The official Monthly Treasury Statement for February came out Wednesday showing a deficit for the month of $204 billion, basically the same as the Congressional Budget Office predicted several days earlier. The reported deficit through five months of the fiscal year is $494 billion, down from $580 billion a year earlier.
That February result was an "improvement" of $28 billion over the $232 billion deficit seen in February 2012. Unfortunately, the two main reasons for the difference demonstrate that the economy really isn't any better than it was a year ago. $20 billion of the difference occurred because the IRS was slower in sending out tax refunds than it was in 2012 because of the late passage of tax-related fiscal cliff measures in early January. The rest of the improvement can be traced to the repeal of the 2-point payroll tax cut which had been in place during calendar 2011 and 2012. Since February 2013 outlays were almost $9 billion lower than February 2012, one could argue that the economy actually did a worse job of generating taxes for the government than it did a year ago. Nevertheless, as would be expected, Christopher Rugaber at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, cited "an improving economy":
We should give credit to the Associated Press's Calvin Woodward, with help from AP Polling Director Jennifer Agiesta and writer Alan Fram, for calling out politicians and other gun-grabbers who have been abusing a two decades-old gun-related statistic and passing it off as if it's still factual.
That's nice, but Woodward could have saved many words, mountains of paper, and tons of bandwidth by telling readers in plain English that claims such as one made President Barack Obama that "as many as 40 percent of all gun purchases are conducted without a background check" have never, ever been true. Instead, the AP reporter used 13 paragraphs, at one point excusing researchers who came up with a 30-40 percent estimate even "with a clear picture eluding them." There was never any defensible basis for their "estimate." Excerpts from Woodward's Wednesday item following the jump:
In an interview with former Bill Clinton adviser George Stephanopoulos at ABC (transcript here), President Barack Obama claimed that “We don’t have an immediate crisis in terms of debt." Despite his claim, no one can know that for sure, but it's at least consistent with what he said during the 2012 presidential campaign ("we don't have to worry about it short term").
Obama's elaboration on the debt topic, however, was not consistent: "In fact, for the next ten years, it’s gonna be in a sustainable place." Ten years is long-term by any reasonable definition. His statement directoly contradicts what he said In October 2012: "... it is a problem long term and even medium term." Of course, ABC's subsequent coverage of that interview by Jonathan Karl didn't note the President's change of tune, and went further to assist Obama by presenting a misleading visual and by misstating the relative size of this year's officially projected deficit to that seen in fiscal 2009.
In Monday's New York Times, in a report which appeared online late Sunday, reporters Richard W. Stevenson and John Harwood devoted considerable space to the idea that President Obama's latest "outreach" effort is primarily an attempt to "salvage a big deficit-reduction deal," and not a political ploy to show voters in the 2014 congressional elections that he's really interested in achieving a compromise when no genuine desire exists.
Steven Hayes at the Weekly Standard believes it's the latter ("For Obama, It's All About 2014"), as should anyone, probably including the reporters just cited, who is on the mailing list of Obama's permanent campaign known as Organizing For Action. On Thursday, three days before the Times reporters tried to convince America that Obama is in deal-making mode, OFA, which self-evidently tailors its message to the White House's true desire went into over-the-top scaremongering mode in an email from proven prevaricator Stephanie Cutter (bolds are mine):
In a mild shock -- mild because it's mentioned before the elections, but probably won't be when it really matters after the polls close -- Frank Bajak and Jorge Rueda at the Associated Press, in a story about how the last opposition TV station in Venezuela is being sold to an insurance magnate who is reportedly "friendly with government," noted the extraordinary handicaps that Venezuela's opposition presidential candidate faces as he attempts to unseat the Chavista successor to the late dictator Hugo Chavez in April's upcoming elections.
It will be interesting to see how much national play this story gets. My guess is: "little."
