AP's Crutsinger Slings More Than the Usual Crud in His Report on April's Deficit

Martin Crutsinger's Wednesday, May 11 coverage of that day's release of Uncle Sam's April 2011 Monthly Treasury Statement was such a train wreck that I had to turn away before I could get through it, hoping against hope that if I came back a few days later it wouldn't seem so bad. Of course I was wrong.

How was Marty Crutisinger's report erroneous, incomplete, misleading, and from all appearances politically-driven? Let me count just some of the ways, as I go through selected segments from his report:

  1. Crutsinger's opening paragraph: "The government is taking in more tax revenue as the economy improves, but not nearly enough to keep the federal budget deficit from exceeding $1 trillion for a third straight year."

    Ah yes, it's all because we're not collecting enough in taxes. It couldn't possibly be that spending is up 9% over last year (which Crutsinger finally acknowledges in Paragraph 15). As the Congressional Budget Office projected would happen on May 6 (covered at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), from February through April, the government officially spent $1 trillion in a three-month period for the first time ever. If that pace continues for the rest of the year, total spending, already at $2.18 trillion at the end of April, will come in at $3.85 trillion, exceeding even the President's "let's dump it all into this year" February forecast of $3.819 trillion.

  2. Paragraph 3, second sentence: "Tax receipts were up 45 percent last month compared to the same month one year ago."

    Wrong. Individual income tax receipts were up 45% in April 2011 compared to April 2010, but overall tax receipts, at $289.5 billion compared to $245.3 billion, really rose by 18%. As I noted on May 10 (at NewsBusters; at BizzyBlog), the improved collections in April 2011 still trailed April 2008, the alleged fifth month of the recession as defined by the National Bureau of Economic Research but not as defined by normal people, by a whopping 29%.

  3. Paragraph 6: "The White House and Democrats want to trim the deficit through spending cuts and also by ending tax cuts for the wealthy, which were first passed when President George W. Bush was in office and later extended by Obama."

    Lord have mercy. Marty, this is a news report, not a DNC memo. The "tax cuts" were enacted eight long years ago. What you're referring to is "the tax system we've all become used to." Additionally, these are income taxes we're talking about, not wealth taxes. Income tax rate changes for those with high taxable incomes affect those with high taxable incomes, who may or may not happen to be wealthy (in fact, I daresay, given the state of the economy and particularly the housing market, more than a few of those affected may have a negative net worth.

  4. Paragraph 8: "A decade ago, it seemed the federal budget was heading in the opposite direction. The government had a surplus of $127 billion in 2001 when President George W. Bush took office and was projected to run surpluses totaling $5.6 trillion over the next decade."

    Of course, those projections assumed that an unsustainable Internet bubble economy could somehow be sustained, even as the Clinton administration was trying to stifle high-tech growth by pursuing formal and informal antitrust actions against Micorsoft and Intel while the SEC let vaporware IPOs through by the dozens. Of course it wasn't.

  5. Paragraph 9: "But by 2002, the country was back in the red. The deficits grew after Bush won approval for the broad tax cuts, pushed a major drug benefit program for seniors - which wasn't offset with revenue to pay for it - and entered the country into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."

    Marty, this is a news report, not a Code Pink press release. The deficits grew because of the recession which followed the bursting of the Clinton-era Internet bubble and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Once Bush 43 got the full scope of the tax cuts he wanted, government receipts grew by 44% in a 4-year period (in case you're not sure, Marty, receipts help a deficit to go down, not up), and the annual budget deficit narrowed to an almost tolerable $163 billion in fiscal 2007, the last fiscal year of a Republican-passed budget.

  6. Paragraph 12: "And it (the deficit) grew even more this year after Obama and congressional Republicans signed off on a deal that extended the Bush tax cuts for two years and also reduced Social Security payroll taxes for one year."

    I guess that's why receipts are up, eh? C'mon, Marty. The seven-month fiscal 2011 deficit is $870 billion, $70 billion higher than last year's comparable $800 billion. Reported outlays have increased by $180 billion, from $2.00 trillion to $2.18 trillion -- and you want to say it's because the "Bush tax cuts" were extended? Give, me, a, break.

That's all I can stand for now. When they aren't getting facts flat-out wrong, AP reporters like Martin Crutsinger seem to be doing everything they can to mislead news consumers about the nature and causes of the nation's fiscal problems.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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