April 11, 2012

AP’s Crutsinger Ignores All-Time Single-Month Spending Record in Report on March Deficit

AdministrationsPress1111In his report on the February 2012 monthly federal deficit on March 12, Christopher Rugaber at the Associated Press (aka the Administration’s Press) told readers that the month’s deficit was $232 billion, but “somehow” forgot to tell readers that it was an all-time record for a single month in U.S. government history.

Well, there’s good news, much worse news, and an utterly predictable agenda-driven item in the AP’s coverage of March’s deficit, this time courtesy of the wire service’s Martin Crutsinger. The good news is that Crutsinger recognized that March’s deficit was the highest on record for any March. The much worse news is that, as I forecast AP and others would do at my home blog last last week when the Congressional Budget Office estimated March’s results, he failed to tell readers that March’s spending of $369.37 billion was the highest single-month amount ever recorded by $30.32 billion — a whopping 8.9% above the previous record of 339.05 billion set in March 2011. The increase is largely due to the fact that checks for many April 1 items were written on March 30 because April 1 was a Sunday, but a record is a record, and failing to recognize one (and only then trying to explain it away if there is cause for it) is shoddy journalism. The utterly predictable agenda-driven item is after the jump.

Utterly predictable is this paragraph in Crutsinger’s report:

The government last recorded a surplus in 2001. The deficits returned after President George W. Bush won approval for broad tax cuts, pushed a major drug benefit program for seniors and launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Not only was it utterly predictable, it is virtually identical to this paragraph in Rugaber’s report last month:

The government last recorded a surplus in 2001. The deficits grew again after President George W. Bush won approval for broad tax cuts, pushed a major drug benefit program for seniors and launched the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The only difference between the two paragraphs is in the final clause — “and launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq” today vs. “and launched the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan” last month. Shouldn’t Crutsinger get reprimanded for plagiarizing Rugaber?

I’ll quote last month’s criticism of Rugaber’s paragraph because of Crutsinger’s lifting, and add a little icing:

Those tax cuts led to a 44% rise federal receipts in the four four fiscal years from 2003-2007 (from $1.782 trillion to $2.568 trillion, and are the major reason why deficits dropped (i.e., didn’t grow) from $413 billion in 2004 to $163 billion in 2007. Very little if any meaningful permanent tax reduction has occurred during the Obama administration, and federal receipts are still nowhere the record levels seen in fiscal 2007 and 2008. Yet reporters continually insist on assigning all kinds of tax collections “lost” from the last decade’s tax reductions even though tax collections actually increased.

Whether passing the drug benefit program known as Medicare Part D was a good idea is open to debate; but Rugaber’s citation of it as a significant deficit contributor is ludicrous. Through 2010: “Part D spending is far lower than estimates actuaries made before the coverage began in 2006. Trustees for the Medicare program had projected that Part D federal and beneficiary payments would total $115.7 billion in 2010, according to the 2005 trustees report. Actual spending in 2010 was $61.7 billion, or 47% less than the 2005 projection, according to the report released this year.”

The citation of war spending as a major deficit contributor is a false meme the AP and other establishment press outlets won’t leave alone, and has been taken apart several times, most recently here on February 15.

The icing: The alternative reality presented by Rugaber and Crutsinger completely ignores the Internet bubble, the massive declines in the stock market that resulted from it, and the economic slowdown which was so obvious by the end of 2000 that no one could reasonably pretend to ignore it — all of which occurred before George W. Bush was inaugurated.

Returning to more current matters, Crutsinger:

  • Wrote that “Government spending through the first half of the budget year totals $1.84 trillion, slightly less than in the same period a year ago.” The real comparatives are 1.843 trillion this year vs. $1.849 trillion a year ago. That looks like “virtually identical to” or “barely lower than” to me.
  • Failed to note that monthly deficits have topped the prior year for two consecutive months after coming in smaller during three of the first four, indicating a deteriorating trend.
  • Wrote that Republicans “want deeper cuts in government programs.” There haven’t been any cuts of meaningful magnitude yet and President Obama’s farce of a budget never reduces annual spending in its ten projected years. So how can we be talking about “deeper” cuts in government programs? (Answer: We can’t) Meanwhile, fiscal 2012 spending is running at an annual rate of $3.6 – $3.7 trillion, an astounding 35% higher than it was in fiscal 2007.

“Somehow,” AP never gets around to telling readers and other news consumers the quite important fact that annual spending now is almost $1 trillion higher than it was just five years ago. Why, that might give people the silly (but accurate) idea that the administration is an out-of-control reckless spending machine or something. We can’t have that.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


1 Comment

  1. [...] counterparts. In March, the federal government set an all-time single-month spending record; the $369 billion spent was over $30 billion higher than any other previous month. Recent employment-related news, with [...]

    Pingback by BizzyBlog — April 13, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

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