Following up on a matter on which I initially posted last month, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported yesterday that the prosecutor for Hamilton County, Ohio, where the county seat is Cincinnati, is bringing charges related to improper voting against three people – including a longtime poll worker and a nun. In connection with the poll worker, reporter Sharon Coolidge notes something that should earn today's prize for inadvertent deadpan humor (in bold):
In a New York Times op-ed which has been receiving deserved criticism from other quarters concerning other matters (e.g., here and here), Ta-Nehisi Coates ("The Good, Racist People") repeated one of those establishment press-induced "everybody knows" mantras which doesn't stand up to scrutiny after considering the available evidence: "New York is a city, like most in America, that bears the scars of redlining, blockbusting and urban renewal. The ghost of those policies haunts us in a wealth gap between blacks and whites that has actually gotten worse over the past 20 years." In Coates's fevered mind, it's largely due to racism.
In national context, the white-black wealth gap in the two decades since 1993 is not yet known, but in 2005, the 15th of the past 20 years for which information is available (1991-2010), it stayed the same. The multiple only went up significantly when the housing bubble burst and the recession took hold.
Crutsinger described the past four months as a "hiring spree," and the job market as "accelerating." Even sticking with the seasonally adjusted figures, that doesn't stand up well, given that there was a big revised dip in job additions in January. Second, he contended that "Hiring would be rising even faster if governments weren't shrinking their workforces, as they have been for nearly four years" -- as if government hiring and the higher taxes which would accompany it at the state and local levels or the higher amount of deficit financing required at the federal level would have no effect on private employers' rate of hiring. And no establishment press report would be complete without moaning about how goverment employment continues to contract ever so slightly and how impending spending "cuts" which aren't cuts at all threaten the current wondrous conditions. That's not all, of course.
With all the talk of sequstration and its supposed "austerity on autopilot" (as characterized at Voice of America -- your tax dollars at work against you), it's useful to look at what has really been happening with federal spending over the past six years, something the establishment press is very reluctant to do.
On Thursday, the Congressional Budget Office released its February Monthly Budget Review ahead of the Treasury Department's official report which will arrive early next week. It estimates that the federal government ran a one-month deficit of $205 billion. It also shows that year-to-date spending through five months of the government's fiscal year is up by 2.7 percent, and is up even after adjustment for timing quirks:
This posts builds on another by Noel Sheppard which appeared earlier today at NewsBusters. At ShowBiz411.com, Roger Friedman, who worked at Fox News for a decade until he was fired in 2009 over alleged film piracy, claims that Brooke Shields is “Likely” to join “The View” as Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck depart. "Likely"? Wow, Rog, way to put yourself on the line.
Friedman went heavy on praise for Shields and took shots at Hasselbeck. Commenters certainly aren't supportive, as will be seen after the jump.
It's as if Associated Press reporter Paul Haven saw colleague Frank Bajak's pathetic obituary of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez earlier today (covered by Matthew Balan at NewsBusters) and said: "Oh yeah? I can outdo you."
That he did, in an execrable report excerpted after the jump which should be saved to the hard drive and shown as evidence that anyone who calls the wire service "the Authoritarian Press" is not at all out of line (bolds are mine):
President Obama's sequester-related press briefing on March 1 contained the usual fibs. Examples include but are certainly not limited to the following: "We've already cut $2.5 trillion in our deficit," when the entire amount involved is something which might happen in the future; his claim that his State of the Union laundry list "is the agenda that the American people voted for," when many of the items involved were never mentioned during the 2012 campaign; and that the sequester is "happening because of a choice that Republicans in Congress have made," despite the fact that his advisers with his personal approval originated the idea in 2011 and the reality that he was under no compulsion when he signed the bill setting it in place last week.
Since then, while the establishment press has largely ignored it, the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler has twice honed in on a relatively small but clearly refutable statement Obama uttered that day: "Starting tomorrow, everybody here, all the folks who are cleaning the floors at the Capitol ... they're going to have less pay. The janitors, the security guards, they just got a pay cut, and they've got to figure out how to manage that. That’s real." No it's not.
