Financial Non-Accountability At CNS, Part 2
CNSNews.com editor Terry Jeffrey spent the rest of 2019 the way he spent the previous months: complaining about the federal deficit while laboring to avoid putting blame on the Republican president and Senate that were largely responsible for it.
By Terry Krepel
A March 26, 2019, article by Jeffrey fretted: "The federal government spent $1,822,712,000,000 in the first five months of fiscal 2019, the most it has spent in the first five months of any fiscal year since 2009, which was the fiscal year that outgoing President George W. Bush signed a $700-billion law to bailout the banking industry and incoming President Barack Obama signed a $787-billion law to stimulate an economy then in recession." Even though that spending occurred under Trump, Jeffrey never blames him or his fellow Republicans -- indeed, rather than a picture of Trump, his article is illustrated with a shot of Obama and Bush.
And Trump is mentioned only in passing, in the second-to-last paragraph of the 25-paragraph article, when Jeffrey paraphrases a government official who justified lower corporate tax revenue -- one key reason why deficit spending is up -- by stating that "the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed by President Trump in December 2017 was understood to be frontloaded in that corporations early on would take advantage of the new expensing rules to build their businesses."
Jeffrey similarly stated in an April 10 article that "The federal government spent $2,198,468,000,000 in the first six months of fiscal 2019 (October through March), which is the most it has spent in the first six months of any fiscal year in the last decade, according to the Monthly Treasury Statements." This time, however, Jeffrey didn't mention Trump at all, despite this massive deficit spending happening under his watch. The accompanying picture, meanwhile, is not of Trump but a stock photo of Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and two other unidentified politicians. Jeffrey did not explain why the photo includes people who weren't directly responsible for the situation he's complaining about.
Jeffrey set a pattern starting with a May 11 article:
The federal government spent $2,573,708,000,000 in the first seven months of fiscal 2019 (October through April), setting an all-time record for real federal spending in the first seven months of a fiscal year, according to data published in the Monthly Treasury Statements.
Jeffrey expressed more of that blame-free outrage in a June 12 article:
For the first time in the history of the United States, the federal government has spent more than $3 trillion in the first eight months of the fiscal year, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.
He lamented in a July 11 article:
The federal government spent a record $3,355,970,000,000 in the first nine months of fiscal 2019 (October through June), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.
While Jeffrey name-checked Bush and Obama, at no point do the words "Trump" or "Republican" -- you know, the folks currently in charge of the federal government -- appear in any of these articles. As he has before, he has included a caption-free stock photo of Trump with Nancy Pelosi in an implicit attempt to make her partially culpable for these deficits, even though she heads only one-half of one branch of government.
So determined is Jeffrey to push blame onto Pelosi, in fact, that all the Trump-Pelosi stock photos he has used thus far appear to come from the same undated event of them walking down steps to a waiting limo, since Pelosi appears to be wearing the same outfit in all of them.
Deficit deal coverage
This biased reluctance heavily informed CNS' coverage of a federal budget deal. As the deal was announced and as it wound through Congress toward Trump's signature, CNS branded it as a co-equal deal between Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, even though Pelosi, a Democrat, controls only one-half of the legislative branch and Republicans control the other half plus the entire executive branch.
"Pelosi and Trump Agree to Increase Spending Over Next 2 Fiscal Years; Put No Limit on Debt Until 2021" read the headline on an anonymously written July 22 article announcing the agreement, which "will allow increases in discretionary spending over the next two fiscal years and place no limit on the new debt the federal government can accumulate until July 31, 2021." Note that Pelosi appears before Trump in the headline, as if she has more power than the president of the United States.
Jeffrey followed two days later with a column grousing about "the Trump-Pelosi debt-and-spending deal," making sure to stay on-brand with his invented nomenclature (he used the "Trump-Pelosi" term four times as well as in his headline): "The Trump-Pelosi debt-and-spending deal is a short-term political win for the Washington establishment of both parties and a long-term loss for the American people. Rather than serve a great national interest, it attacks a great national interest: the solvency and future prosperity of this nation. It will not help Make America Great Again. It will make America bankrupt sooner."
At no point did Jeffrey specifically criticize Trump for his role in brokering this deal; instead, he whined about the "bipartisanship" that allegedly brought it about.
The next day, Jeffrey gave Republicans more credit than they deserve in an article headlined "132 House Republicans Vote Against Trump-Pelosi Spending DealBut House Democrats Push It Through," blaming "overwhelming support from House Democrats" on its passage. He did note, though, that Trump urged Republicans to vote for the bill.
On July 26, CNS published another anonymously written article recalling a 2011 speech in which Pelosi said it's "time for this Congress of the United States to get serious about debt reduction." CNS did not run a similar article reviewing Trump's previous statements critical of deficit spending.
A July 29 article by Melanie Arter went into stenography mode for White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney complaining that "if President Donald Trump could pass spending bills, the federal budget would be on the path to being balanced and the deficit would be down." Arter did include pushback from "Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace, who pointed out that Trump is the president and Republicans controlled Congress for the first two years of his presidency.
In an anonymously written Aug. 1 article noting the Senate's passage of the budget deal, Jeffrey's blame construct got a workout again: "Republican Senate Approves Trump-Pelosi Deal to Up Spending $320 Billion; Limitless Debt for 2 Years." The anonymous writer did admit that "President Donald Trump has aggressively promoted it and will sign it into law."
The next day, Mark Jennings touted Republican Rep. Rand Paul's objections to the budget bill, but he escaped Jeffrey's nomenclature by describing the bill as "arranged by President Trump and the congressional leadership" and not mentioning Pelosi by name at all.
With CNS' "news" side not daring to take digs at its favorite president the way it inserts editorial comment attacking Democrats, it was left to the actual labeled opinion side to call out Trump. A July 30 column by Daniel Mitchell claimed that Trump was "impersonating Obama with huge, across-the-board spending increases," failing to mention that Obama was dealing with a recession and deficit spending is an widely considered to be economically sound way to escape a recession; Trump didn't have that excuse at the time.
A column by Tony Perkins joined Jeffrey in blaming bipartisanship and refusing to call out Trump by name for his role in increasing deficits. An Aug. 7 column by Mark Hendrickson, meanwhile, complained that "Trump readily agreed to Speaker Pelosi’s domestic spending requests in exchange for relatively modest increases in military spending," but then shifted blame away: "Don’t blame President Trump. Blame the tens of millions of voters who keep electing big spenders."
Jeffrey, meanwhile, continued his old bias in an Aug. 12 article headlined "$3,727,014,000,000: Federal Spending Sets Record Through July; Treasury Runs $866,812,000,000 Deficit" (in his usual deviation from accepted AP journalistic style by putting full numbers in the headline instead of the shorthand of saying "billion" or "trillion"):
The federal government spent a record $3,727,014,000,000 in the first ten months of fiscal 2019 (October through July), according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.
As usual, the words "Trump" and "Republican" never appear in Jeffrey's article, even though they control the executive branch and half of Congress. It also has the usual implicit blame-spreading through the use of photo of Trump with Nancy Pelosi, suggesting equal blame even though Pelosi controls only one-half of one branch of government. At least this time Jeffrey found a different Trump-Pelosi stock photo to use, after the previous three months of using stock photos taken from the same Trump-Pelosi event.
It's so bad for Jeffrey, in fact, that he was forced to admit that earlier high deficit spending involved a recession. In noting that the last time federal spending was this high in the first 10 months of a fiscal year was 2009, Jeffrey added: "Federal spending was impacted in fiscal 2009 by the recession that was ongoing when that fiscal year began. At the beginning of fiscal 2009, President George W. Bush signed the Troubled Asset Relief Program to bailout failing banks. Later that fiscal year, President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aimed at stimulating the economy."
Still, Jeffrey couldn't quite admit that Trump doesn't have a recession and economic stimulation to blame for all the deficit spending.
