On The O'Reilly Factor, Dick Morris asserted that the economic recovery bill "won't work," in part because "two hundred billion of it is just money to the state. That just stops taxes from going up, but it doesn't stimulate anything." However, economist Mark Zandi testified to Congress that "aid to financially-pressed state governments" is an "economically potent stimulus," and a table provided with his testimony indicated that aid to states would boost GDP by $1.36 for every dollar spent. Similarly, information that the CBO provided to Congress shows that aid to states produces a greater "cumulative impact on GDP" than do tax cuts.
Why does the Village suddenly think GOP members of Congress hold all the answers to fixing our economic woes?
Maybe one gasbag or spokesmodel could ask them why no matter whether the country is economically doing well or doing badly, their advice is always tax cuts. It's infuriating to see them swarm the television and have to watch the media listen to their "analysis" and swallow it whole. If I didn't follow politics closely, I would think these people are the ones who won the election.
In numerous instances, the media have falsely stated or suggested that a CBO analysis of less than half of the economic recovery bill examined the entire bill, resulting in the false suggestion that the analysis, in the words of the Politico, "shows very little money will be spent in the first six or so months after enactment" of the recovery plan. But as the AP noted, the CBO analysis did not "cover tax cuts or efforts by Democrats to provide relief to cash-strapped state governments to help with their Medicaid bills." Six days later, some outlets were still making the false suggestion.
On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh allowed Rep. Eric Cantor to falsely claim of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: "Even the Congressional Budget Office ... says it is not a stimulative bill." In fact, the CBO stated in its January 26 report: "CBO anticipates that implementation of H.R. 1 would have a noticeable impact on economic growth and employment in the next few years," while the CBO director said that the bill would "provide massive fiscal stimulus."
The Washington Times has recently published several articles noting* a partial Congressional Budget Office analysis of the stimulus bill to support claims that most of the money in the bill would not be spent quickly. But in an article reporting former comptroller general David Walker discussing CBO's analysis of infrastructure spending and a separate article reporting that "[c]ritics say Obama's economic bill lacks stimulus," the Times ignored the conclusion of a more recent CBO analysis of the entire bill that 64 percent of the combined cost of the spending increases and tax cuts in the bill would occur by September 30, 2010.
Lou Dobbs falsely claimed on his radio show that "the Congressional Budget Office did a study on the president's so-called economic stimulus package. It says output would be increased somewhere between one and a half, three and a half percent." In fact, the CBO estimated that output would increase "between 1.5 percent and 3.6 percent" in fiscal year 2009 alone and estimated that output would increase as a result of the stimulus package in subsequent years as well.
Fox News' Glenn Beck falsely claimed that "[o]nly 3 percent" of the Democratic economic stimulus plan would be "spent in the next 12 months." Beck's figures were based on a partial Congressional Budget Office cost estimate that excluded faster-moving provisions in the bill. According to the CBO's full cost estimate of the bill, 11.2 percent of the $816 billion bill would be spent in the first seven-and-a-half months after the bill is enacted, and, when including the bill's tax cut provisions, $169 billion -- or 20.7 percent of the bill's total cost -- would take effect in the first seven-and-a-half months.
The Hill's Jared Allen repeated the false claim that ACORN is, in Allen's words, a "beneficiar[y] of the stimulus package," and uncritically reported NRCC communications director Ken Spain's false suggestion that the stimulus bill includes "a $4.2 billion bailout" for ACORN. In fact, the bill does not mention ACORN or otherwise single it out for funding. Additionally, the bill requires that the $4.19 billion it allocates for "neighborhood stabilization activities" be distributed through competitive processes.
Fox News' Carl Cameron falsely claimed of the economic recovery bills: "In both the House and Senate packages, more than half of the money is reserved for at least two years from now, and Republicans argue that that's simply not good enough." In fact, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that about 64 percent of the House version of the recovery bill would be paid out within 19 months, and about 86 percent by the end of fiscal year 2011.
On CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Ed Henry asserted that the Congressional Budget Office's cost estimate of the economic stimulus bill "basically says that 52 percent of the money will be spent out over the next 18 months, that some 64, 65 percent of the bill will be paid out over the first two years." However, Henry's calculations are based on outlays only, excluding the plan's tax cut provisions. Including both outlays and tax cuts, the CBO estimated that about 64 percent of the recovery bill would be paid out within 19 months, and about 86 percent by the end of fiscal year 2011.
On Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull, Campbell Brown and Ali Velshi repeatedly claimed that provisions in the economic recovery bill that extend food stamps and unemployment insurance payments are, in Velshi's words, "not stimulus." But the same day, the Congressional Budget Office director stated in congressional testimony: "Transfers to persons (for example, unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance) would also have a significant impact on GDP. Because a large amount of such spending can occur quickly, transfers would have a significant impact on GDP by early 2010."
Several media figures have likened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments defending a provision in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which would expand Medicaid funding for family planning services, to China's "one-child policy," eugenics, social engineering, and Nazism. In fact, the family planning provision does not mandate either limits to family size or eugenics but, rather, would expand "the number of states that can use Medicaid money, with a federal match, to help low-income women prevent unwanted pregnancies."
In the course of an otherwise useful article about FDR's approach to the great depression, the New York Times offers a misleading assessment of the unemployment rate under Roosevelt:
During the 1930s, the unemployment rate fell somewhat under Roosevelt, but remained stubbornly high, averaging more than 17 percent for the decade.
There are a few problems with this.
First, the Times doesn't provide a starting point - what was the unemployment rate before Roosevelt took office? 17 percent sounds awfully high, but it could actually be an impressively low figure if the starting point was much higher. Which it was - 25 percent in 1933, Roosevelt's first year in office; 24 percent the year before. (The Times does note the 25 percent starting point later in the article, too late for it to provide effective context for the 17 percent figure.)
Second, in assessing the efficacy of a program begun in 1933, it is basically meaningless to use average unemployment rate for the entire decade. We can hardly credit or blame the New Deal for the unemployment situation in place before the New Deal began. What matters isn't the average unemployment for the entire decade, which includes several years before Roosevelt even took office - what matters is the trend line. Did unemployment go up or down? How much? That's what matters; raw numbers - particularly raw numbers averaged over the entire decade - are badly misleading.
For an example of how misleading it is to use average unemployment numbers to assess the effectiveness of a president in combating unemployment, we need only look to the conservative talking point that average unemployment under George W. Bush was lower than average unemployment under Bill Clinton.
Maybe true, but meaningless - that measure credits Bush for Clinton's success, and penalizes Clinton for the failures of Bush's father.
See, the average unemployment rate under Clinton is artificially high due to the high unemployment rate when he took office; Bush's is artificially low due to the low rate when he took office. If you look instead at trend lines, you see that unemployment went down under Clinton and up under Bush. That's far more useful in assessing the two presidents effectiveness in fighting unemployment than average numbers that paint a misleading picture.
Earlier today, I wrote that it's important for journalists to actually apply some critical thought to their work rather than simply regurgitating Republican talking points.
Right on cue, here's Marc Ambinder (emphasis added):
Here's a peek at the major planks in the economic recovery plan being introduced by House Republicans tomorrow.
It starts with a permanent five percentage point reduction for those who qualify for the 10% and 15% tax brackets, averaging about $500 per year for the poorest of the bunch and $1,200 for the slightly more wealthy.
The talking point here is that poorer Americans would see more money from the GOP plan than from Obama's -- and it would be permanent.
Well, of course that's the "talking point." Who the hell cares? Is it true? Marc Ambinder doesn't say. He doesn't even acknowledge that it might be an interesting question. The concept of which plan actually gives "poorer Americans" "more money" is literally nowhere to be found in his post.
There are people for whom "distributing Republican talking points" is part of their job description. They are called "deputy press secretaries," and they work at the RNC and in Republican congressional offices. Reporters for The Atlantic ought to behave a bit differently.
(Is it true? I don't know -- but it seems unlikely. The GOP plan, as Ambinder describes it, would do nothing for the many Americans who work hard and pay state, local, sales, and FICA taxes -- but who do not make enough money to pay federal income taxes.)