CNN, which if I recall correctly severed formal ties with the Associated Press some time ago, quoted former congressman Joseph Kennedy II's reaction to the death of Venezuela's authoritarian leader Hugo Chavez as follows: "President Chavez cared deeply about the poor of Venezuela and other nations around the world and their abject lack of even basic necessities, while some of the wealthiest people on our planet have more money than they can ever reasonably expect to spend" ... There are close to 2 million people in the United States who received free heating assistance, thanks to President Chavez's leadership. Our prayers go out to President Chavez's family, the people of Venezuela, and all who were warmed by his generosity."
Here is how Christine Armario at the AP, with the help of Steve LeBlanc in Boston, sanitized Kennedy's remarks:
Readers here can attempt to fill in the blank, and will get to the the correct answer after the jump.
In their coverage of U.S. vehicle sales in February, Tom Krisher and Dee-Ann Durbin at the Associated press, aka the Administration's Press, wrote the following in an item headlied "US AUTO SALES POWER AHEAD IN FEBRUARY": "Americans want new cars and trucks, and they're not letting higher gas prices or political dysfunction stand in their way. New car and truck sales were up ___ percent in February as rising home construction and cheap financing kept the U.S. auto recovery on track." So by how much did car sales in February 2013 exceed the level seen in February 2012?
According to the first paragraph of Alicia's Caldwell's report today at the Associated Press, aka the Adminstration's Press, Homeland Security Secretary Janey Napolitano told attendees at a Politico breakfast this morning (Politico's coverage is here) that, in Caldwell's words, "U.S. airports, including Los Angeles International and O'Hare International in Chicago, are already experiencing delays as a result of automatic federal spending cuts." Additionally, again in Caldwell's words, "she expects a cascading effect during the week, with wait times expected to double in worst cases."
Well, either someone forgot to tell airport spokesperson and the travel industry to fall in line, or said officials are refusing, according to follow-up stories at the Politico and the UK Telegraph. Notably, the AP had no such follow-up story at its national site as of 10 p.m. ET tonight, but did have a story by Pauline Jelinek ("HOW BUDGET CUTS COULD AFFECT YOU") published at the about the same time as the two follow-ups just noted dutifully echoing Napolitano's talking points. Excerpts from both follow-up stories are after the jump.
On Thursday, the government reported that the economy didn't contract by a tiny annualized 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012 as originally reported. Instead, the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by an equally tiny 0.1 percent. Expectations had been that the revision would go positive by an annualized 0.5 percent.
According to Martin Crutsinger at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, "the only impediment" to the economy resuming annualized growth of 2 percent or so (which is actually unimpressive in historical context) "may be the across-the-board government spending cuts that kick in Friday - especially if those cuts remain in place for months." In Crutsinger's world, the payroll tax increase which kicked in on January 1, gas prices which have risen nationally to about $3.70 per gallon from $3.25 in the past 45 days, and troubling January and early-February sales results at Wal-Mart don't matter. There's also an obvious problem seen in his third and fourth paragraphs (bolds are mine):
Did you know that the mortgage interest deduction was a major contributor to families' distressed circumstances leading to the housing bubble? Or that George W. Bush's (really modest) tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, not the Internet bubble of the late-1990s led the nation from fiscal surplus to deficits?
The reason you don't "know" these things is that they're not true. But the Associated Press's Tom Raum thinks they are, and said so as if they are indisputable facts in an AP analysis piece (or at least I hope it was meant to be that) yesterday. In over 850 words, he also failed to note, while barely acknowleding their existence, that Republicans in the House already acquiesced to $620 billion in tax increases in return for a "whopping" $15 billion in spending cuts during the fiscal cliff deal at the end of last year. Excerpts from Raum's risible writeup follow the jump.
On Friday morning, Milwaukee County District Attorney, a Democrat, announced that an investigation into illegal campaigning and other illegal acts while current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was the county's executive had concluded nine days earlier. Three former Walker aides, a political appointee, and two private citizens were sentenced. Two county officials pled guilty to crimes relating to campaigning on government time; two others stole money, one from a not-for-profit group and another from a county commission. One private citizen was sentenced for exceeding campaign contribution limits and laundering contributions; the other pled no contest to importuning a 17 year-old boy.
Walker himself was not charged. A top state Democratic Party official was so angry that he tweeted Jeffrey Dahmer analogies. It is pretty obvious, based on word choices he made in his related writeup, that the Associated Press's Scott Bauer, whose biased coverage of Walker has been clear for at least the past two years (previous NewsBusters posts with his tag are here), was also extremely displeased (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
Did you ever mean to say "If you are shy then I have an acre of land in the Everglades." and have it come out "If you're bashful I got a snake sitting under my desk here"? I mean, those sentences are so close to being identical, and these kinds of misstatements happen all the time, right?
Well, that's what you have to believe if you're still a defender of Connecticut legislator Ernest Hewett, who said the latter on February 20 to a 17 year-old girl at a public hearing and is now saying he meant to say the former. Most press covereage of Hewett's obviously lewd remark has done an acceptable job of tagging him as a Democrat, with a notable exception being Ken Dixon at the Connecticut Post (HT Hot Air via Instapundit; bolds are mine throughout this post):
I assume no one expected that Bob Woodward would be found to be the first and only ordinarily Democrat-friendly recipient of threats from White House officials over what he has written and said.
Another such person has come forward in the name of Lanny Davis, who among other things was a completely insufferable defender of the indefensible during the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky-impeachment saga in 1998 and 1999. The morning, on Washington radio station WMAL (audio is at the link), Davis said that his editor at the Washington Times received a threat as a result of what Davis was writing there:
On Saturday, Washington Post reporters Lori Montgomery and Paul Kane fretted, with the help of several leftists they quoted, that sequestration might not cause enough pain. Given that the so-called "cuts" under discussion are really "reductions in projected spending growth," that is a legitimate fear if your perspective is that government shouldn't ever shrink under any circumstances.
Rush Limbaugh was correct on Tuesday when he noted that the Post let the "sky is falling" mask slip in it report. Several paragraphs, followed by a bit of Rush's reaction, follow the jump.
On Monday, the Insitute for Illinois' Fiscal Sustainability (IIFS), an outfit associated with the Civic Federation, a "nonpartisan" organization which appears to have leftist instincts and funding, warned that the state government's $8 billion stack of unpaid bills will grow to $22 billion in five years. IIFS correctly blames out of control pension costs, and recommends several reforms which don't seem to match the urgency of the situation.
One thing the report doesn't do, concerning which the press appears to be completely incurious, is estimate how long it will take vendors in President Barack Obama's Democrat-dominated home state to get paid if the backlog of unpaid bills really becomes that large. The answer, in brief, is: "so long that no one with a brain will want to do business with the state, likely causing its government to completely collapse."
Knock me over with a feather. A well-known local pro-gun control official, helped by an overwhelming $2 million in funding from a Michale Bloomberg-backed group, won last night's splintered Democratic congressional primary in the Illinois district (IL-02) formerly represented by Jesse Jackson Jr., which includes much of the South Side of Chicago, with 52% of the vote. A "whopping" 30,872 people pulled the lever for winner Robin Kelly.
Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit noted how little this really means: "It's setting the bar pretty low to say that electing an anti-gunner to Congress in Chicago would be proof of Bloomberg's strength." That of course is not how Alex Isenstadt at Politico reported it, virtually giving the platform to Bloomberg:
I presume everyone remembers how when the New York Times published information about a classified program designed to track the movement of alleged terrorist funding through the international banking system Bush administration officials threatened to prosecute Times reporters and management over what they had done? No you don't, because although some conservatives and Republicans thought it might be a worth considering it didn't happen. You can guarantee that if it had, it would have become a TV-radio-newspaper-Internet establishment press obsession for days on end.
Tonight, Washington Post's Bob Woodward alleged that because he is sticking to his guns in insisting that sequestration was the brainchild of the Obama White House, that it was personally approved by Obama, and that bringing up tax increases now to try to resolve the current sequestration impasse is "moving the goalposts," he has been threatened by "a very senior person" in the White House. Woodward said so on CNN's Situation Room earlier today. What's even more troubling is that Woodward told two Politico reporters the same thing yesterday, and that they appear to have sat on the revelation until this evening when the CNN interview forced their hand. Relevant portions of the CNN transcript and Politico column follow the jump.
The rogue collection of bureaucrats known as the Environmental Protection Agency continues its lawless ways. The establishment press continues to serve as enablers.
In January, a federal court vacated the EPA's regulations mandating the use of cellulosic biofuels which weren't produced at all until last year, and barely exist now. In response, the agency, directly defying the court, increased the production requirement of these fuels for 2013. In covering the story, as I noted at NewsBusters on January 31, the Associated Press's Matt Daly only wrote that "An oil industry representative said the Obama administration was thumbing its nose at a ruling last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia" -- as if the agency's action was only a matter of some eeeevil oil guy's opinion.
At the Hill on Monday, Pete Kasperowicz, employing the establishment press's usual "mean Republicans attack" spin, is packaging something first aggregated on Friday at Michelle Malkin's Twitchy.com exclusively as an accusation coming from GOP Congressman Steve Stockman of Texas.
Malkin's credit-denied crew, with the help of citizen activists who did much of the dirty work, detected what I will call "Astro-Tweets," a Twitter-driven variant of the campaign tactic known as "astroturfing," which aims, using a variety of means, to create the illusion of public support for a cause where little or none exists (bolds are mine throughout this post):
It's hard to imagine that Nicholas Confessore and his editors at the overwhelmingly Obama-friendly New York Times were just making things up when he reported over the weekend in a Page A1 story that the Obama campaign's Organizing For America operation, now "rebooted" as the supposedly independent Organizing For Action, "will rely heavily on a small number of deep-pocketed donors ... whose influence on political campaigns Mr. Obama once deplored," granting them quarterly access to the Obama if they raise $500,000 or more.
According to Charlie Spiering at the Washington Examiner, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, when asked about the story, in Spiering's words, "asserted that OFA was an 'independent organization' that just happened to support the president’s policy agenda," "refused to address the New York Times reporting," and "ended the press briefing as reporters were still asking questions and fled the podium." If the late Tony Snow had done this while serving as press secretary under George W. Bush, we'd be seeing a continuous loop of the walkout on network TV all day long. The key paragraphs from the Times story, the reaction of MSNBC's Chuck Todd follow the jump, and the Associated Press's non-denial denial firewall follow the jump.
Doing the kind of reporting the establishment press would be doing if it were something other than the collection of presidential supplicants it has become, an Investor's Business Daily editorial Monday evening completely refuted outgoing Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's claim that a $600 million "cut" (really "a reduction in projected spending") would hurt the Federal Aviation Administration so badly that flight delays would be an inevitable result. One suspects that similar analyses of other agencies would also reveal that the fears expressed by "President Armageddon" (the Wall Street Journal's recent nickname for President Obama) have little if any basis in fact -- if one bravely assumes that the administration isn't hell-bent on inflicting the maximum amount of visible pain if sequestration indeed comes to pass.
As I've said often, there's far more of what really amounts to legitimate fact-based reporting (as opposed to White House stenography) in IBD and Wall Street Journal editorials than you'll find in most of the establishment press's so-called "straight news reporting" on the same topics. As far as the FAA is concerned, IBD shows that all the agency would have to do is redeploy its existing resources -- something which obviously should have been done long ago -- and should ultimately privatize the entire operation, as Canada has successfully done (bolds are mine):
The first is that it will cost a lot of money, totaling an amount which appears to have a chance to come within striking distance of about half of the annual profits in the entire commercial baking industry. The second is that there is little if any evidence supporting DOL's finding that imports have seriously harmed the industry. Excerpts from that editorial (do read the whole blood-boiling thing), followed by a bit of analysis by yours truly, follow the jump.