Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Truth-Challenged Eugene Robinson

Editorialist Eugene Robinson attacks the character of Mitt Romney, in a rather ironic way:

Even by this lax standard, Romney too often fails. Not to put too fine a point on it, he lies. Quite a bit.
"Since President Obama assumed office three years ago, federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history," Romney claims on his campaign website. This is utterly false. The truth is that spending has slowed markedly under Obama.
An analysis published last week by MarketWatch, a financial news website owned by Dow Jones & Co., compared the yearly growth of federal spending under presidents going back to Ronald Reagan. Citing figures from the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office, MarketWatch concluded that "there has been no huge increase in spending under the current president, despite what you hear."

Mr. Robinson however, ignored the analysis of the fact-checker at the Washington Post, his very own newspaper, which gave that Marketwatch article 3 out of 4 Pinocchios.  

In the post-war era, federal spending as a percentage of the U.S. economy has hovered around 20 percent, give or take a couple of percentage points. Under Obama, it has hit highs not seen since the end of World War II — completely the opposite of the point asserted by Carney. Part of this, of course, is a consequence of the recession, but it is also the result of a sustained higher level of spending.

Robinson replies to this claim in an on-line chat earlier today, but he just doubles down on dishonesty.
I suppose it's too much to ask that you actually read what I wrote. My column says that Romney's claim that under Obama "federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in modern history" is a lie. It remains, in fact, a lie. Glenn Kessler's fine Fact Checker column is an assessment of a claim the president made about spending. While Glenn disagrees with the central assertion of the Market Watch column that I cite -- that spending has risen at only 1.4 percent a year under Obama -- he sets the actual figure at 3.3 percent for the period in question. This is still far, far lower than the rate at which spending increased under Bush, Bush or Reagan. Funny how the big-spending presidents are all Republicans... I should add that Poynter's Politifact truth-squad accepts the 1.4 percent figure, but I included the 3.3. percent number in my column because one doesn't diss the home team. Glenn makes the point that Obama would have spent more if the Republicaans in Congress had let him. I acknowledge that fact, but still there is still no way to justify Romney's false claim. 

He is avoiding the fact, however, that the 3.3 percent number, is only if you start counting from 2010, which as Kessler points out, is highly misleading.

 In theory, one could claim that the budget was already locked in when Obama took office, but that’s not really the case. Most of the appropriations bills had not been passed, and certainly the stimulus bill was only signed into law after Obama took office.

Bush had rescued Fannie and Freddie Mac and launched the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which depending on how you do the math, was a one-time expense of $250 billion to $400 billion in the final months of his presidency. (The federal government ultimately recouped most of the TARP money.) So if you really want to be fair, perhaps $250 billion of that money should be taken out of the equation — on the theory that it would have been spent no matter who was president.


Under these figures, and using this calculator, with 2008 as the base year and ending with 2012, the compound annual growth rate for Obama’s spending starting in 2009 is 5.2 percent.  Starting in 2010 — Nutting’s first year — and ending with 2013, the annual growth rate is 3.3 percent. (Nutting had calculated the result as 1.4 percent.)

As the saying goes, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, not their own facts."

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