AP's Evidence-Free Claim: Romney Will 'Have To' Cut Discretionary Spending 'More Than 20%' Under His Spending Plan

April 23rd, 2012 11:31 AM

In the campaign to ensure that anyone with a proposal to actually do something about the federal government's out-of-control spending gets demonized, while incumbent Barack Obama and his party go scot-free for proposing nothing beyond the autopilot, budget-free situation of the past three years, Andrew Taylor at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, went after Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's spending proposal in an early-morning item today.

There are so many problems with Taylor's presentation that it would take a writeup longer than a college term paper to fully vet them all. But the report's most risible aspect is its blithe and unsupported assertion that Romney's plan would require "big cuts" in "nuts-and-bolts" federal programs.

Accompanied by a headline making it appear that military spending (where increases have been relatively modest for five years) will "trump" domestic programs (which, excuse, the pun, have exploded virtually across the board during that time), Taylor, just in time for morning news anchors to relay to their audiences, opened as follows:

Romney on spending: Guns trump butter

Reducing government deficits Mitt Romney's way would mean less money for health care for the poor and disabled and big cuts to nuts-and-bolts functions such as food inspection, border security and education.

Later, Taylor got more specific without citing specifics, saying that Romney's spending proposal would require "more than 20%" cuts in discretionary spending:

... DOMESTIC AGENCY BUDGETS: If Social Security is mostly off the table and current Medicare beneficiaries are protected, domestic Cabinet agency budgets would take a major hit in ways that could fundamentally alter government. The future growth of those discretionary programs funded through annual appropriations bills was already cut greatly in last year's deal to raise the government's borrowing limit.

At issue are these programs, just to name a few: health research; NASA; transportation; homeland security; education; food inspection; housing and heating subsidies for the poor; food aid for pregnant women; the FBI; grants to local governments; national parks; and veterans' health care.

Romney promises to immediately cut them by 5 percent. But they would have to be cut more than 20 percent to meet his overall budget goals, assuming veterans' health care is exempted.  It's almost unthinkable that lawmakers would go along with cuts of such magnitude for air traffic control and food inspection or to agencies like NASA, the FBI, Border Patrol and the Centers for Disease Control.

"It's just not sustainable," said GOP lobbyist Jim Dyer, a former staff director for the House Appropriations Committee. "What do you want to do with the national parks? Which ones do you want to close? ...The only way it adds up is if you go after the big, popular stuff, and nobody talks about that now."

Even if it's true that the debt-limit deal really reduced future growth in discretionary spending (which seems doubtful), it certainly didn't do so "greatly" in the context of the trillion-dollar annual deficits incurred in each of the four fiscal years through 2012. Estimates of overall debt deal growth curve reductions over ten years issued at the time ranged from almost nothing to not a lot more than that -- and discretionary spending was only a component of already small numbers.

Taylor cites no support for his 20% cut assertion (Dyer's response doesn't count, as he would only have been reacting to a question framed as "What do you think of the likelihood of 20%-plus cuts getting enacted?"), but states it as if it's a fact.

Shame on AP and Taylor for acting as if they know that; they don't. In disseminating this pretense far and wide to news consumers and the wire service's subscribing outlets, they essentially served as an Obama administration mouthpiece instead of as a real journalist -- which is why my characterization of the organization as the Administration's Press could not be more accurate.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.