June 12, 2014

AP’s Crutsinger Cites Projected Obamacare Savings Even After CBO Throws Up Its Hands

When your fellow journalists won’t report the news, you get tripped up when you try to do your job. That’s the likely takeaway from Martin Crutsinger’s report on the government’s May Monthly Treasury Statement yesterday at the Associated Press.

The AP, like most establishment press outlets, has virtually if not completely ignored an inconvenient and alarming Obamacare-related statement in a footnote found in a recent Congressional Budget Office report. Paul M. Krawzak at Roll Call, who reported on it last week, seems to have been the first one to discover it. In Krawzak’s words, the CBO “said it is no longer possible to assess the overall fiscal impact of the law.” This didn’t stop Crutsinger from relaying a claim about projected Obamacare cost savings which the CBO’s surrender has rendered irrelevant. There’s a good chance that he ignorantly did so because his colleagues haven’t covered CBO’s white-flag statement (if they have and he went ahead anyway, that’s an even bigger problem). Excerpts from the AP reporter’s dispatch containing that bust and other more typical misdirections follow the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):

US RECORDS $130 BILLION BUDGET DEFICIT IN MAY

The U.S. government’s monthly budget returned to deficit in May after a big April surplus. But the overall imbalance so far is far smaller than it was the same period last year, putting the country on track for the lowest annual deficit in six years.

The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the May deficit totaled $130 billion after a surplus of $106.9 billion in April, a month when the government usually runs surpluses because of a flood of tax revenues. [1]

The improvement this year reflects a stronger economy and labor market, which translates into more income and higher tax revenues. [2] The government has also trimmed spending to gain control of soaring deficits in recent years. [3]

Revenues this year totaled $1.93 trillion through May, up 7.5 percent from the same period a year ago. Government spending over this period totaled $2.37 trillion, a drop of 2.3 percent from a year ago. [3]

… Over the next decade, CBO is projecting that deficits will total $7.6 trillion, $286 billion less than it projected in February. The biggest factor in the improvement is $165 billion less in projected spending on health insurance subsidies for policies sold through exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. [4] Those policies are proving less costly than CBO originally thought, mainly because of tighter management of treatment options.

The CBO is forecasting that the deficit will fall to $469 billion in 2015 before rising again and topping $1 trillion annually starting in 2023. [5]

Notes:

[1] — The government doesn’t receive “revenues.” Businesses and other entities which engage in willing-seller transactions with willing buyers earn revenues. The proper word for money gathered in by the government is “collections.”

[2] — While still historically sluggish economic growth and increased hiring have been factors in increased tax collections, so have tax increases.

[3] — The government has not meaningfully trimmed spending. The Congressional Budget Office’s Monthly Budget Review for May, which was released on Friday, tells us that outlays before interest and other items are barely lower, and that overall entitlement spending is up by far more than nominal amounts:

CBOmaySpending

[4] — As noted earlier, this brag has been rendered irrelevant by CBO’s surrender on estimating Obamacare’s impact.

[5] — Obvious question: How can CBO credibly project the government’s fiscal results if it can’t get its arms around Obamacare? Answer: It can’t. It needs to admit as much. Until it does, responsible journalists should remind readers that CBO can produce reliable projections if it can’t project Obamacare. Sadly, the chances of that happening are very low.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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