NPR Cries Factual Foul on Paul Ryan for Saying 'Failed Stimulus' in SOTU Response

Beware when the liberal media starts a "fact check" story on political speeches. Their "facts" often come directly from liberal policy wonks. On Wednesday's Morning Edition, NPR ran through a series of Obama claims without really saying he mangled a fact. Reporter Elisabeth Shogren suggested he was too optimistic about getting electric cars on the road with "this Congress" (ahem, not progressive enough).  But reporter John Ydstie suggested Paul Ryan was wrong to suggest the stimulus failed, citing that "economists of both persuasions" agree Ryan was incorrect:

RENEE MONTAGNE, anchor: And the president also spoke of infrastructure projects, such as high-speed rail and expanding to most of the population high-speed Internet. John Ydstie, let's bring you back in. Investment was a big theme of this State of the Union speech. In the official Republican rebuttal, Congressman Paul Ryan had this to say about that.

Rep. PAUL RYAN: Since taking office, President Obama has signed into law spending increases of nearly 25 percent for domestic government agencies, an 84 percent increase when you include the failed stimulus. All of this new government spending was sold as investment. Yet after two years, the unemployment rate remains above nine percent, and government has added over $3 trillion to our debt.

The official NPR transcript of this fact-check piece identifies Ryan as a Republican from "Wyoming." Someone needs to fact-check the fact check: he said right at the opening of his State of the Union response that he's from Janesville, Wisconsin. But it continued:

MONTAGNE: A lot of numbers there. But, John Ydstie, Congressman Ryan's assessment, is it correct?

JOHN YDSTIE: Well, it's certainly an assessment many Republicans share. And there's no doubt that President Obama has presided over massive increases in spending, in order to stimulate the economy and keep it from slipping back into recession. Whether that's a failed stimulus or not is arguable, certainly. The economy is growing now. And I think economists of both persuasions agree that the stimulus spending played a big role in keeping the economy from sliding back into recession.

What Republican economist (as opposed to Republican big-city mayors or other "stimulus" beneficiaries) has praised the "stimulus"? NPR may be thinking of Mark Zandi, a media favorite. Columnist Larry Elder put the kibosh on that:

In a study widely cited by the stimulus-supporting media, economists Alan Blinder and Mark Zandi wrote: "We estimate that, without the government's response, GDP in 2010 would be about 11.5 percent lower, payroll employment would be less by some 8 1/2 million jobs, and the nation would now be experiencing deflation."

Case closed? Hardly.

Blinder is a liberal Princeton economist who advised President Bill Clinton and presidential candidates Al Gore and John Kerry. House Democrats happily call Zandi -- with whom they agree and who advised presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. -- a "conservative Republican economist." Democrats say that if a "conservative Republican economist" says the stimulus worked, why, it must be true!

Except Zandi himself says, "I'm a Democrat." Oops.

Zandi explains: "I didn't view (McCain) as a Republican or Democrat." Exactly. Neither did many Republicans.

But NPR surely knows Zandi has consistently supported the stimulus. Last August, NPR noted that Zandi was a stimulus supporter, and conservative economist Tyler Cowen was not. In interviews, NPR found neither had changed their mind over the first 18 months of Obama's presidency. 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis