AP: 'Massive Government Spending Cuts' Caused Sharp March Consumer Confidence Decline

On February 28, though he hedged a bit, Martin Crutsinger at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, wrote the following about prospects for economic growth: "The only impediment may be the across-the-board government spending cuts that kick in Friday — especially if those cuts remain in place for months."

Having established the template, the self-described Essential Global News Network has apparently decided that they need to do all they can to promote it. After today's sharp decline in consumer confidence as reported by the Conference Board, AP reporter Marcy Gordon's related dispatch opened with a whine about "massive government spending cuts," tried to reinforce her claim in a later paragraph, and saved contradictory information for an even later one (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Americans are less confident in the economy than they were last month as massive government spending cuts have stoked economic uncertainty.

(Paragraph 6)

... Anxiety about $85 billion in across-the-board government spending cuts that took effect March 1 caused the decline in the index, the group said.

(Paragraphs 9 and 10)

... The March drop in the confidence index "likely reflects the impact of higher gasoline prices as well as the higher payroll tax," Brown said. Although the payroll tax increase kicked in three months ago, its effect may just now be sinking in for some people, he says.

The Conference Board's survey was conducted from March 1 through March 14. ...

The second excerpted paragraph would make you think that the seqestration with its supposedly "massive government spending cuts" -- which, as been explained umpteen times by dozens of pundits and analysts, are only reductions in the federal government's rate of spending growth -- was the only reason confidence went down. The language from the Conference Board was less definitive:

Says Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board: “Consumer Confidence fell sharply in March, following February’s uptick. This month’s retreat was driven primarily by a sharp decline in expectations, although consumers were also more pessimistic in their assessment of current conditions. The loss of confidence, particularly expectations, mirrors the losses experienced this past December and January. The recent sequester has created uncertainty regarding the economic outlook and as a result, consumers are less confident.”

Consumers may be less confident as a result of sequestration -- fed largely by media misrepresentation and misdirection about sequestration -- but Franco did not say that sequestration was the one and only cause of the entire drop.

A Gallup poll done on March 11-12, just before the Conference Board's cutoff, showed that most Americans don't know enough about sequestration to even have an opinion, as reported by Jennifer Harper at the Washington Times:

Sequester... what? Two thirds of Americans still don't get it

“The American public has not yet come to a strongly shared judgment on the effects of the sequestration cuts,” points out Frank Newport, director of the Gallup poll.

New numbers reveal more than two thirds of the public say they simply don’t know enough to tell whether the cuts are a good thing or a bad thing for themselves or their families. More than half can’t judge the effect on the the nation. The problem: There’s no real authority out there on sequestration.

“Americans are likely basing their opinions of the cuts on what they hear, read, and see in the news and from friends and colleagues, as well as on their own experiences. Apparently, nothing in the information flow from any of these sources has been enough - to date - to move the public’s opinions about the cuts in either direction,” Mr. Newport observes.

Gallup's original poll is here.

So unless everyone in the Conference Board's survey was in the one third of Americans who felt informed enough to judge sequestration's potential impact on their finances and the economy as a whole (which would make the sample unrepresentative in any event), there's no way you can claim that sequestration is entirely to blame for March's consumer confidence drop.

You're going to have to find something else to fit your template, AP. Today's consumer confidence report doesn't.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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