November 14, 2012

AP’s Final Report on October Deficit Equates Bush and Obama Deficits, Blames Wars

Well, there’s one little bit of good news in Martin Crutsinger’s final report on yesterday’s release of the federal government’s October Monthly Treasury Statement (I did a review of his initial take yesterday [at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog]). The good news is that Crutsinger, unlike in most months during the past several years I have reviewed such reports, actually identified the single-month amount of money the federal government spent in October, namely $304 billion. We’ll see if he continues the practice of reporting single-month spending amounts in future months.

The rest of Crutsinger’s coverage is typically pathetic and predictable. He failed to correctly define what the deficit really is for his readers, understated the impact on fiscal 2013 of any tax or spending decisions the President and Congress might agree on, ignored the likelihood that receipts in teh coming year are likely coming back to levels last seen in fiscal 2007 (meaning that virtually the entire problem facing the country has to do with spending, not collections), and engaged in the seemingly required exercise of blaming George W. Bush for running deficits (not disclosed as far smaller) and conducting wars Congress agreed to fight before Obama came into office. As I said, typically pathetic and predictable.

Several paragraphs of Crutsinger cra– er, writeup, follow (bolds are mine):

The federal government started the 2013 budget year with a $120 billion deficit in October, an indication that the nation is on a path to its fifth straight $1 trillion-plus annual deficit.

The Treasury Department said Tuesday that the October deficit – the gap between the government’s tax revenue and its spending – was 22 percent higher than the same month last year.

Tax revenue increased 13 percent from the same month last year to $184.3 billion. But spending rose 16.4 percent to $304.3 billion.

Crutsinger should have stopped in the bolded paragraph when he defined the deficit; even that definition is incorrect, for reasons more fully discussed here. Unfortunately, he didn’t, as seen in this subsequent paragraph:

The deficit, in simplest terms, is the amount of money the government has to borrow when revenues fall short of expenses. The government ran a $1.1 trillion annual budget deficit in the fiscal year that ended in September. That was lower than the previous year but still painfully high by historical standards.

Obama’s presidency has coincided with four straight $1 trillion-plus deficits – the first in history and a record he had to vigorously defend during his re-election campaign.

Awww, the poor guy had to campaign on deficits that just happened to come along when he was in the Oval Office and, apparently per Crutsinger, have nothing to do with any administration policies or decisions. Un-flippin’-real.

As to the AP reporter’s second attempt at a definition of “the deficit,” we should be so lucky. The government has run deficits of just under $5.1 trillion during the past four fiscal years (fiscal 2009 — $1.416 trillion; fiscal 2010 — $1.294 trillion; fiscal 2011 — $1.297 trillion; fiscal 2012 — $1.089 trillion). Unfortunately, the national debt increased during that same period by $6.041 trillion ($16.066 trillion as of Sept. 30, 2012; $10.025 trillion as of Sept. 30, 2008). While October’s deficit was $120 billion, the national debt increased by $195 billion. We’re borrowing far more than the reported budget deficits might indicate because of accounting maneuvers which untether Treasury’s monthly statements from representing true cash flow, and because of other off-budget borrowing.

Continuing:

The government has run annual deficits for more than a decade and hit a record $1.41 trillion in 2009, Obama’s first year in office. That was largely because of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Tax revenue plummeted during the downturn, while the government spent more on stimulus programs.

President George W. Bush also ran annual deficits through most of his two terms in office after he won approval for broad tax cuts and launched wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Well, the government never stopped spending, as total spending after the stimulus expired is greater than it was during the years it was in place.

As for Bush’s deficits, from fiscal 2002 until fiscal 2008, they totaled $2.14 trillion. Even if you give him half of the fiscal 2009 blame, his roughly $2.85 trillion in six-plus years hardly compares to Obama’s roughly $4.4 trillion in about 3-1/2 years. Yet Crutsinger, loyal apparatchik that he apparently is, left readers with the impression that big deficits really started with Bush.

As to the wars, Obama’s trillion dollar-plus deficits continue even though those wars are winding down.

As to the “broad tax cuts,” history demonstrates that they increased collections because of increased economic activity and narrowed the reported deficit to less than $200 billion in fiscal 2007. Only a fool or an AP reporter (but I repeat myself) would roll out this fib time and again and somehow expect it become the objective truth. It never will be, Marty, and you can take that to your retirement party.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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