AP Says Higher State Tax Collections 'Could' Reduce Public-Sector Layoffs, Finally Cites Medicaid As Reason They Probably Won't

June 14th, 2012 9:14 AM

Maybe the answer to eliminating much of the annoying bias in establishment press business reporting is to have the reporters involved eliminate the could-might-maybe statements which almost inevitably follow the initial relay of the primary news.

Take the first paragraph of Christopher Rugaber's report Tuesday on recent increases in state tax collections (bolds are mine throughout this post):

U.S. states expect to collect higher tax revenue in the coming budget year that combined would top pre-recession levels, according to a survey released Tuesday. The increase could reduce pressure on states to cut budgets and lay off workers.

... Total tax revenue is forecast to rise 4.1 percent to $690.3 billion in the 2013 budget year, according to a twice-yearly survey by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers.

Who needs the first paragraph's second sentence? I don't. Readers don't. It's a needless injection of speculation by Rugaber which frankly is not -- repeat, is not -- within the scope of his job as a reporter. Stick to the facts, sir, and resist the urge to inject your thinly disguised perspective (I would say "shut up," but I'm trying to be nice).

In this case, it turns out that the reason for Rugaber's sentence is to unjustifiably and unnecessarily change the subject later in the piece to contentious matters in the presidential race::

The issue of state and local government job cuts inflamed the presidential campaign last week. President Barack Obama on Friday urged Republicans in Congress to approve legislation he has proposed that would enable more teachers and police officers to keep their jobs.

The president also asserted that the "private sector is doing fine," which drew quick, derisive criticism from Republicans. Mitt Romney, GOP presidential nominee, charged that Obama was "out of touch."

Maybe if Rugaber hadn't decided that he simply had to figure out a way to get the presidential campaign into a report about state tax collections, he would have found room in his report for two fundamentally important words -- "seasonally adjusted." His failure to do so renders all of the numbers in the following paragraphs incorrect and misleading:

Layoffs are slowing at the state level. State governments added an average of 3,000 jobs a month in the past six months, after cutting an average of 5,200 in the preceding six months. Still, the cuts aren't entirely over: states cut 5,000 jobs in May.

The biggest layoffs have been at the local level, particularly in public schools. Local governments rely on property taxes, which are still declining as property values fall in the wake of the housing bust.

Since August 2008, when state and local government employment peaked, local governments have cut 528,000 jobs. State governments have shed 134,000.

The correct raw numbers before seasonal adjustment are very different, but Rugaber writes as if the seasonally adjusted numbers above are what actually happened. They aren't.

Near the end of his report, Rugaber finally tells readers the main reason why the increased tax collections probably won't prevent layoffs:

Dan Crippen, executive director of the NGA, said high unemployment is forcing millions of people to join or remain on Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program for the poor. That's placing big demands on states, which boosted Medicaid spending 20 percent this year.

Medicaid, which the Obama administration has been working relentlessly to expand since taking office, already gobbles up 25% of state budgets. Piling a 20% increase on top of a 25% budget line item pushes Medicaid to almost 30% of all state spending (assuming modest increases elsewhere). The five-point increase is more than the 4.1-point increase in collections Rugaber cited earlier.

Medicaid will be the go-to place for many if not most Americans who lose their employer-based health insurance under ObamaCare if it survives court challenges and repeal attempts. As seen, it alone is to blame for states' and local governments' inability to avoid the future public-sector layoffs President Obama now says he's trying to prevent. Imagine that.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.