We Wish: AP Report Falsely Claims National Debt Is 'Accumulation of Annual Budget Deficits'

November 15th, 2009 1:47 PM
red_inkIn a report that is so riddled with bias and factual errors it's hard to know even where to begin, Associated Press Writers Tom Raum and Andrew Taylor yesterday gave making President Obama look like a born-again deficit hawk their best shot.

The pair's work is partially saved here for fair use, discussion and in this case entertainment purposes.

The biggest error Raum and Taylor made was publishing the following "we wish it were true" statement:

The national debt is the accumulation of annual budget deficits. The deficit for the 2009 budget year, which ended on Sept. 30, set an all-time record in dollar terms at $1.42 trillion.

Well, Tom and Andy, using this readily available tool, if that's the case, why was the national debt on September 30, 2008 $10.02 trillion and then $11.91 trillion on September 30, 2009? That's a difference of $1.89 trillion, a whopping $470 billion more than the past year's $1.42 trillion deficit.

The answer is, sadly, that the national debt is NOT the accumulation of annual budget deficits, as shown in the graphic that follows:


In the past five fiscal years, the national debt has increased by over $4.5 trillion, or over $1.9 trillion more than the $2.6 trillion sum of the five years' reported deficits.

Thus, Raum and Taylor promulgated quite a whopper yesterday. Perhaps the "real journalists" at the Associated Press don't agree that being off by that much is that big a deal. If readers don't see a correction, we'll just have to assume that's the case.

I have addressed why these differences exist several times in the past (one such example is here), but the main point here is that the supposedly Essential Global News Network has two guys on board and presumably a gaggle of editors behind them who are so utterly clueless.

Here are some of other howlers the pathetic pair put forth in their embarrassing effort:

  • They wrote that "the economy surged at a 3.5 percent annual pace in the July-September quarter" -- Calling such growth a "surge" is wildly inconsistent with the known and acknowledged fact that Cash For Clunkers, the homebuyer's credit, and other unsustainable government-paid steroids made up most of the growth. Similar or better growth that was not artificially induced during the previous administration was rarely described as positively.
  • They described fiscal 2010's anticipated budget deficit as "trillion-dollar-plus." That's an odd term considering how big the "plus" part is. The Congressional Budget Office's August report projects a $1.381 trillion shortfall.
  • With the help of a an "expert" from the Pew Research Center, they claimed that the public's concern about deficits is the highest since Ross Perot's 1992 presidential candidacy, conveniently forgetting that the first year of the Gingrich Congress in 1995 up to and including the government shutdown was dominated by the issue of reining in annual deficits.
  • The piece's headline focused only on spending. But in the story's sixth paragraph, Obama's budget director informed AP, in the wire service's words, that his "spending blueprint .... would include a mix of spending cuts and new revenue-producing measures." In the real world, "new revenue-producing measures" are known as "tax increases."

The AP's Tom Curley has said he has plans for protecting and monetizing the wire service's content. Before attempting that, I would suggest that Mr. Curley and his crew put a bit more effort into making that content worthy of protection and worth paying for. You're not even in the neighborhood, Tom.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.