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Financial Non-Accountability at CNS editor in chief Terry Jeffrey loved to attack President Obama and Democrats for rising federal deficits. Now that President Trump and Republicans are in charge, though, Jeffrey's much less interested in assigning blame.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/6/2019

Terry Jeffrey editor in chief Terry Jeffrey is the Media Research Center "news" division's numbers guy, willing to delve into government statistics to find numbers that he can spin to fit CNS' right-wing agenda. And spin he does, with an emphasis on blaming Democrats for federal budgetary decisions that Republicans share at least some responsibility for.

An Oct. 1 article, for instance, complained that "The federal debt increased by $1,271,158,167,126.72 in fiscal 2018." He went on to complain:

The $1,271,158,167,126.72 in debt accumulated in fiscal 2018 made fiscal 2018 the eighth fiscal year in the last eleven in which the debt increased by at least one trillion dollars.

The $1,271,158,167,126.72 increase in the federal debt was also the sixth largest fiscal-year debt increase in the history of the United States.

On Oct. 15, Jeffrey served up even more dire claims about federal spending:

The federal government collected a record $1,683,537,000,000 in individual income taxes in fiscal 2018 (October 2017 through September 2018), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.

However, the federal government also ran a deficit of $778,996,000,000 during the fiscal year, according to the statement.


Despite the record amount collected in individual income taxes in fiscal 2018, overall real federal tax revenues in fiscal 2018 were lower than in any of the previous three years. In fiscal 2018, total tax collections equaled $3,328,745,000,000, according to the Treasury statement. That was less than the $3,446,613,230,000 (in constant September 2018 dollars) that the Treasury collected in fiscal 2015; less than the $3,415,674,450,000 (in constant September 2018 dollars) collected in fiscal 2016; and less than the $3,390,373,210,000 (in constant September 2018 dollars) collected in fiscal 2017.

While the federal government was collecting more income taxes from individuals in fiscal 2018, it was collecting less from corporations. Total corporation income tax collections in fiscal 2018 were $204,733,000,000. In fiscal 2017, they were $303,811,700,000 (in constant September 2018 dollars). In fiscal 2016, they were $313,233,700,000 (in constant September 2018 dollars); and in fiscal 2015, they were $364,738,790,000 (in constant September 2018 dollars).

However, two words are missing from each of those articles: Trump and Republicans. The Republican-controlled Congress passed, and President Trump signed, a tax cut bill earlier in 2018 that cut government revenue, presumably cut the amount in taxes the government collected from corporations that Jeffrey laments and, yes, blew up the deficit.

Jeffrey did it again in a Nov. 14 article stating that "The federal government collected record total tax revenues of $252,692,000,000 in October" but "the government still ran a deficit of $100,491,000,000 for the month—because it spent $353,183,000,000." As before, the words "Trump" and "Republican" are absent, even though a Republican-controlled Congress passed, and President Trump signed, a tax cut bill that blew up the deficit.

By contrast, Jeffrey had no problem calling out by name when writing about federal deficits during his administration. For instance:

Even budget-related articles by Jeffrey that didn't mention Obama found a way to blame him implicitly; a November 2016 article that focused on federal revenue in October did not mention Obama's name but did include a picture of Obama giving the 2016 State of the Union address. There was no similar picture of Trump in Jeffrey's Nov. 14 article.

Another Jeffrey article, from October 2016, was the equivalent of the Oct. 1 article above. He didn't blame Obama in the headline, but he did lament that Obama "signed the “Bipartisan Budget Act,” a spending deal he had cut with the Republican leaders in Congress," adding that "The day Obama signed the budget deal, the total federal debt jumped from $18,152,981,685,747.52 to $18,492,091,120,833.99—a one-day climb of $339,109,435,086.47."

Jeffrey continued to avoid laying blame where it was due in a Dec. 24 article:

The federal government has added another $1,370,760,684,441.54 to the debt since last December 25, according to numbers published by the U.S. Treasury.

On Dec. 25, 2017, the federal debt was 20,492,874,492,282.58, according to the Treasury.

According to the latest numbers published by the Treasury, which show where the debt stood on Dec. 20, 2018, the federal debt was $21,863,635,176,724.12.

Needless to say, the word "Trump" did not appear in Jeffrey's article, even though the key reason why the government has added so much debt in the past year is a tax cut endorsed by congressional Republicans and signed by Trump. Instead, Jeffrey suggested that blame for the increase is bipartisan by including a group of both Republican and Democratic congresspeople with his article.

By contrast, a January 2017 article by Jeffrey on the increasing federal debt made sure to assign blame by detailing how much had had gone up "during President Barack Obama’s time in office." This time around, Jeffrey featured a picture of Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and then-House Speaker Paul Ryan (though, weirdly, no caption identifying them). Going back even further, a December 2011 article by Jeffrey on the federal debt featured a picture of Obama.

Jeffrey has also not been above blaming individual (Democratic) members of Congress for the debt under their watch. He used a March 2015 article to claim that "The debt of the federal government has grown $16,955,289,814,977.42 during the 32 years that current Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has served in the United States Congress. That equals an increase of about $145,131 for every household in the country." Jeffrey did actually invoke a little fairness on this count, though; a December 2017 article stated that "Since Mitch McConnell became the Senate majority leader in January 2015, the Congress has overseen $10,904,736,000,000 in federal spending" while "the total federal debt ... has climbed by $2,466,352,412,626,57."

Apparently, even Jeffrey's fiscal double standard has some limits. Weirdly presented as his weekly column instead of a "news" article like most of the above debt-related tirades, Jeffrey finally placed blame where it actually needed to be in his Jan. 9 piece headlined "Republican House Increased Debt $7.9 Trillion in 8 Years." He even called out his favorite president, Donald Trump, in doing so:

The recently deposed Republican majority increased the federal debt by $7.9 trillion in the eight years it controlled the House of Representatives.

At the close of business on Jan. 4, 2011, the day before the Republicans took control of the House, the debt was $14,014,049,043,294.41, according to the Treasury.

On Jan. 3, 2019, the last day before the Republicans turned control of the House back to the Democrats, the debt closed at $21,929,258,046,653.58.

So, under the Republican House majorities in four Congresses, the debt climbed $7,915,209,003,359.17.

That works out to approximately $989,401,125,420 per year, or $2,710,688,015 per day, or $112,945,334 per hour, or $1,882,422 per minute.

In fact, under the Republican-controlled House, the federal debt increased at an average rate of $31,374 per second.

Some Republicans may claim they should not be blamed for the massive increase in the federal debt during the eight years they controlled the House. They may say: "For four of those eight years, the Democrats controlled the Senate." Or: "For six of those eight years, Barack Obama was president."

But the Constitution says, "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law."

And no law may be enacted unless it passes the House.

A Republican-majority House approved every one of the federal spending laws enacted over the past eight years.

Not only that, but all of the spending laws enacted since Jan. 20, 2017, when President Donald Trump was inaugurated, have been approved by a Republican-majority House, a Republican-majority Senate and a Republican president.

That was the first half of Jeffrey's column; the latter half was devoted to arguing that "The federal debt did not climb by nearly a trillion dollars a year under a Republican-controlled House because the government did not tax enough. It climbed because the government spent too much."

Jeffrey backtracked a bit in a Feb. 13 article in which he touted how "the federal government collected a record $1,665,484,000,000 in individual income taxes in calendar year 2018," the first full year after Trump's tax cuts went into effect. But he waited until the fifth paragraph to admit that the deficit grew by $1.4 million (though it was mentioned in the headline) and the eighth paragraph to note that "Corporation income tax collections declined significantly from calendar year 2017 to calendar year 2018" by more than 32 percent, or $95 billion.

Jeffrey followed that up by sighing in a Feb. 20 article that "The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the federal government will not only fail to balance its budget in any year over the next eleven years (fiscal 2019 through 2029), but that during those eleven years it will increase the federal debt held by the public by $13 trillion." Jeffrey did not mention Trump or the Republican Congress that helped to run up that projected deficit or generated the baseline upon which the CBO's projection is based.

Jeffrey then served up a Feb. 28 lament that "The United States has gone a record 13 straight years without 3-percent growth in real Gross Domestic Product." This comes six months after CNS was touting a big quarterly GDP increase under Trump (and despite the fact that CNS never touted even larger quarterly GDP increases under Obama). Jeffrey made no mention of Trump or Republicans in his article, of course, though in 2017 he was quick to point out that "Obama remains the first president since the Great Depression not to see a single year with at least 3 percent growth in real GDP." Instead, Jeffrey includes a picture of congressional leaders at some social function.

In other words, Jeffrey is unable to say out loud that his hero Trump isn't doing any better on the economy than the hated Obama. That has to be a blow considering how much he and the rest of his CNS crew have puffed up Trump's economic record.

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