Back to the bias
Jeffrey stuck with his biased formula the rest of the year. A Sept. 9 article complained that "the federal debt had already increased by more than a trillion dollars in fiscal 2019 with more than three weeks to go in the fiscal year":
At the close of business on Sept. 28, 2018, the last business day of fiscal 2018, the total federal debt was $21,516,058,183,180.23, according to the Treasury.
Jeffrey followed that with a Sept. 13 article complaining that "The federal government spent a record $4,155,323,000,000 in the first eleven months of fiscal 2019" while it "ran a deficit of $1,067,156,000,000." Again, the words "Trump" and "Republican" are missing, and again, Jeffrey's favorite Trump-Pelosi stock photo is used.
He lamented in an Oct. 16 article:
The federal debt increased by $1,203,343,570,253.55 in fiscal 2019, according to data released by the U.S. Treasury Department.
As usual, Jeffrey avoided using the words "Trump" and "Republicans" in his article, and it was accompanied with yet another stock photo that included Nancy Pelosi, even though she leads only one-half of one branch of government, while Republicans control one and a half branches.
Jeffrey further complained in an Oct. 23 column:
Federal spending programs that are "designed to transfer income ... to individuals or families" are set to hit a record $3,223,943,000,000 in fiscal 2020, according to projections published by the Office of Management and Budget.
Again, no mention of Trump or Republicans -- despite vaguely huffing that "The people who run our government are truly record setters when it comes to taking money from one group and giving it to another" -- and again there's a stock photo that included Pelosi.
More budget-related huffing came in an Oct. 28 article:
The amount of money the federal government collected in individual income taxes and the total amount of money the federal government spent both set records in fiscal 2019, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released Friday afternoon.
The template was followed again: no mention of Trump or Republicans, and a stock photo featuring Pelosi even though she's never mentioned in any of these articles either.
Jeffrey returned to the subject again in his Oct. 30 column, and he misportrayed the situation by arguing that Republicans and Democrats share equal blame for the deficit situation:
The leaders of both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party in the U.S. Senate proved again this week that they favor a bigger federal government that spends and borrows more money.
But Jeffrey still couldn't bring himself to utter the word "Trump," even though the president signs those budget bills he considers too bloated and, thus, is ultimately responsible for them.
He complained in a Nov. 27 article:
The federal debt has increased by $1,303,466.578.471.45 since last Thanksgiving, according to data released by the U.S. Treasury.
Jeffrey struck a similar tone in a Dec. 11 article:
The federal government collected record total tax revenues of $470,706,000,000 in October and November, the first two months of fiscal 2020, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement released today.
As is Jeffrey's pattern, the words "Trump" or "Republican" does not appear, and they are accompanied by photos that feature Democrats. The Nov. 27 article features the easily recognizable Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer with two unnamed people who do not look familiar; the Dec. 11 article features a picture of Pelosi with President Trump, whose face is not visible.
Weirdly, despite being such a budget hawk, Jeffrey never reported the $1.4 trillion spending bill passed by not only a Democratic House but a Republican Senate and signed by Trump on Dec. 20.
Hypocritical budget lecturing
Jeffrey spent his Nov. 20 column lecturing members of Congress that the longtime practice of paying a year's salary to the surviving spouse of a congressmember who dies in office is a waste of money:
The members of Congress who have enacted previous bills that included language directing the Treasury to provide the equivalent of a full year's salary to the spouse of a deceased colleague were not giving that person their own money.
Jeffrey, however, is much more cavalier when it comes to spending tax money on causes he approves of -- and just a couple weeks before this, Jeffrey devoted a Nov. 7 article to touting how building a border wall would take up an infinitesimal amount of the federal budget, then complaining that Congress isn't funding it to his satisfaction:
The $5,000,000,000 that President Donald Trump has requested Congress appropriate for border-wall construction along the southwestern border in fiscal 2020 equals just 0.1 percent of the $4,745,573,000,000 that the Office of Management and Budget estimates the federal government will spend in total during the fiscal year.
Unlike in his lecture over survivors' payments, Jeffrey did not mention the federal deficit at all or fret that the wall would be paid for with borrowed money. It's as if he has different standards based on things he would like to see money spent on.