.”

    Ah yes, it’s all because we’re not collecting enough in taxes. It couldn’t possibly be that spending is up 9% over last year (which Crutsinger finally acknowledges in Paragraph 15). As the Congressional Budget Office projected would happen on May 6 (covered at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), from February through April, the government officially spent $1 trillion in a three-month period for the first time ever. If that pace continues for the rest of the year, total spending, already at $2.18 trillion at the end of April, will come in at $3.85 trillion, exceeding even the President’s “let’s dump it all into this year” February forecast of $3.819 trillion.

  2. Paragraph 3, second sentence: “Tax receipts were up 45 percent last month compared to the same month one year ago.”

    Wrong. Individual income tax receipts were up 45% in April 2011 compared to April 2010, but overall tax receipts, at $289.5 billion compared to $245.3 billion, really rose by 18%. As I noted on May 10 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), the improved collections in April 2011 still trailed April 2008, the alleged fifth month of the recession as defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research but not as defined by normal people, by a whopping 29%.

  3. Paragraph 6: “The White House and Democrats want to trim the deficit through spending cuts and also by ending tax cuts for the wealthy, which were first passed when President George W. Bush was in office and later extended by Obama.”

    Lord have mercy. Marty, this is a news report, not a DNC memo. The “tax cuts” were enacted eight long years ago. What you’re referring to is “the tax system we’ve all become used to.” Additionally, these are income taxes we’re talking about, not wealth taxes. Income tax rate changes for those with high taxable incomes affect those with high taxable incomes, who may or may not happen to be wealthy (in fact, I daresay, given the state of the economy and particularly the housing market, more than a few of those affected may have a negative net worth.

  4. Paragraph 8: “A decade ago, it seemed the federal budget was heading in the opposite direction. The government had a surplus of $127 billion in 2001 when President George W. Bush took office and was projected to run surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion over the next decade.”

    Of course, those projections assumed that an unsustainable Internet bubble economy could somehow be sustained, even as the Clinton administration was trying to stifle high-tech growth by pursuing formal and informal antitrust actions against Micorsoft and Intel while the SEC let vaporware IPOs through by the dozens. Of course it wasn’t.

  5. Paragraph 9: “But by 2002, the country was back in the red. The deficits grew after Bush won approval for the broad tax cuts, pushed a major drug benefit program for seniors – which wasn’t offset with revenue to pay for it – and entered the country into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

    Marty, this is a news report, not a Code Pink press release. The deficits grew because of the recession which followed the bursting of the Clinton-era Internet bubble and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Once Bush 43 got the full scope of the tax cuts he wanted, government receipts grew by 44% in a 4-year period (in case you’re not sure, Marty, receipts help a deficit to go down, not up), and the annual budget deficit narrowed to an almost tolerable $163 billion in fiscal 2007, the last fiscal year of a Republican-passed budget.

  6. Paragraph 12: “And it (the deficit) grew even more this year after Obama and congressional Republicans signed off on a deal that extended the Bush tax cuts for two years and also reduced Social Security payroll taxes for one year.”

    I guess that’s why receipts are up, eh? C’mon, Marty. The seven-month fiscal 2011 deficit is $870 billion, $70 billion higher than last year’s comparable $800 billion. Reported outlays have increased by $180 billion, from $2.00 trillion to $2.18 trillion — and you want to say it’s because the “Bush tax cuts” were extended? Give, me, a, break.

That’s all I can stand for now. When they aren’t getting facts flat-out wrong, AP reporters like Martin Crutsinger seem to be doing everything they can to mislead news consumers about the nature and causes of the nation’s fiscal problems.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Latest Pajamas Media Column (‘AP-GfK = Absolutely Pathetic Garbage for Koolaiders’) Is Up (UPDATE: GfK ‘Responds,’ Pathetically of Course)

It’s here.

It will go up here at BizzyBlog on Wednesday (link won’t work until then) after the blackout expires.

