Joe Conason's Journal

The Bush administration says top economists support the president's tax cut plan. Unfortunately, it's not true.

Published February 24, 2003 8:13PM (EST)

Faked forecast
Even as Bush's poll numbers fall, the media continues to treat him as if he were too popular to criticize -- with certain exceptions, such as New York Newsday. Yesterday the Long Island (and Queens) daily's economics correspondent James Toedtman broke the kind of important story that requires only a single telephone call to expose lying in the White House.

Last Thursday, the president claimed that the "nation's top economists forecast substantial economic growth" if Congress would only pass his latest tax cut. After scores of Nobel economists warned that said tax cut is economically useless as well as unfair, Bush's desire to make such a claim is understandable. Unfortunately it is also entirely false.

The "top economists" to whom Bush (and his disinformation officer Ari Fleischer) referred were the 53 highly-respected respondents to a monthly newsletter known as Blue Chip Economic Forecast. They had allegedly agreed that the U.S. economy would grow 3.3 percent in 2003 if the tax cut passes.

Yet when Newsday's Toedtman phoned Randell E. Moore, the editor of the Blue Chip newsletter, his answer to Bush was painfully blunt. "I don't know what [Bush] was citing," he said. "I was a little upset. It sounded like the Blue Chip Economic Forecast had endorsed the president's plan. That's simply not the case." The economists had predicted a potential 3.3 percent growth rate. They had also predicted that "some version" of a Bush stimulus plan would pass. But they had made no connection between the two -- and in fact, most of the nation's "top economists" don't believe there is one. It's hard to say which would be worse: whether Bush doesn't understand the flaw in his phony syllogism, or if he just assumed that nobody else would.

(If my journal doesn't appear on any day this week, it's because I'm on vacation in a part of the world happily underserved by the media and the Internet. In this climate, my ability to file and my desire to do so, rather than go soak my head at the beach, both will tend to fluctuate. Anyway, my absence doesn't mean that Salon is going out of business or that I've been fired.)
[12:16 a.m. PST, Feb. 24, 2003]

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