In the latest of a series of White House - media head-on confrontations, Jared Bernstein, the chief economist and economic policy advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, took on the Wall Street Journal in a Dec. 1 post on the federal government's WhiteHouse.gov Web site.
"There's a new report out from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the economic impact of the Recovery Act," Bernstein wrote. "I'll get to the findings in a second, but somebody over at the Wall St. Journal's editorial page has a whole lot of explaining to do."
Bernstein took issue with the writing on the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, suggesting it contradicted the regular reporting in the paper.
"On the other hand, if you read the Wall St. Journal, these numbers will surprise you," Bernstein wrote. "Or, to be more precise, if you read the editorial page, you'll be in the dark. If you read the front page in today's WSJ, you'll learn the facts about the CBO report noted above in the context of an article that documents the importance of stimulus projects to construction workers. In fact, the article worries about jobs cuts once the stimulus fades."
Bernstein cited a number of editorials that blasted the stimulus, contending these were the most egregious:
"No matter how hard or imaginatively the administration spins, the reality is that the stimulus has been the economic bust that critics predicted it would be." -November 19, 2009
"...the largest obstacle to turning this recovery into a durable expansion is now the very 'stimulus' programs that were sold as a way to ensure recovery." -October 30, 2009
"We aren't getting much bang for our $787 billion stimulus bucks." -November 25, 2009
"It's hard to imagine a more complete repudiation of Keynesian stimulus than the evidence of the last year's job market." -November 7, 2009
"[The Recovery Act has not] made even the smallest dent in employment." -November 7, 2009
"The White House says the stimulus created as many as one million new jobs, but this is single-entry economic bookkeeping." -November 7, 2009
None of those criticisms were valid according to Bernstein. Instead, the Journal was just trying to score "political points."
They don't square at all, of course, because the editorial board is more interested in scoring political points by discrediting the Recovery Act's jobs impact than they are in reading their own paper's reporting. And let's be clear: while the new CBO findings are a welcome addition, these facts have been out there for months, including from an earlier CBO report last March (their updated findings are actually slightly improved).
However just days before taking office in January, Biden and Bernstein had insisted if the stimulus had passed, unemployment would be far from reaching its current level of 10.2 percent.
"Just 10 days before taking office, Obama's top economic advisers released a report predicting unemployment would remain at 8 percent of below through this year if an economic stimulus plan won congressional approval," a June 14 Associated Press story reported.
Biden later backtracked and admitted things were worse than they had thought as the reason for the miscalculation with the massive $787-billion stimulus. Still, Bernstein cried foul with the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, even though a recent Business & Media Institute study shows this administration has gotten far more favorable coverage than the Reagan administration did in the early 1980s in similar economic circumstances.
Last week, the White House took on Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer's take on the current health care proposal supported by President Obama, calling his analysis "wholly inaccurate."