What the Associated Press Got Wrong

The last line of that AP piece about the stimulus and education jobs is:

Critics blame much of the deficit on anti-crisis measures, including the stimulus package.

That's a pretty rotten sentence. It's technically true -- yes, some critics are blaming the deficit on the stimulus -- but it's substantively false. It doesn't make sense to blame the deficit on the stimulus, as this NYT article explained in a very easy to read graph:

Using CBO reports and estimates, David Leonhardt broke down the deficit projections as of March 2009 (Note: since then, $200 billion has been added to the 09 deficit estimate, increasing it to $1.4 trillion). Even if Leonhardt's graph below is too hard on Bush and too easy on Obama, as some people argued at the time this came out, it's still instructive on this point: 2009's deficit would have been historic even without a stimulus. Blaming the deficit on ARRA is like saying the lifeboats were to blame for the sinking of the Titanic.

Side note: This AP sentence is one of my problems with the brand of journalism that is often called "mainstream." It's acceptable to write "The critics say...[something untrue]" and stop there because the journalist has technically done his duty, and reported the whole story by reporting what the main characters said. But those reported quotes and summaries sometimes do more to obfuscate than illuminate the truth. The ability to critique, to weigh arguments and suggest a reasonable synthesis of data, is verboten for most straight news stories, but also necessary for the fundamental purpose of journalism, which is to inform rather than allow misleading quotes or opinions to lead readers away from the truth.