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The column takes apart last week’s AP-GfK poll (home page; poll topline) purporting to show that President Obama’s approval rating in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden climbed to 60%, up from 47% in January and 53% in March. The only reason this occurred was because the polling partnership’s partisan breakdown moved from 42-36-6 Democrat-Republican-Independent in January to 45-33-4 in March to 46-29-4 in May. Anyone can eyeball the changes in the partisan breakdown (from +6 Dems to +12 Dems to +17 Dems) and realize in an instant that the vast majority of the improvement is due to the change in the partisan mix.

But it would appear that the folks at AP-GfK don’t care. All that matters is convincing the relatively disengaged who make up perhaps 80%-85% of the population that Barack Obama is as popular as ever. That will only remain the case if those who know better don’t work to make sure that others do.

_____________________________________________

UPDATE: The video which follows went up sometime on Friday. Given that its final portion explains how the poll was conducted, I would suggest that its posting is a defensive maneuver in response to the poll’s withering, richly deserved criticism.

Here it is:

Transcript, following the introductories:

Nearly 9 in 10 (86%) said they approve of the way the military and the CIA handled the raid, and 87% said U.S. forces were justified in killing bin Laden. Two in three Americans also agree the government has released enough information about the raid, and 2 in 3 also think the U.S. has made the right call by not releasing a picture of Osama bin Laden’s dead body.

One result of bin Laden’s killing has been a surge in President Obama’s popularity. 60% of Americans now approve of his performance, his highest rating in two years. Independent Americans — those who Obama must woo to his side in order to re-win the presidency in 2012 — in large part drove up President Obama’s favorability ratings. Among independents, Obama’s rating rose 13 points, from just 49% in March to 62% today. That’s about twice the amount Obama’s rating rose among the public in general, which was seven points.

Now a word about how we conducted the poll. Between May 5 and May 9, 2011, we interviewed on landline and cell telephones a nationally representative sample of 1,001 Americans age 18 and over. For more information about the poll findings and methods, please visit ap-gfkpoll.com or gfkamerica.com.

Thanks for watching, and see you again next time.

The bolded item is in my view an attempt to assert that the partisan breakdowns shown below (the three columns on the far right are the ones under discussion) didn’t matter:

APGfKpartyID0110to0511

Feinberg wants viewers to believe that Indies really drove the surge in Obama’s popularity. Nice try, kiddo. No sale.

Counting leaners, independents made up 27% of the May sample (12+11+4), and 34% of March’s (16+14+4).

Let’s say for the sake of argument — because the AP-GfK topline does not provide the specifics — that the 13% increase in approval was from 37% in March to 50% in May. Here are the estimated components of Obama’s approval in those respective months:

– March: 37% x 34% = 12.6 points out of Obama’s total of 53 points
– May: 50% x 27% = 13.5 points out of Obama’s total of 60 points

In other words, Geoff, despite the clever wording of your “explanation,” it would appear based on the samples you took that indies drove maybe one point of the overall seven-point pickup. Big whoop. The rest would appear to be the result of an increased component of moderate Democrats (by six points, from 15% to 21%), and a decreased component of strong Republicans (by three points, from 9% to 6%).

Geoff Feinberg’s claim that the samples involved in these AP-GfK polls are “nationally representative” is objectively false (an interesting attempt, though, given that AP’s officially published excuse was that the poll was “random”), and the polls themselves are inarguably unreliable.

AP Bitterly Clings to ‘Worst New-Home Sales Market in Nearly 50 Years’ Meme; It’s Really Worst Since WWII

In an unbylined report this morning on homebuilders’ continued pessimism, the Associated Press continues to mislead its readers and other news consumers about just how bad the market for new homes has been during the past two years.

The government has been reporting new home sales since 1963. The 320,000 news homes sold in 2010, which followed sales of only 375,000 in 2009, are the two worst performances on record. But that does not mean that they are the two worst performances in nearly a half-century, as AP continues to insist, as seen below:

APonHomebuilderSentimentAndSales051611

There they go again.

