Stephen Moore Is a Liar

Or a statistical incompetent. Or both.

(I know, in the grand scheme of lying, this is small bore.)
I just heard Stephen Moore of Heritage Foundation saying we had a trillion dollar budget deficit, in a debate on CNN about the Paris Accord (1:42PM CST).

The FY 2017 budget deficit is $603 billion, according to the just released budget (see Table S-1). Add his serial lying to the statistical atrocity that is the ALEC-Laffer-Moore-Williams index, and all I can say is Mr. Moore should not be paid as a “CNN economic analyst”.

Update, 7:14 PM Pacific: I’d forgotten this tabulation of errors by Mr. Moore. The man has no shame.

55 thoughts on “Stephen Moore Is a Liar

  1. Arthur Gailes

    The criticism is warranted, but sniping at his lack of a PhD is petty and irrelevant.

    1. baffling

      does stephen moore have any real world credentials? has he ever held a position of economic responsibility? note a visiting scholar at heritage is not a real world credible position, nor is it a position of responsibility.

  2. mike v

    It’s incredible that he still gets so much air-time on major news outlets. His talking points are so transparently asinine.

    1. pgl

      So when the deficit falls to only $450 billion … Trump will tweet that he has balanced the budget!

      1. CoRev

        pgl, more importantly if the deficit falls to $450B, will he get any credit from the Dems/left? Bush didn’t.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          CoRev: Do you ever look at the numbers? G.W. Bush had a $158bn deficit in FY2002 (first full year under Bush), after surplus of $128bn in FY2001. Only in FY2008 did it increase above $450bn. So he had a smaller deficit than now in nominal terms. But remember, he went from surplus to substantial deficit in share-of-GDP terms>

  3. noneconomist

    Hard not to notice that there’s also a lot of crowing about the national debt doubling under Obama (also not–yet–true) but very little teeth gnashing about the debt also doubling under George W. Bush and nearly tripling under Reagan. The near two trillion borrowed by Reagan would total more than four trillion in today’s dollars.
    We’ve come a long way from Reagan in 1981 describing the near trillion dollar debt as “unfathomable.”

      1. Menzie Chinn Post author

        Peak Trader: Of course, publicly held debt to GDP was decreasing when G.W. Bush took over; he reversed that with alacrity. Debt-to-GDP rose rapidly in the last year of Bush, and decelerated under Obama.

        1. PeakTrader

          Menzie Chinn, part of that decreasing debt-to-GDP was due to the GOP Congress taking over in 1995 and pushing Clinton to balance the budget, although they didn’t get a balance budget amendment. When Bush 43 took over, debt-to-GDP increased, partly because of the 2001 recession and 9/11. I’d expect debt-to-GDP to rise sharply in a severe recession, but not over a subsequent eight year expansion.

          1. baffling

            when you take a laissez-faire approach to financial regulations, as was done in the bush years, you end up with the possibility for dramatic behavior-good or bad. we ended up with bad. the outcome was a terrible depression that took years to recover from. that is the hallmark of a depression.

          2. pgl

            Yea – Newt Gingrich led the support for the 1993 tax increase and the decrease in defense spending. In other words, you live in the world of Alternative Facts.

          3. PeakTrader

            Bush 41 also raised taxes. After the GOP took over Congress in 1995, Clinton stated in 1996 “The era of big government is over.” We had welfare reform, a peace dividend, strong growth, to raise tax revenue, and oil fell to $10 a barrel. The Baby-Boomers reached their peak productive years. Clinton should’ve cut taxes when the NASDAQ began to crash in 2000.

          4. Beeker

            What you left out is that Congress enacted and HW Bush agreed to PAYGO that had teeth. Clinton extended it along with another tax increase in 1993 and that led to his primary budget being in the surplus in FY1999- FY2001.
            So when GW Bush became President, he and the Republican Congress let the law expired which allowed him to proposed tax cuts and Part D thinking that the economy would explode like it did in Reagan’s term when the economy was diametrically different.

          5. PeakTrader

            Yes, in 1990, “George H. W. Bush and congressional leaders painfully negotiated a large deficit reduction package combining spending cuts and tax increases.”

            However, you don’t seem to agree Keynesian expansionary fiscal policy is needed in a recession, like in 2001.

            It should be noted, the 2001-07 expansion was built upon the 1982-00 economic boom and increasingly larger trade deficits in the 2000s, which subtracted from GDP.

            It ended, because consumption wasn’t refunded by tax cuts, the housing market collapsed, and oil rose reaching $150 a barrel in 2008.

          6. Beeker

            Peak Trader,

            I agreed that the Keynesian model does allow expansionist fiscal policy when the economy is in a downturn but they should be temporary. You have remember the Republicans enacted two tax cuts via reconciliation (2001 and 2003) which expired 10 years due to the Byrd Rule not because it was what you said . As a matter of fact, Obama allowed it to be extended at the advice of the economists. The fight came when the law expired which led to a negotiated deal between McConnell and Obama in 2013.

