Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

January 24, 2009

ABOUT THAT CBO REPORT.... This week, congressional Republicans seized on a new report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showing the limited short-term stimulative effects of the Democrats' proposed rescue package. It's also led to widespread media coverage undermining the White House's arguments about the benefits of a stimulus plan.

There is, however, a problem. The CBO report, as it's been described, doesn't exist.

Reports of a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office, showing that the vast majority of the money in the stimulus package won't be spent until after 2010, have Democrats on the defensive and the GOP calling for a pullback in wasteful spending.

Funny thing is, there is no such report.

"We did not issue any report, any analysis or any study," a CBO aide told the Huffington Post.

Rather, the nonpartisan CBO ran a small portion of an earlier version of the stimulus plan through a computer program that uses a standard formula to determine a score -- how quickly money will be spent. The score only dealt with the part of the stimulus headed for the Appropriations Committee and left out the parts bound for the Ways and Means or Energy and Commerce Committee.

Because it dealt with just a part of the stimulus, it estimated the spending rate for only about $300 billion of the $825 billion plan. Significant changes have been made to the part of the bill the CBO looked at.

Oops.

It appears that the preliminary, incomplete numbers put together by the CBO were distributed to a small handful of lawmakers in both parties earlier in the week. Someone (Republican congressional offices) then passed the misleading data onto the AP, which predictably ran with the incomplete numbers, telling the public that it "will take years before an infrastructure spending program proposed by President-elect Barack Obama will boost the economy."

Other major media outlets quickly followed, and voila, Republicans had a talking point: "Boehner and other Republican aides roamed the Capitol press galleries, flogging the CBO numbers."

Obviously, congressional Republicans were less concerned about reality than undermining an economic rescue package. But as DDay noted, let's not brush past media culpability: "It's pretty clear that the media has no ability to or interest in understanding this stuff, because then they wouldn't have their precious 'conflict.' So they regurgitate whatever some GOP staffer feeds them, just to spice things up."

OMB Director Peter Orszag, who used to head the CBO, has already responded to the bogus reports and talking points. Republicans and reporters might want to check it out.

Update: It looks like the estimable Tim Fernholz was ahead of the curve on this one, and recognized the flaw in the Republicans' CBO talking point early on.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Facts, shmacts, R's don't need no facts. Truly, they are disconnected from reality.

Posted by: Roger on January 24, 2009 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

I'd be curious what percentage of the 825B was included in the partial analysis, and why the larger portion of the Appropriations Committee part would show limited short-term stimulative effects. I would have expected that portion to reflect immediate spending and therefore quick results.

Posted by: Danp on January 24, 2009 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Merely technocratic chatter. None of this removes the serious questions about the potential stimulative impact of the "stimulus".

Posted by: lou on January 24, 2009 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Roger that, Roger - May I add true "journalists" such as John King, Brian Williams, Tweety, BillO and Neil Cavuto to that R's list?

Posted by: berttheclock on January 24, 2009 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks to the efforts of this typical GOPher---who but a Republican could appreciate such "courageous cowardice in the face of truth" from a mere staffer?---Dems now have a "talking point" of their own.

Why do Republicans hate Americans so much that they need to hurt Americans by lying about the economy?

Clearly, the GOP's only means of controlling Americans is through invented fears. Wouldn't this represent the definition of domestic terrorism?

Posted by: Steve W. on January 24, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

"Republicans and reporters might want to check it out."

Why would they? The job of rethugs is to appeal to the worst instincts of their base - the low information voter (ie. Stupid White Amerikans). The job of the corporate media is to be an echo chamber and amplifier for the rethugs.

Posted by: AngryOldVet on January 24, 2009 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

The "liberal media" strikes again!

Posted by: Gregory on January 24, 2009 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Memo to news outlets.

AP used to be a swell shortcut to fleshing out your pages between the advertisements.

If you have to fact check your news source, you might as well do the work yourself or get a more reliable feed.

Demand a discount from AP so you can fund the necessary staff to edit their sloppy work, or cancel your subscription.

You've been warned. Credibility is the only thing dead tree media has left, supposedly. Don't lose that too.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on January 24, 2009 at 9:29 AM | PERMALINK

"Our job is to deliver, not to debunk." -- David Gregory.


Posted by: Douglas Watts on January 24, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Standard operating procedure for republicans-Just make shit up.
How do you know when a republican is lying? Their lips are moving.

Posted by: Gandalf on January 24, 2009 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, repugs! Is there any lie you won't breathlessly mouth to support your failed policies?

Posted by: Strider on January 24, 2009 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Merely technocratic chatter. None of this removes the serious questions about the potential stimulative impact of the "stimulus".

So...The CBO crunches different numbers for a different bill and a different timeframe, but to you that only confirms your preconceived bias.

Next, the orange crop causes you to develop severe concerns over the price of apples.

Posted by: Jay B. on January 24, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't this yet another manifestation of the Right's SOP?

Posted by: Neil B. ♂ on January 24, 2009 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Because it dealt with just a part of the stimulus, it estimated the spending rate for only about $300 billion of the $825 billion plan.

$300 billion will have a negligible stimulant effect, according to your reporting, so the real stimulant effect (if any) will come from the other $525 billion. Doesn't that imply that the $300 billion of the "stimulus" with a negligible stimulant effect should not be spent at all? Does it have some purpose other than buying votes?

Posted by: marketeer on January 24, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with marketeer, the tax cuts are a waste of money, as all the data shows. Take them out of the package and substitute with better stimulus.

Posted by: Glen on January 24, 2009 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Someone needs to catch a high A.P. official or "reporter" on TV and publicly humiliate them.

Do they ever fact check anything these days?

Posted by: bdop4 on January 24, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

"$300 billion will have a negligible stimulant effect, according to your reporting"

No, dear. The original $300 billion proposal, which has been significantly modified, got a cursory look by the CBO. The revised bill has not yet been reviewed. But, hey, don't let inconvenient facts get in your way.

Posted by: PaulB on January 24, 2009 at 3:17 PM | PERMALINK

What's funny is that I don't think anybody really cares. Americans seem to really be ready for a hard slog if it means that things are being done right - they are not interested in just having more funny money thrown out of helicopters (Bushian tax cuts, TARP, ZIRP) which does nothing but kick the can down the road. Eight years of that was enough.

So if ALL the "stimulus" was slow in process but remade the nation in a way that was robust in the long term, they would still be OK with it.

If that's the best criticism the ankle-biters got, well they better not expect much interest in what they have to say.

Posted by: doesn't matter on January 24, 2009 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

It's foreign aid and foreign aid 'grant loans'.

Posted by: 741 on January 24, 2009 at 7:30 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly