Bipartisanship, Nonexistent CBO Reports, and Misattributed Quotes

Commentary‘s Jennifer Rubin tsk-tsks that “bipartisanship didn’t make it to the weekend“:

The problem is not just the Democrats’ high-handed process that shuts out Republicans. The issue is that the bill itself is objectively awful. If you think tax cuts and defense spending are better ways to “jump start” the economy, there is precious little to like. But even if you accept the Democrats’ premise that we should have a bunch of “shovel ready” projects and immediate infusions of spending into the economy, the bill doesn’t do that either. The Congressional Budget Office tells us: “For example, of $30 billion in highway spending, less than $4 billion would occur over the next two years. Of $18.5 billion proposed for renewable energy, less than $3 billion would be spent by 2011. And of $14 billion for school construction, less than $7 billion would be spent in the first two years.”

I guess it isn’t enough for Rubin that tax cuts are 33% of the stimulus package. I guess she forgot to mention that the Congressional Budget Office does not actually “tell us” what she says it tells us, because (a) That direct quote is from a Washington Post article about the CBO report, and (b) the CBO report does not exist:

Reports of a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office, showing that the vast majority of the money in the stimulus package won’t be spent until after 2010, have Democrats on the defensive and the GOP calling for a pullback in wasteful spending.

Funny thing is, there is no such report.

“We did not issue any report, any analysis or any study,” a CBO aide told the Huffington Post.

Rather, the nonpartisan CBO ran a small portion of an earlier version of the stimulus plan through a computer program that uses a standard formula to determine a score — how quickly money will be spent. The score only dealt with the part of the stimulus headed for the Appropriations Committee and left out the parts bound for the Ways and Means or Energy and Commerce Committee.

Because it dealt with just a part of the stimulus, it estimated the spending rate for only about $300 billion of the $825 billion plan. Significant changes have been made to the part of the bill the CBO looked at.

The way Rubin presents the information that supposedly comes from the CBO report is extremely dishonest. Here, again, is the paragraph of Rubin’s post that I quote above — this time including the opening section of her post, which comes immediately prior to the paragraph I quoted:

The new era of bipartisanship isn’t going so well, the Washington Post tells us:

Just days after taking office vowing to end the political era of “petty grievances,” President Obama ran into mounting GOP opposition yesterday to an economic stimulus plan that he had hoped would receive broad bipartisan support.

Republicans accused Democrats of abandoning the new president’s pledge, ignoring his call for bipartisan comity and shutting them out of the process by writing the $825 billion legislation. The first drafts of the plan would result in more spending on favored Democratic agenda items, such as federal funding of the arts, they said, but would do little to stimulate the ailing economy.

The GOP’s shrunken numbers, particularly in the Senate, will make it difficult for Republicans to stop the stimulus bill, but the growing GOP doubts mean that Obama’s first major initiative could be passed on a largely party-line vote — little different from the past 16 years of partisan sniping in the Clinton and Bush eras.

The problem is not just the Democrats’ high-handed process that shuts out Republicans. The issue is that the bill itself is objectively awful. If you think tax cuts and defense spending are better ways to “jump start” the economy, there is precious little to like. But even if you accept the Democrats’ premise that we should have a bunch of “shovel ready” projects and immediate infusions of spending into the economy, the bill doesn’t do that either. The Congressional Budget Office tells us: “For example, of $30 billion in highway spending, less than $4 billion would occur over the next two years. Of $18.5 billion proposed for renewable energy, less than $3 billion would be spent by 2011. And of $14 billion for school construction, less than $7 billion would be spent in the first two years.”

Do you see what Rubin has done here (emphasis mine)?

She leads in to a quote from the Washington Post with: “The new era of bipartisanship isn’t going so well, the Washington Post tells us[.]…” and follows that with a blockquoted section from the WaPo article. Then, in her next paragraph after the blockquoted text from the WaPo, she writes:

The problem is not just the Democrats’ high-handed process that shuts out Republicans. The issue is that the bill itself is objectively awful. If you think tax cuts and defense spending are better ways to “jump start” the economy, there is precious little to like. But even if you accept the Democrats’ premise that we should have a bunch of “shovel ready” projects and immediate infusions of spending into the economy, the bill doesn’t do that either. The Congressional Budget Office tells us: “For example, of $30 billion in highway spending, less than $4 billion would occur over the next two years. Of $18.5 billion proposed for renewable energy, less than $3 billion would be spent by 2011. And of $14 billion for school construction, less than $7 billion would be spent in the first two years.”

This time, it’s not the Washington Post “telling us” this — it’s the Congressional Budget Office. Only it’s not. It’s still the Washington Post article — the same one she quoted from before, attributing the quote to the correct source. And it’s not as if the Washington Post itself is quoting directly from the CBO report (which we know it could not, because there is no such report). When Rubin writes

The Congressional Budget Office tells us: “For example, of $30 billion in highway spending, less than $4 billion would occur over the next two years. Of $18.5 billion proposed for renewable energy, less than $3 billion would be spent by 2011. And of $14 billion for school construction, less than $7 billion would be spent in the first two years.”

the source of that text with the double quote marks around it is the Washington Post, not the Congressional Budget Office. How does Rubin justify attributing a direct quote to the Congressional Budget Office when in fact it comes from the Washington Post, which itself is paraphrasing, not quoting, conclusions from a report that, it turns out, does not even exist?

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