Archive for May, 2012

No, Greg, It’s That The Entire Republican Party has Decided to Lie

May 17, 2012

The only reasonable conclusion is that Greg Sargent should resign from the Washington Post  before it finishes destroying his brain.

Give Sargent credit: he knows Mitt Romney is lying, and he calls him out on it, which—especially for the denizens of “Fox on 15th”—is as close to truth as you get outside of Sarah Kliff’s Wonkblog pieces.*  But he always tries to find the bright side, assuming that it’s not deliberating lying so much as hoping there is a “memory hole” in the electorate.

RNC Chair Reince Preibus this evening went out of his way to prove that this is a far too generous.  In an email entitled “Stop Obama’s Debt and Deficits,” he declares:

Obama’s [sic] racked up the three highest deficits in history and is scheduled to rack up the fourth this year.
In less than four years, President Obama has run up more than $5 trillion in debt, which is the most rapid increase in the debt under any U.S. President.

That is elephant shit.**

As I noted a couple of days ago, the “three highest deficits in history” (on an absolutely dollar basis, of course; no Republican currently in the party would admit that the largest percentage increase was under Ronald Wilson Reagan) include the fiscal year ending in September of 2009—the result of the Previous Administration’s final budget (which still holds the record in dollars, let alone inflation-adjusted terms, by at least $113B).  That’s not just hoping for a “memory hole,” it’s outright prevarication. Lying, not to put too fine a point on it.

Even if we were stupid enough to believe that Barack Obama was responsible for the Previous Administration’s final budget—what, he did a Vulcan Mind Meld, simultaneously planting the idea that Starburst Palin should be the Veep pick?—the total for those three years of deficit is just over $4T. So where does the RNC get $5T, just under 25% higher?

Well, again, we here in Dataland cannot answer that question.  We can accurately state that Willard “My Name is Julie Mitt” Romney has been saying for a while that the jobs lost for the January, 2009, report—the report of data taken the week of the 12th, before the inauguration, but apparently journalists are even stupider than economists, since even Sargent let that blatant falsehood slide recently—are all Obama’s fault.***

So let’s be Amazingly Generous.  Let’s accept, just for argument’s sake, that the deficit for the month of January, 2009—a month in which the Previous Administration was in office more than 5/8ths of the time—should all be blamed on the Obama Administration, even though they have no control of the purse strings.

In short, let’s make the scenario as bad as possible for the Obama Administration, while remaining in Dataland. If we were pretending that Reince Preibus was an Andrew Sarris stand-in, my next line would be, “Well, I have the Monthly Treasury Statement right here…”

For the time period from January, 2009 to April, 2012, inclusive, the total deficit is just under $4.4T.****  Yet Reince Preibus emails us that “President Obama has run up more than $5 trillion in debt.”

With the exception of Megan McArdle, no one who isn’t deliberately lying could be that innumerate, not even an English Lit/PoliSci J.D. with a staff and a budget.

If he really is that innumerate, then I have only one thing to say: Reince, buddy, it took me less than five minutes to find out that your email was bollocks.  You need to hire me (or someone like me).  Today.

Otherwise, even Greg Sargent will have to admit that Mitt Romney isn’t just lying; he’s Following Orders to Lie.


*For which, far too often, Ezra Klein will be credited.

**I considered “horse” or “bull,” but the magnitude is at least in the “what, and quit show business” range.

***That the Party that claims that the 2001 recession—which began in March—was not their Administration’s fault has a standard bearer who declares that the layoffs the month before the following Administration took office are also Not Their Fault would win the Chutzpah Award if there were still journalism being practiced by another other than Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

****By the way, Februarys have been especially ugly since 2002. If I any econometrician wants to look for when the Seasonal Adjustment formula went wrong, that might be a good place to start.

Employment and Deficits: A Tale of Two Administrations

May 15, 2012

Stan Collender notes that, for the first time in four years, the U.S. Treasury reported a surplus in the month of April.  It isn’t just that there was a surplus in April of 2008, though.  If you look back through Aprils (data here), the last time that month showed a deficit is 1983—the April less than six months after the last official “double-dip” of recessions.

Stan offers three reasons that the White House doesn’t want to point out this good news.  I consider the first two somewhat silly—the GOP never hesitates to take about the deficit, except to deny its responsibility, and no politically-alert Democrat will see the April surplus as representative of “the wrong fiscal policy” so much as an indication that employment last year was better than it has been.

It’s his third reason that is most interesting:

While that’s likely to be $200 billion or more less than what was recorded for 2011, the deficit will still be close to $1 trillion and that would be hard to defend.

I’m assuming the phrase “close to $1 trillion” means that Stan assumes the actual FY2012 deficit will be lower than $1T.  The original projection was just under $1.3T. Getting that down to $1T would be 23% better than the original projection, not to mention the psychological gain of being back down below thirteen digits again. Even $1.1T would be just about a 15% improvement over the original projections.  If a 15%+ improvement in the deficit over your projections isn’t worth saluting, then what is?

Stan concludes:

This is a little-understood part of the federal budget debate. Even if the 2012 deficit was half of what it was in 2011, and even if that reduction were applauded by Wall Street and the economic community, it would still be a painfully difficult political issue. In fact, long after the deficit has fallen to the point where most economists are comfortable with it, the political advantage will still be with those who criticize it.

Far be it for me to argue, but…just for the sake of argument, I decided to compare President Obama’s record with that of the last sitting President running for re-election on The Two Issues that Abide, The Deficit and Jobs.

First, Deficit:

dFYFSD Obama v Bush

We don’t, of course, have the data for the deficit at the end of this year yet. (We have data for subsequent years of debt for the Previous Administration, of course, but nothing that would have been public knowledge by the voting in November of 2004.)

The story here is a clear one: the previous incumbent increased the deficit significantly; the current one has reduced it from the baseline he inherited. (If the current year ends up with around a $1T deficit, Year 3 will be around +$400,000.)

So the current Administration has been taking the deficit in the “right direction.”  But, of course, that’s only good if you are in a growing economy (for the Democratic knowledgeable; see Stan’s second point) or because the Previous Administration was “priming the pump” for the Great Growth that would follow. (After all, what the 2001 tax regression didn’t solve, certainly the 2003 Hubbard-Mankiw version would.)

So let’s check how well that Growth Thing worked.  I’ve already pointed out that the post-recession public-sector employment between the current and the previous Administrations was about 600,000 jobs almost nine months ago.  So let’s be as nice as possible and compare Total Employment Gains since their respective Recessions, knowing that we’re spotting the Previous Administration when looking at total Non-Farm Payroll:


The Obama Administration got employment back to the end-of-recession level after sixteen (16) months; it took the previous Administration twenty-eight (28) months. Counting from the end of the recession, the Previous Administration produced just under 1.4MM jobs in the thirty-four (34) months to the next election (Dec 2001-Oct 2004).

The Obama Administration has produced more than twice that (2.825MM) in thirty-three (33) months.

In summary, if we compare the current Administration to the previous one, it has (1) produced twice as many new jobs, (2) produced budgets that reduced the annual Federal deficit instead of making it greater, and (3) reduced our troop presence in wars started by the Previous Administration while finding and eliminating Public Enemy #1.

And the only thing it wants to talk about is the third.

As I said chez Collender, If this Administration is afraid to run on its gains because there is less “political advantage” in highlighting the improvements your Administration has produced than in getting bashed for something for which you will perpetually get bashed, then the country is truly lost.