July 13, 2011

AP’s Rugaber Conveniently Fails to Note June Regression in Federal Finances

obama-deficit4At the Associated Press, the task of reporting on the official results of Uncle Sam’s June Monthly Treasury Statement fell to Christopher Rugaber instead Marty Crutsinger.

Next time, Chris, tell us what happened in the month you’re covering instead of going almost exclusively with the federal government’s year-to-date results.

If Rugaber had looked more closely at June, he would have had to relay not particularly pleasant news — or maybe he did look at June, and decided that we didn’t need to know anything more than what the deficit was (possible motivation will be identified later). Although the deficit came in lower ($43 billion vs. $68 billion), the AP reporter “somehow” forgot to tell readers that receipts trailed June of 2010, indicating that whatever economic recovery has occurred is well on its way to fizzling.

Here are several paragraphs from Rugaber’s riff:

The federal budget deficit is on pace to break the $1 trillion mark for the third straight year, ratcheting up the pressure on the White House and Congress to reach a deal to rein in spending.

The deficit totaled $971 billion for the first nine months of the budget year, the Treasury Department said Wednesday. Three years ago, that would have been a record high for the full year.

With three months to go, this year’s deficit will likely top last year’s $1.29 trillion gap, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But it is expected to come in below the record $1.41 trillion reached in the 2009 budget year. The budget year ends Sept. 30.

For June, the deficit was $43 billion, below the $68 billion imbalance recorded in June 2010. Much of the improvement from last year was due to a one-time drop in the estimated cost of education loans.

But the government is also receiving more tax revenue this year, which reduces the deficit a bit. Revenue rose 9 percent, or $137 billion, through June, the Treasury’s report said.

Sure, revenue is up for the first nine months. But in June, which is an important month for collections because corporate and individual estimated payments are due on June 15, receipts totaled $249.7 billion, down from $251.0 billion last year. Sure, the result would have been almost $10 billion higher if the 2% Social Security tax cut Congress and President Obama agreed to last year was not in effect, but:

  • Corporate income tax receipts, which are up about 1% over nine months, were down 5% in June ($48.8 billion vs. $51.5 billion in June 2010).
  • Total income tax collections, which are up 24% over nine months, were only up by a bit less than 4% in June ($113.0 billion vs. $109.0 billion).
  • The “miscellaneous receipts” category included $8.3 billion in payments from the Federal Reserve. These largely relate to the Fed’s quantitative easing and other money supply-controlling efforts and have nothing to do with the government’s day-to-day operations. Last June, receipts from the Fed were $6.8 billion.
  • In June 2007, when the country’s economic output in terms of real gross domestic product was barely lower than it is now, collections, at $276.5 billion, were 10% higher (about 6% higher after considering the Social Security tax cut). Receipts from the Fed that month were only $2.6 billion.

Instead of reporting what happened in June, Rugaber spent eight paragraphs describing the current budget-ceiling negotiations — when the AP’s David Espo and Andrew Taylor, Philip Elliott, Laurie Kellman, and Ben Feller are already covering various aspects of that — and five more paragraphs rewriting the fiscal history of the past dozen years, including these two:

The government last recorded a budget surplus in 2001, when revenues were $127 billion greater than spending. The surpluses were expected to total $5.6 trillion over the next decade.

But the country was back in the red by 2002. The deficit grew after President Bush won approval for broad tax cuts and launched the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lord have mercy.

The $5.6 trillion estimate of surpluses was published by the Congressional Budget Office in January 2001, before the effects of the Internet bubble-burst were felt and before the economically devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks. In other words, the CBO’s projections ended up being not worth the paper they were written on or the bandwidth they consumed. So there was no reason — except to falsely “blame Bush for everything” — for Rugaber to bring them up in his Wednesday report.

As to the “broad tax cuts” somehow being involved in the vanishing surpluses, the fact is that once Bush got the across-the-board and investment-related tax cuts he wanted in 2003, total federal receipts increased by almost $800 billion, or 44%, during the next four fiscal years. It’s right here in this pretty graph, Chris.

The “Iraq and Afghanistan” meme would seem to indicate that Rugaber is cribbing from Marty Crutsinger, who went to that false well so often that he was still citing the wars as an excuse in September 2009, when Iraq had long since stabilized. Stimulus and other radical spending increases during the first year of the Obama administration were obviously what was sent the deficit into the $1 trillion-plus range for the first time — and even though the stimulus is supposedly over, spending just keeps on rising.

The fact is that Uncle Sam’s financial situation deteriorated badly in June. If that decay were more widely known, it would strengthen the case against the trillion-dollar tax increases President Obama wants. Obama’s desired tax increases are on top of the hundreds of billions in tax increases already built into Obamacare, most of which will take effect beginning in 2013, as the Wall Street Journal helpfully pointed out on Monday. It’s awfully convenient that the AP’s Rugaber failed to tell the wire service’s subscribing outlets and news consumers what really happened in June, isn’t it?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Star Tribune Reporter Fails to Ask Obvious Questions in Minn. Shutdown Beer Brouhaha

StarTribunePoliticsBig0711Well, I guess it’s getting serious now in the melodrama known as the Minnesota state government shutdown.

If the Gopher State shutdown goes on much longer, hundreds of bars and restaurants will lose their ability to serve alcohol because they can’t renew their liquor licenses. Worse, as reported by Eric Roper at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, MillerCoors, whose “brand license” somehow expired, will, be forced to “pull its beer from Minnesota liquor stores, bars and restaurants.” The economic ripple effect will have a lot of Minnesotans crying in their beer, if they can find any.

If there’s a less curious reporter than Eric Roper, I don’t want to meet him. I’ve seen pet rocks with more curiosity than the Strib reporter demonstrated in the linked report. Consider the following paragraphs which Roper relayed without any hint of an attempt at follow-up:

Miller Time in Minnesota is over — until lawmakers reach a budget deal.

The state’s government shutdown, now in its 13th day, will soon force MillerCoors to pull its beer from Minnesota liquor stores, bars and restaurants. A state official says the law requires the company to stop selling products like Coors Light, Miller Lite and Blue Moon imminently because their brand licenses expired.

… (Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesman Doug) Neville says MillerCoors must remove the beer because they did not renew their brand label registration with the state before the shutdown began. By law, brewers must renew those registrations — which show the label on each brand of beer — every three years.

The company tried to renew in mid-June, but the process got delayed when they wrote a check for too much money. Green said they sent in a new check, which the state received on June 27, but nonetheless got a letter three days later saying their brand licenses had expired.

“We believe we’ve followed all applicable state laws on this,” Green said.

Uh, Eric, here’s something even the Democrat Farm Labor Party-defending Associated Press broke down and noted on Sunday. It occurred when a public-sector employee who is nonetheless peeved at Democratic Governor Mark Dayton broke down and told the truth. The man (paraphrased by AP) said that “Dayton vetoed all major state agency funding bills Republicans passed at the end of the session.”

In other words, the government has shut down because DFL Governor Mark Dayton shut it down, period. “Lawmakers” — i.e., the legislature — did their job, and therefore are not to blame for the shutdown. The executive branch, specifically Dayton, the guy who vetoed the funding bills, is solely to blame.

Beyond that obvious error, it takes a special degree of laziness or ignorance for Roper not to have looked into at least the following:

  • Why didn’t the state simply cash the earlier check for too much money and refund the difference?
  • Why doesn’t the check the state received on June 27, the fourth last day before the shutdown began, count (whether deposited or not)?
  • Who issued the letter “saying their brand licenses had expired?”
  • Was the person who issued the expiration letter pressured by higher-ups in state government or the Governor’s office to send the expiration letter instead of processing the renewal — perhaps for the express purpose of creating the statewide havoc which appears imminent?
  • Why didn’t the state cash the check if it was for the right amount (or if the check has been cashed, what in the heck is the problem)? Who ordered the department not to cash the check if that’s indeed what happened? (Please don’t tell me the state had to allow for check clearance times for funds availability for a company like MillerCoors, which surely has millions in the bank.)
  • If state government is shut down, why is Mr. Neville still working?
  • Since Mr. Neville is still working and assuming the check hasn’t been cashed, why can’t he take it to the bank? Are his fingers and legs broken?
  • If state government is shut down, who is going to pull beer from the shelves if MillerCoors refuses?
  • If the state isn’t accepting payments, why shouldn’t Gopher State employers and other taxpayers just hang onto their withheld or otherwise due state income taxes and other tax payments until state government resumes full operation?

