Take the wire service's Thursday afternoon AP report by Jim Kuhnhenn on Council of Economic Advisers' chair Christine Romer's observations about the stimulus package. Romer said (in AP's words) that "the government's economic stimulus spending has already had its biggest impact," and will (in Romer's words) "likely be contributing little to further growth by the middle of next year."
As you'll see shortly, AP's headline doesn't reflect what Romer said. Additionally, Kuhnhenn allowed Romer to mischaracterize the economy's performance in the second quarter without challenging it, and saved the big news -- yet another administration official admitting that unemployment will stay near double digit through the end of next year -- for his eighth paragraph.
Here's a graphic capture of Kuhnhenn's first eight paragraphs, posted for fair use and discussion purposes:
There's a self-evident difference between what Romer said ("contributing little to economic growth") and what AP's headline communicates ("Impact of stimulus will level off next year"). The headline is perhaps deliberately vague; readers who don't go to the content will have no idea whether the "leveled-off" impact next year will still be significant. Obviously, it won't. "Little stimulus impact expected next year" would have communicated the reality quite nicely.
As to Romer's contention that the stimulus "expanded the economy in the second and third quarters of this year," a widely cited official government report refutes half of that assertion.
For the stimulus to have "expanded the economy," there first has to be a recorded economic expansion. The trouble is that the Bureau of Economic Analysis tells us that the economy contracted during the second quarter by 0.7%. Though it still would have been dubious, if Romer had wanted to claim that the contraction would have been worse without the stimulus, that would have at least been coherent. Most analysts seem to believe that the economy will show expansion during the third quarter, but that doesn't change the fact that it didn't during the second.
Romer's prediction that the unemployment rate will stay so high for so long may be the most specific and gloomy prediction that has come from an administration spokesperson about persistent unemployment. I submit that its relevance to readers would have justified its placement well above the eighth paragraph. I daresay that in a Republican administration an unemployment prediction such as Romer's would have been part or all of the story's headline.
Finally, let's get to Romer's continuation of the administration's tired claims about jobs "created or saved." As I showed in early December 2008 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), I could not find a single instance during the presidential campaign where candidate Obama promised in any possible variation of the phrase to "create or save" jobs. He always said that his policies would "create" them. The phraseology magically and dishonestly transformed into "create or save" within weeks of the election and has been employed with almost no challenge from the establishment media in the ten or so months that have since transpired. As I noted in that December post, "Old Media’s failure to note this shift is journalistic malpractice that would never occur during a Republican presidency." That malpractice continues.
The laughable imprecision of Romer's "created or saved" claim ("600,000 and 1.5 million"; are you kidding me?) virtually proves how utterly foolish and unprovable the administration's assertions have been all along. The establishment press's adoption and continued parroting of those "created and saved" assertions demonstrates how generally valid a characterization of them as apparatchiks really is.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.