August 30, 2011

AP’s Kuhnhenn: Obama ‘Hamstrung’ by ‘Limited Tools’ to Improve Economy and Increase Employment

Poor President Obama. There’s only so much he can do to lift the economy. He’s tried so much already, yet somehow it just hasn’t worked. Now his options are limited by those darned Republican demands for “fiscal austerity” and a “tight debt ceiling” (of “only” $2.4 trillion) which was only raised by enough to get him through his reelection effort (in 14-1/2 months).

This is the utter garbage in a Tuesday morning report (“Obama faces tight restraints in crafting jobs plan”) the Associated Press’s Jim Kuhnhenn expects his wire service’s readers, listeners, and viewers to swallow, and its subscribing media outlets to non-skeptically publish and broadcast.

If I were to use my annotated style of taking apart a story, I’d have at least 30 items. Other than his very late segment addressing the worthy recommendations of economist Kevin Hassett, virtually every sentence is a teeth-grinder, and almost every statement by anyone other than Hassett is a forehead-slapper.

Here are my nominees for the top three ridiculous passages in Kuhnhenn’s calamity:

(opening sentence)

Hamstrung by budget cuts and a tight debt ceiling, President Barack Obama is preparing a September jobs package with limited tools at his disposal to prime the economy and crank up employment.

Jim, there are no cuts. Spending continues to increase. Any items advertised as “cuts” are only reductions in projected spending per the Congressional Budget Office assuming Congress just sits there and doesn’t try to do its job. If you can point to a major budget where actual spending in fiscal 2012 is projected to be less than fiscal 2011 spending — let alone fiscal 2007, before Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid followed by President Obama tore the roof off of anything resembling spending control — I’d like to know what it is. The federal government is on track to spend well over 35% more in fiscal 2011 (about $3.7 trillion) than it did in 2007 (about $2.7 trillion). “Budget cuts”?

(Paragraph 9)

He also has lent support to a proposal to create an “infrastructure bank,” a fund that would be seeded by the government but fed by private investment to pay for major road, bridge and other public construction. Even advocates of the plan, however, say that proposal probably would not be in place to generate jobs for about two years.

Then why is he bothering?

(Final paragraph)

“The debt deal doesn’t allow any sizable amount of deficit spending or increased spending,” he (Lawrence Mishel, president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute) said. “If you ‘re going to pay for it later, how do you do that when you have a tight amount of debt that you can take on over the next year and a half?”

This is downright pathological. “The debt deal” allowed the national debt to increase by $2.4 trillion over roughly 18 months. That’s a $133 billion per month average. That’s a “tight amount”? Someone should ask Mishel what he thinks would be “loose.”

As for “any sizable amount of deficit spending or increased spending” — Lord, we’ve run almost $4 trillion in official deficits during the last three fiscal years (fiscal 2009 and 2010 actuals per the Treasury Department, $1.42 trillion and $1.29 trillion; projected fiscal 2011, $1.28 trillion; projected three-year total, $3.99 trillion), while the national debt ballooned by $4.6 trillion from September 30, 2008 through yesterday ($14.625 trillion minus $10.025 trillion. How high would these numbers have to get before they become “sizable”?

Rush’s reaction to Kuhnhenn’s report during the opening segment of his show today was similar to your truly’s, and his ending echoes the point I made in the second paragraph of this post’s introduction (bolds are mine):

AP is very concerned here, folks. They’re making excuses for Obama, even before he delivers the big jobs speech that’s coming up sometime next week. And remember how they used to do that for Bush? Make excuses? Yeah, guess not. In any case, what this AP story boils down to is that the first round of stimulus is drying up, and according to AP, that’s why the GDP, economic growth, is down to 1%. Isn’t that cool? Economic growth is down, not because of unemployment, not because Obama has targeted the private sector, not because he has shrunk the private sector while growing the government. No, no, no, no. Our economic slowdown is due to the fact that the first stimulus is now drying up.

So consequently Obama is now desperate for another round of stimulus in order to keep the GDP in positive territory and out of an official recession in an election year. The trouble is that Obama can’t spend much without raising the debt ceiling yet again, as AP points out. Hey, it’s real problem. We just went through a debt ceiling fight, raising it another two point whatever trillion dollars and we can’t go back to it too soon. People didn’t want the debt ceiling raised this time. So the AP is wringing its hands and they’re all concerned over the restraints poor Obama faces in announcing his jobs program.

In the middle of three years of failure, you have a major news organization that’s making the case for Obama in advance for more of the same, which is going to get us more of the same: smaller private sector, fewer jobs, no salary or wage increases. Utter failure. And yet they are promoting it. They are making the case for it. Well, both. Making the case for it and for him.

But the point is they’re saying Obama must up spending to get reelected. How many more votes can he buy? How many more votes can he buy? If this was the way to reelection, he ought to be at 70, 80% in the polls. So I look at this and I chuckle, I laugh, and then I sorta scratch my head because this is a major problem. This story is gonna run in newspapers and on websites all across the country, and a bunch of people (are) gonna read it and think that it’s the way it is. I mean it’s the height of ignorance, of being uninformed, and journalistic malpractice at the same time.

It isn’t journalistic malpractice only if you’re in Jim Kuhnhenn’s Cave on Planet AP.

Cross-posted at


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