I daresay if the governor in these circumstances had been a Republican or conservative, reporters like Eric Roper would be much more curious about the incongruous chain of events he unquestioningly described — and that he’d be pinning the blame on the governor and not the in this case Republican-controlled legislature.

In addition to failing to report that state government has shut down because Mark Dayton decided to shut it down, Roper also failed to tell readers that Dayton is determined not to reopen the government until he gets the income tax increases he wants — and the heck with all the people who are affected in the meantime. But reporting that wouldn’t fit what is apparently the Strib’s unofficial motto: DFL uber alles.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

WaPo’s Whitlock, AP’s Burns, NYT’s Bumiller Furiously Spin Panetta’s ‘You’re Here Because of 9/11′ Statement to U.S. Soldiers in Iraq

PanettaAddressingIraqTroops071111He said it, he meant it, and there’s no denying it.

On Monday, in a statement carried at the Washington Post, the Associated Press, the New York Times (Page A8 of Tuesday’s print edition), and elsewhere, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told U.S. troops at Camp Victory in Baghdad: “The reason you guys are here is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked. And 3,000 Americans — 3,000 not just Americans, 3,000 human beings, innocent human beings — got killed because of al-Qaeda. And we’ve been fighting as a result of that.”

That sound you hear is a Democratic Party meme shattering into teeny tiny pieces. The attempts to put Humpty Dumpty together again, both by Panetta himself and the establishment press contingent following him, have been pathetic and ineffectual, which is what happens when one is up against succinctly stated truths.

Aaron Worthing at Patterico’s place correctly characterizes Panetta’s statement “the Mother of All Kinsley gaffes.” Named after lefty journalist Michael Kinsley, it actually has its own Wikipedia entry, where it is defined as “a politician inadvertently saying something publicly that they privately believe is true, but would ordinarily not say publicly because they believe it is politically harmful.”

Perhaps indicating that the Defense Secretary himself realizes the extent of his Kinsley gaffe, Panetta’s statement does not appear in any of the four reports the Armed Forces Press Service filed from Camp Victory (here, here, here, and here). We wouldn’t want the troops getting the wrong idea, eh Leon?

Panetta’s own attempt at the impossible walkback is as follows:

Pressed by reporters to elaborate, Panetta said: “I wasn’t saying, you know, the invasion — or going into the issues or the justification of that. It was more the fact that we really had to deal with al-Qaeda here; they developed a presence here and that tied in.” His aides then intervened and shooed the press corps away.

Sorry, Leon, yes you were saying that 9/11 justified the invasion.

That there is substantial evidence that there were meaningful ties between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein is an inconvenient truth the left and Democrats have attempted to shout down and whitewash for almost eight years.

Stephen Hayes’s September 1, 2003 Weekly Standard report (“Saddam’s al Qaeda Connection”) cited many items known before the Iraq War began, some of include the following:

  • A letter from CIA Director George Tenet to Senate Intelligence chairman Bob Graham said that “We have solid reporting of senior level contacts between Iraq and al Qa’ida going back a decade.”
  • “Iraqi defectors had been saying for years that Saddam’s regime trained ‘non-Iraqi Arab terrorists’ at a camp in Salman Pak, south of Baghdad. U.N. inspectors had confirmed the camp’s existence, including the presence of a Boeing 707.” Though there seems to have been reluctance to tag Al Qaeda recruits as being among the “non-Iraqi Arab terrorists,” it’s not like there were dozens of such organizations at the time. Fifteen of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists were from Saudi Arabia.
  • “According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, an (Al Qaeda affiliate) Abu Sayyaf leader who planned … a bomb attack in Zamboanga City in the Philippines) bragged on television a month after the bombing that Iraq had contacted him about conducting joint operations. Philippine intelligence officials were initially skeptical of his boasting, but after finding the telephone records they believed him.”

