June 12, 2012

AP’s Crutsinger Omits Key Facts in Report on May Deficit, Engages in Usual Historical Spin

To illustrate how factually negligent this afternoon’s report by Martin Crutsinger at the Associated Press on the federal government’s financial results embodied in its Monthly Treasury Statement was, let’s take a look at how Pedro Nicolaci da Costa at Reuters communicated more in a four-sentence brief than the AP reporter did in 18 painful paragraphs.

Here is da Costa’s item, in full:

The U.S. government posted a budget deficit of $125 billion in May, more than twice the level registered in the same month last year.

So far this fiscal year, the budget deficit stands at $844.5 billion, narrower than at the same time a year ago.

Under the government’s accounting system, October is the opening month of fiscal 2012. During fiscal 2011 which ended Sept. 30, the budget deficit totaled $1.296 trillion.

Thanks to Mr. da Costa, we know May’s deficit, about what the deficit was in May 2011, the year-to-date deficit, and last year’s deficit. Not bad for four sentences.

Crutsinger report never tells readers how this year’s deficit compared to May 2011. I guess the Administration’s Press doesn’t want to alarm its news consumers about how bad May actually was. In fact he did a couple of things, one by commission and the other by omission, to give readers the impression that it was pretty decent. The act of commission is seen in the following two paragraphs:

So far this year, government receipts are running 5.3 percent higher than a year ago. A better job market and modest economic growth have led to higher tax revenue.

Receipts in May totaled $180.7 billion, the second-largest tax take for the month of May.

The trouble is that May 2012 receipts were only 3.3% greater than May 2011. This followed two months of double-digit increases. In other words, because of recent unimpressive employment gains and other evidence of business sluggishness, collections are slowing.

Crutsinger’s act of omission was his failure to tell readers that year-to-date spending is for all practical purposes exactly the same as last year’s comparable number ($2.408 trillion vs. $2.412 trillion). If there is any “austerity” going on in Washington, it’s well-hidden.

Finally, Crutsinger, as usual, miscast the deficit and debt-building history of the 21st century in the following two cut-and-paste paragraphs:

The government last recorded an annual budget surplus in 2001. Deficits returned after Bush won approval for the broad tax cuts, pushed a major drug benefit program for seniors and launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The deficit grew further under Obama. The Great Recession shrank tax revenue as unemployment rose and income fell. The deficits have topped $1 trillion in each of Obama’s first three years in office.

I’ll let readers take a rip at this garbage this time around, except to note that it has been refuted more times by more people, including yours truly, than anyone can hope to count.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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