Thursday, May 24, 2012

Big Journalism: "Politifact: Obama Presided Over Slowest Federal Spending Growth of Any Recent President"

Big Journalism's John Nolte comes through with a story on PolitiFact's role in supporting Rex Nutting's misleading claims about President Obama's role in expanding federal spending.

Nolte makes some statements about PolitiFact's motivations that we no not necessarily agree with, but his post hits the central issue with a powerful broadside (assisted by Jim Pethokoukis):

Now to the facts, which I will turn over to the Enterprise Blog's indispensible Jim Pethokoukis. It should be noted that Pethokoukis is not taking on Politifact but rather the nonsense that Politifact laughably proclaimed as mostly true: [emphasis added]
Nutting arrives at that 1.4% number by assigning 2009—when spending surged nearly 20%—to George W. Bush: “The 2009 fiscal year, which Republicans count as part of Obama’s legacy, began four months before Obama moved into the White House. The major spending decisions in the 2009 fiscal year were made by George W. Bush and the previous Congress. Like a relief pitcher who comes into the game with the bases loaded, Obama came in with a budget in place that called for spending to increase by hundreds of billions of dollars in response to the worst economic and financial calamity in generations.”

Let me complete the metaphor for Nutting: “Then as those runners scored, Obama kept putting more on base.”

Obama chose not to reverse that elevated level of spending; thus he, along with congressional Democrats, are responsible for it. Only by establishing 2009 as the new baseline, something Republican budget hawks like Paul Ryan feared would happen, does Obama come off looking like a tightwad. Obama has turned a one-off surge in spending due to the Great Recession into his permanent New Normal through 2016 and beyond.
Nowhere, nowhere, nowhere, NOWHERE is this pertinent piece of context included anywhere in Politifact's 1300 word analysis.
Nolte's identification of the central problem agrees with the one I posted at Sublime Bloviations, for what it's worth.  A significant portion of the increased spending in 2009 was one-time spending, much of it in the form of loans, to stabilize the banking system.  Using that year as a baseline for later increases is misleading, period.  And Nolte's right that PolitiFact ignores that critical piece of context.
This bit of partisan and journalistic hackery, however, is a new low. Intentionally and dishonestly, Politifact only reports on the context that backs up the pro-Obama sleight-of-hand while the only context that matters is completely ignored. What we have here is nothing short of lying through a deliberate act of omission.
I find it hard to disagree, even though I try to give PolitiFact's journalists the benefit of the doubt as to their conscious motivations.

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