Hayes also noted information obtained after Saddam Hussein was toppled, some of which includes the following:

  • “Farouk Hijazi, former Iraqi ambassador to Turkey and Saddam’s longtime outreach agent to Islamic fundamentalists, has been captured. In his initial interrogations, Hijazi admitted meeting with senior al Qaeda leaders at Saddam’s behest in 1994. According to administration officials familiar with his questioning, he has subsequently admitted additional contacts, including a meeting in late 1997. Hijazi continues to deny that he met with bin Laden on December 21, 1998, to offer the al Qaeda leader safe haven in Iraq. U.S. officials don’t believe his denial.” … “(That) meeting was reported in the press at the time.”
  • The day after a hawkish Bill Clinton speech about “an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers, and organized international criminals,” specifically on February 19, 1998, “according to documents unearthed in Baghdad after the recent war by journalists Mitch Potter and Inigo Gilmore, Hussein’s intelligence service wrote a memo detailing upcoming meetings with a bin Laden representative traveling to Baghdad. Each reference to bin Laden had been covered with Liquid Paper. The memo laid out a plan to step up contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda.”
  • “According to U.S. officials, soldiers in Iraq have discovered additional documentary evidence like the memo Potter found. This despite the fact that there is no team on the ground assigned to track down these contacts–no equivalent to the Iraq Survey Group looking for evidence of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. Interviews with detained senior Iraqi intelligence officials are rounding out the picture.”

Hayes correctly faulted the Bush administration for not more aggressively building and publicly noting evidence of the AQ-Saddam Hussein connections and cooperation.

Support for the AQ-Saddam connection is also nicely accumulated here by a person who says he was a high school student at the time, and who clearly had more willingness to  look at the truth than hardened, supposedly adult leftists, who have been trying to wish it away since 2003.

And for an after-the-fact bonus, in discussing something which military planners were probably hoping for before the invasion, there’s this analysis from Strategy Page in 2007:

Al Qaeda was a growing movement before 2003, and before 2001. But after the Iraq invasion, and especially the Sunni Arab terrorism, al Qaeda fell in popularity throughout the Moslem world. Arab countries cracked down on al Qaeda operations more than ever before. Without the Iraq invasion, al Qaeda would still have safe havens all over the Arab world.

In 2011, unfortunately, the current administration looks to be increasing the number of Al Qaeda safe havens (e.g., Libya), but that’s on them, not Bush or Cheney.

Leon Panetta certainly knows much of what Hayes identified, and probably much more. No wonder he committed the Mother of All Kinsley Gaffes.

Now let’s look at the excuse-making emanating from the Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock, the AP’s Robert Burns, and the New York Times’s Elisabeth Bumiller (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

(WaPo)

Panetta appears to link al-Qaeda presence with Iraq invasion

Just 11 days into his tenure as defense secretary, Leon Panetta has demonstrated a flair for making blunt, unscripted comments. But his inability to stick to prepared talking points is getting him into rhetorical trouble. [1]

On Monday, in his first visit to Iraq as Pentagon chief, Panetta appeared to justify the U.S. invasion of the country as part of the war against al-Qaeda, a controversial argument made by the George W. Bush administration but rebutted by President Obama and many Democrats. [2]

… His statement echoed comments made by Bush and his administration, which tried to tie then-Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda. But it put Panetta at odds with Obama, the 9/11 Commission and other independent experts, who have said that al-Qaeda lacked a presence in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. [3]

(AP)

Pentagon chief: A mix of blunt, charm, slip-ups

At once blunt and bubbly, poised but prone to gaffes, Leon Panetta showed on his first overseas trip as Pentagon chief that he has framed his agenda but not yet mastered the art of expressing it publicly in detail. [4]

In a talk to troops in Afghanistan he said he was the CIA director (his previous job). The next day he invoked the language of George W. Bush in saying the U.S. is at war in Iraq because al-Qaida attacked on 9/11 – a message that runs counter to the view of his boss, President Barack Obama. [5]

… In Baghdad on Sunday, for example, Panetta appeared to slip on the politics of the Iraq war, which was started by the Bush administration in March 2003 on grounds that then-ruler Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. [6] The Bush White House also suggested a Saddam link to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. by al-Qaida – a connection that Obama and other Democrats have called wrongheaded. [7]

Panetta seemed to make the Bush argument.

