Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blade's state deficit figures don't add up

This is a screen shot of the front page of today's Toledo Blade.

You'll note that in the lead story, "States face deficits as stimulus dries up," they have a graphic of the budgets of Midwest states.

According to the credit on the graphic, the data is from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which the paper describes as "a Washington think tank."

They're really a liberal group that pushes for more federal spending for social programs, as their website explains.

Interestingly, the description of the Tax Foundation, which is also quoted in the story is: "The conservative Tax Foundation,..." However, their web page actually gives instructions for how journalists should refer to them:

How Should Journalists Describe Us?
The Tax Foundation is a nonpartisan tax research group based in Washington, D.C.

The bias of The Blade in failing to describe a liberal think tank as 'liberal' is not a surprise to regular readers. But calling another group 'conservative' in spite of their instructions on how to be described is an error the reporter should not make and the editors should not allow.

But I digress.

The real issue in this post is an even more blatant error in the above graphic - figures that don't add up.

You'll note that the chart shows, for various states, the 2011 budget, the projected 2012 shortfall/deficit and the percentage of the budget that deficit represents.

But it incorrectly calculates the Michigan percentage. A $1.8 billion deficit is 21.7% of an $8.3 billion budget.

The article also states:

"Michigan's new governor, Rick Snyder, announced in his state of the state speech on Jan. 19 that he would seek to eliminate the "job-killing" Michigan Business Tax that generates a hefty $2.2 billion a year for Michigan's tax coffers and replace it with a 6 percent corporate income tax.

What that means for the state's $1.8 billion shortfall is not yet known. On paper, at least, Michigan's budget is in better shape than Ohio's because it has a deficit of 8.6 percent of its 2011 budget."

(Note, again, the clear bias by putting 'job-killing' in quotes and referring to the tax revenue as 'hefty'...)

But the story and the graphic cannot both be correct.

If the $1.8 billion deficit is 8.6% of their 2011 budget, the 2011 budget would have to be $20.9 billion - not the $8.3 billion listed on the graphic.

If the $8.3 billion budget number is correct, then the deficit is actually 21.7%, much worse than Ohio's 14%.

Over the weekend, I attended the Western Regional RightOnLine conference - an Americans for Prosperity training session for on-line activists. Throughout the sessions, the speakers emphasized the value of citizen journalists - individuals who serve as a check and balance on the increasingly unreliable and biased main stream media.

Thank you, Toledo Blade, for so quickly providing me with a perfect example to share with my fellow bloggers.


Kadim said...

I have a suspicion that the 8.6% number is referring to the two year budget, not the one year.

wolfman said...

Aren't you concerned who funds these think tanks? Media Transparency says that Americans for Prosperity Foundation has received seven grants totaling $1,181,000 between 2004 to 2006 with $1 million coming from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, one of the Koch Family Foundations.

Maggie said...

Wolfman - aren't you as concerned about who funds Media Transparency? According to their website, they look only at conservative groups - how completely and totally biased!

If they really wanted to educate people, they'd look at ALL groups and let the public decide. But obviously, they're just biased against the 'right' and don't care if the 'left' is doing the exact same thing. Talk about a horrible double standard.

Here, in case you doubt me, is the description directly from their website:

" is dedicated to news, opinion, analysis and investigative data related to links between conservative philanthropies and the organizations and people which they fund, and their influence in the media.

If there was a group that investigated links between liberal/progressive philanthropies and the organizations and people they fund - what do you think they were find????

Let's see: since you didn't bother to look it up, let's find out who funds the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, because you certainly didn't get that information in the NEWS article so you would have a better context for their comments:

* According to the New York Times, CCPP is funded by the Democracy Alliance - a George Soros group.

* Also according to that report, they participated in "talk about the agendas they were busy crafting that would catapult Democratic politics into the economic future."

So what have we learned? That CBPP is coordinating with the Democratic Party to advance that party's agenda in the hopes of increasing people's dependency on government under the guise of 'helping' the poor. They want more tax money spent on programs for the poor, which is, in essence, a redistribution of wealth from those who have to those this group believes deserve it more.

So of course they don't want governments to cut back and of course they want taxes to increase.

Knowing this background on their special interests, we can put into context their quotes in the article. Shame on the paper for not telling us this in the first place.

BTW - I went to a training seminar sponsored by Americans for Prosperity - they have nothing to do with the article itself, so your point about their funding has no relevancy. And even if it did, no - I don't mind at all that a person who believes in free markets, limited government and freedom is helping to fund this particular group. I share those same values.

But you need to work on your consistency of principle: if AFP is bad because it's backed by a conservative group, then CBPP is bad because it's backed by a socialist group.

My whole point in even mentioning the way the paper described CBPP and the Tax Foundation was to emphasize that one group is identified by their philosophical bent (conservative) in spite of their request to reporters on how to describe them; while a group that is comprised of people who get money from the government for various programs and advocates for even more spending in those areas is not treated in the same manner.

If you want to call any group with free-market emphasis 'conservative,' then be sure to correspondingly call the big-government group the 'redistributionists' that they are.

And if you want to make an issue out of who funds one of the groups, be sure to do the same with every other group as well.

The more information people have, the better they can make their own decisions.

Maggie said...

Kadim - if so, then the chart is still wrong, and the article should have explained that, especially if Michigan has a two-year budget while the other states do not.

wolfman said...

Well it doesn't mean the information is wrong! I agree that both sides fund this crap by the right wing has a much larger war chest than any progressive group. You don't really hear much of left wing get togethers funded by rich lefties. Going to Koch funded RightOnLine love-ins gives the impression of control by elite Republicans. I don't think people realize the vast amount of money being spent to control the thinking of average Americans.

Maggie said...

With all due respect, Wolfman, just because YOU don't know about how much money the left spends on such groups doesn't mean you can conclude that the right spends more.

In fact, if you'd really like to 'see clearly' just do some research on how much George Soros spends attempting (and succeeding) in influencing the media, the public and you.

As for what training seminars I choose to attend - well, that's really none of your business. If I want to go to one of them why in the world would you care?

The disdain with which you call it a "Koch funded RightOnLine love-ins" is telling in and of itself. Be careful, Wolfman. You weren't there, you don't know what the conference entailed and jumping to conclusions and mischaracterizations gets you into trouble.

Also - this is your fair warning: read the rules of this blog and be sure you are following them, otherwise your comments will be deleted.

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