Last Tuesday, the AP reported on a leaked Congressional Budget Office (CBO) “analysis” that had concluded that “it will take years before an infrastructure spending program proposed” by President Barack Obama “will boost the economy.” Conservatives, such as House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), quickly pounced on the story, claiming the CBO had proved that “government spending isn’t going to get our economy back on track.”
After the AP first wrote up the “report,” the rest of the media piled on the story. In a new analysis, ThinkProgress has found that since the AP’s report last Tuesday, the CBO report has been cited at least 81 times on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, the Sunday shows and the network newscasts in order raise questions about Obama’s recovery plan. Here are a few examples:
— “There’s a Congressional Budget Office report out today that suggests that the $825 billion stimulus proposal from Democrats, which is supposed to be timely and temporary, actually offers most of its spending a couple years from now,” — Carl Cameron [Fox News, 1/20/09]
— “Even the Congressional Budget Office is very skeptical about the rapidity with which that stimulus, this set of proposals, can move through, and that it could be four years before we see the results,” — Andrea Mitchell [MSNBC, 1/21/09]
— “Well that was another question raised in this Congressional Budget Office study. It was suggesting that a lot of the spending proposals in the original plan would not really take effect for a couple of years, so it wouldn’t clearly help create jobs in the first two years of the president’s administration,” — Ed Henry [CNN, 1/23/09]
— “There was a report out earlier this week from [the] Congressional Budget Office pointing out that the appropriated funds, that portion of the stimulus package that, you know, less than half of that was really going to be spent even within the next two years,” — Karen Tumulty [CNN, 1/24/09]
As the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim and the American Prospect’s Tim Fernholz reported last Friday, the CBO report being touted by conservatives and the media isn’t an actual report. “We did not issue any report, any analysis or any study,” a CBO aide told the Huffington Post.
Instead, the CBO “ran a small portion of an earlier version of the stimulus plan through a computer program that uses a standard formula” to determine how quickly money will be spent. As Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Scott Lily notes, even that CBO analysis is based “almost entirely on a review of historical data on program performance,” which likely applies “less during an economic crisis like the one we currently face.” OMB Director Peter Orszag says that 75 percent of the stimulus plan “will be spent over the next year and a half.”
The CBO is working on a full analysis of the plan to be released shortly.