For AP to claim that 2009 and 2010 were the worst years in almost a half-century, it would need to show that some year during the early 1960s came in with sales of less than 320,000. It can’t. The Census Bureau’s related info shows that total annual sales were over 550,000 during each of the first three years it tracked. It has no proof that any year prior to 1963 had sales as low as 2009 or 2010. Further, the Census Bureau began tracking housing starts in 1959, and those numbers are well above where they need to be to prove that annual sales from 1959-1962 were way about 2009 and 2010.

Additionally, for the AP to correctly defend its claim that 2009 and 2010 were the “worst” years in nearly a half-century instead of since World War II, it would need to show that sales of new homes were lower on a population-adjusted basis. Sticking to very round numbers, the AP would have to find:

  • A year during the last half of the 1940s where sales were less than 150,000.
  • A year during the first half of the 1950s where sales were less than 175,000.
  • A year during the last half of the 1950s where sales were less than 200,000.

That’s not going to happen. As I demonstrated late last year, there is no reasonable doubt that 2009 and 2010 were the worst years for new home sales since World War II.

When will the Associated Press stop misleading news consumers about the true extent of the historically disastrous conditions in today’s housing market?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Stop the Presses: Reporter Finds, and Covers, an Alienated Ohio Democrat

An establishment media reporter actually found a disaffected lifetime Democrat who is abandoning her party (she would probably argue that it has abandoned her).

Somebody may take away Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporter Salena Zito’s media credentials for this (HT Instapundit), which violates the press’s two rules about disaffected voters, which are:

  1. Only cover voters who claim they are leaving the Republican Party because it has become too conservative and reactionary.
  2. If you find a Democrat who is disaffected over the party’s failures and far-leftism, refer to Rule Number 1.

Here are excerpts from Ms. Zito’s report:

Joyce McNears peers over her reading glasses and asks a question, expecting no answer: “Why is the president still not talking about jobs?”

Along with her son and grandson, the 66-year-old McNears matriarch is counting stock and rearranging shelves in the family hardware store that has seen good times and bad times in this Ohio River town.

Joyce has lived in Belmont County and voted for Democrats all her life. Yet President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, both Democrats, won’t get her vote next year.

Belmont went for Obama in 2008 but voted against his policies in 2010, when the Democrat-rich county went for Republican Rob Portman for U.S. Senate.

That’s a problem for Democrats going into 2012 because Ohio has supported the winner in 27 of the last 29 presidential elections. It is perhaps the nation’s most critical swing state.

“Democrats had an awful time in Ohio in 2010 and arguably did as bad there last November as anywhere in the country,” says Kyle Kondik, a political analyst at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

… Ohio was hit particularly hard when the recession barreled through in 2007. By 2009, after stimulus dollars failed to improve the state’s unemployment rate (higher than the national average), and after bailouts and spending issues raised concern about the nation’s future debt, Ohio became the first state to hand Obama chilling disapproval ratings.

… “I am not a forecaster,” says renowned economist Allan Meltzer, “but the standard forecast from many sides is for continued moderate growth.”

The problem, he says, is that “growth has had little effect on the unemployment rate.”

… He also blames the business community for its distrust of the administration’s tax policies, uncertainties over health-care costs, energy regulations and a housing glut.

The last paragraph shows that nobody’s perfect. Ms. Zito’s last excerpted sentence makes it look like Metzler is blaming the business community for all four listed items, when I’m almost certain that Metzler was only hitting the business community for item 1. Of course Metzler is wrong about that, as there’s plenty of reason to distrust the administration, because it continues to run mind-boggling deficits and to push at every opportune moment for tax increases.

Ms. Zito’s work from across the border in Pennsylvania is nonetheless a partial antidote to Ohio’s establishment press, which has somehow failed to find people like Joyce McNears for the past two-plus years, even though there are thousands of Democrats just like her who are beyond fed up with what this administration and Ted Strickland’s Ohio gubernatorial regime have done to the nation and the Buckeye State.

In further researching this post, I have learned that the Trib-Review is perceived as a conservative publication. In this case, I’d suggest that it has a reporter who has her eyes open. Ohio’s major papers seem to have a shortage of such people.