(NYT)

Making his first visit to Iraq as defense secretary, Mr. Panetta also said flatly — before he and a Pentagon spokesman qualified his remarks — that United States forces were in Iraq was because of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. That was part of the narrative advanced by former Vice President Dick Cheney and the Bush White House, but it is now widely dismissed. [8]

In the run-up to the 2003 war, Bush administration officials repeatedly cited ties between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, but a government investigation found no meaningful operational link between the two. [9] After the invasion, Al Qaeda fighters did pour into Iraq to launch attacks on the American military. [10]

Doug Wilson, a Pentagon spokesman traveling with Mr. Panetta, described Mr. Panetta as a “very plain-spoken defense secretary” who he said was not getting into the arguments over Iraq in 2002 and 2003. “I don’t think he’s going down that rabbit hole,” [11] Mr. Wilson said.

Notes:

[1] and [4] — Translation in each instance: “Get this guy a teleprompter and tell him to stick to the script so we don’t have to keep trying to bail him out.”

[2] — Excerpts of this sentence at the blogs of Patterico, Althouse, and others show that Whitlock originally used “refuted” and replaced it with “rebutted.” Sorry, Craig, that’s still not good enough. “Rebut” means “to refute by evidence or argument.” As seen in the evidence already presented along with additional support coming up in Note [3], nothing has been “rebutted,” by evidence or argument.

[3] and [9] — Even if one concedes that Al Qaeda had no “presence” or “operational presence” in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion, there are two other direct justifications for the invasion (approved by Congressional resolution). They are in the September 20, 2001 speech President Bush delivered at a joint session of Congress to wildly cheering lawmakers of both parties. Specifically (bolds are mine): “… we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” It is not arguable that Iraq under Saddam Hussein “provided aid” to Al Qaeda as well as “support” for its terrorism.

[5] and [7] — It doesn’t matter whether what Panetta said runs counter to President Obama’s “views,” what Obama’s “views” happen to be, or that Obama and Democrats believe that what Panetta said is “wrongheaded.” The fact is that Bush, Cheney, and Panetta are factually correct. That’s all that matters.

[6] — The AP’s Burns acts as if the presence of weapons mass destruction was the only justification for the invasion. Again, going back to Bush’s September 20, 2001 speech, that’s simply not the case. Besides, weapons of mass destruction were found (along with “550 tons of yellowcake uranium,” which, “once refined, could make 142 nuclear weapons“). Even Wikileaks acknowledges that WMDs were there before the invasion.

[8] — Bumiller cleverly doesn’t identify the specific people who have “widely dismissed” the justification of the Iraq invasion based on 9/11 — which is fortunate for them, because it spares them further embarrassment. As already noted, Bush justified it on September 20, 2001, Congress in essence ratified it in voting for the war resolution in 2002, and the evidence, to adapt words used by WaPo’s Whitlock, is “irrefutable” and “not rebuttable.”

[10] — Bumiller my not realize it, but she totally busted the Times’s post-invasion coverage of the Iraq War. For years, the Times insisted on naming the enemy our soldiers were fighting “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” as if it was an entirely homegrown organization which rose up after the invasion to fight the American occupiers. Now Bumiller tells the truth: “After the invasion, Al Qaeda fighters did pour into Iraq” from elsewhere. Thanks, Liz. It’s been a good day for busting tired media memes.

[11] — Memo to Doug Wilson: It’s too late. Panetta’s already gone “down the rabbit hole,” and he can’t come out. He agrees with Bush and Cheney, and though the attempts to minimize and cover up that agreement will surely continue, there’s no changing the fact that he agrees, and that it’s on the record. Too bad, so sad.

(Photo above is from DOD via U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey)

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

Outage May Be Over

Filed under: General — Tom @ 2:41 pm

Visitors in the past 24 hours know that the BizzyBlog has been down. Those who went to Facebook or Twitter would have learned that this was due to a cluster outage at Media Temple, my web host.

I’ll cross my fingers and hope things are fixed at this point. Obviously, I’m not pleased that this happened at an outfit which boasts of its Fortune 1000 clientele.