Reporting on Record One-Month Deficit, AP's Crutsinger Blames 'Lower' Taxes, Not Spending

This afternoon's report by the Associated Press's Martin Crutsinger on the government's February Monthly Treasury Statement, which shows the highest single-month deficit in U.S. history, has more spin in it than the complete library of this group's songs.

A complete rundown would take more space than readers could stand, so let's just concentrate on two paragraphs. Here's the first:

The widening deficit reflects the impact of the tax-cut package President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans brokered in December.

Well yes, but it reflects higher spending to a greater degree.

Consider the results of the past two months, the only two affected by the "tax-cut package," compared to January and February of last year:

MTSjanAndFFeb2011and2010

Despite the "tax-cut package," which kept income tax rates the same, receipts are up by $25 billion. They might be higher by about $22 billion but for the 2-point reduction in employee Social Security taxes this year. But since receipts are up anyway, how can one claim that they are "widening the deficit"?

But spending is up by more $33 billion, which, for Marty Crutsinger's information, is more than the roughly $22 billion in foregone receipts. If anything, spending should be going down, because the "stimulus" spending of the past two years, which stimulated nothing, is supposed to be almost over. The bigger problem than the "tax-cut package" is that Nancy Pelosi's and Harry Reid's last Congress left spending on auto-pilot when they failed to pass a budget. February's total spending of $333 billion was also an all-time single-month record, something Crutsinger "somehow" forgot to tell his readers.

Speaking of the "stimulus," that brings us to Crutsinger's second putrid paragraph:

It's unusual for an economy to be running record-high deficits this far into a recovery. The recession that began in December 2007 ended in June 2009. The problem is that the financial crisis and the recession that followed fueled explosive deficit growth.

(Aside: The recession as normal people define it began in July 2008 and ended in June 2009. No amount of propagandizing by the National Bureau of Economic Research will ever change that.)

What's "unusual" is that instead of doing what works, i.e., cutting taxes and lightening up on oppressive regulation, the administration did the opposite, spending like mad and intervening in the economy on an unprecedented scale, thereby introducing massive uncertainty into the economy when it could least afford it.

Crutsinger acts as if the government and the administration had no choice, and as if "stimulus" and explosive deficit growth (try over $4 trillion in three years by the time we get to the end of the current fiscal year) was the only available solution. It wasn't.

Beyond that, the ridiculous growth in spending in many areas of the government has nothing to do with either the "financial crisis" or the recession. Some specific examples through five months of the fiscal year compared to last year's first five months (increases are calculated on actual and not rounded numbers):

  • Dept. of Energy -- $14.0 billion vs. $11.1 billion, a 26% increase
  • EPA -- $5.0 billion vs. $3.6 billion, a 37% increase
  • Dept. of Agriculture -- $63.3 billion vs. $59.0 billion, a 7% increase (with the unemployment rate declining, shouldn't Food Stamp spending be stabilizing or going down?)
  • HHS -- $358 billion vs. $342 billion, a 4.7% increase (how much of this is illegal Obamacare implementation spending?)

One more mini-example: Crutsinger joins the "keep spending like mad or economic growth will stall" chorus when he writes that "Even if Republicans achieved their target for spending cuts this year, the 2011 deficit would still be on track to hit a record." So I guess they're supposed to decide that controlling spending isn't worth the bother. Zheesh.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.