          7. Beeker

            Peak Trader

            Congress passed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Act Reauthorization Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-312 signed on 12/17/2010) This legislation extended to 12/31/2012 the tax cuts under both EGTRRA (P.L. 107-16) and JGTRRA 2003 (P.L. 108-27).
            Since the above law was expiring, McConnell negotiated with Obama and agreement with the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 better known as the Fiscal Cliff bill (P.L. 112-240 signed on 1/2/2013.

      2. DeDude

        You mean to say that the great recession that Bush II sank the economy into caused a huge increase in federal debt during the first years of the Obama presidency!!!

        My goodness next thing you want so say is that the sun was rising in the east during Obama?

        1. PeakTrader

          No, it seems you’re saying it’s mostly or all Bush’s fault and Obama had little or nothing to do with the expensive “recovery.”

          My goodness, next thing you want to say is that Barney Frank and Chris Dodd had nothing to do with the housing market.

          1. baffling

            no, he is saying that obama had a huge hole to fill courtesy of bush. next thing you want to say is deregulation had nothing to do with the financial crisis.

          1. Menzie Chinn Post author

            PeakTrader: And here I thought it began under Jimmy Carter when Alfred Kahn pushed deregulation of airlines and oil extraction. Silly me.

          2. Beeker

            I don’t rely on Glenn Beck to tell me how deregulation started. The fact it started under Jimmy Carter in the late 70’s like Menzie Chinn wrote. Although the Bush administration identified the problem but it was Congress and his own agency chief who wanted the industry to self regulate themselves is what led to the problem.

          3. PeakTrader

            What exactly is incorrect in the Beck article?

            Is there a liberal source that would report the Bush Administration efforts?

            Do you have proof the Bush Administration didn’t want to regulate Fannie and Freddie?

      3. noneconomist

        PT, having trouble with basic math? Debt 9/30/81 (first FY Reagan budget) $998 Billion
        Debt 9/30/89 $2.875 Trillion
        % increase 185%
        Debt 9/30/09 (first FY Obama budget) $11.9 Trillion
        Debt 5/31/17 $19.85 Trillion
        % increase 67
        Please define “steeper”, as in the debt climbed more steeply under Obama.
        Also, we currently spend approximately 3X more on the military than China, 9X more than Russia, and over 40X more than Israel. Of course, there is a significant difference between defense and military spending.
        Of course, the Reagan budgets did “prime the pump” with defense spending, especially in states where defense contracts were–and still are–a way of life as well as in communities housing military installations. Consequently, his promise to get the government off our backs did not materialize as the number of government employees also rose significantly.

        1. PeakTrader

          I cited a linear chart.

          Defense spending declined as a percent of GDP, or at least defense spending didn’t rise much on weak GDP growth.

          1. noneconomist

            Had Obama managed the debt as Reagan did, that 185% increase would have produced a debt at well over 33 Trillion. Careful what you wish for.
            Weakened military spending is a figment of fevered imaginations unless you’re looking to incrrease our presence in more than 170 countries/territories. Perhaps wiser use of our resources is more prudent than outspending the Russians more than the 9X we already do.
            For now, however, your new math–a 185% increase is much lower than a 67% one–will sufficiently explain your adherence to fiscal conservatism. As VP Cheney so expertly claimed, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter” until, apparently, it took Obama to prove they do.

          2. baffling

            peak there is not a military out there that can compete with the US. you have a failed understanding of what a weak military is.

      4. Mike v

        There’s PT’s classic “Obama’s depression” nonsense. Did you patent that phrase yet?

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      rakesh wahi: Better yet, exact quote: “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead”. But I think it bears repeating for people who might have forgotten, because I only hear Stephen Moore called out on his outright lies intermittently.

  4. Manfred

    You know what Menzie, on this one, I do agree with you and your post.
    Maybe I should get nervous… 🙂 🙂 just kidding.

  5. Conversable Economist

    You are assuming that Moore was referring to the deficit in a 12-month year. But why should he be limited in this way? Over a sufficiently flexible, adjustable, and expansive period of time, his estimate of a $1 trillion budget deficit (or any other value, for that matter) is precisely correct.

    1. pgl

      I guess one could score this the way Lawrence Kudlow did his Deficit Dance as of November 2002. Take a figure that looked at the annualized flow over 6 quarter and summed them when the right procedure would have been to average them. Easily turns a $60 billion per year flow into $360 billion.

  6. Steven Kopits

    Well, let’ see.

    According to the US National Debt clock, US unfunded liabilities* rise from $106 trillion in 2017 to $128 trn in 2021. Thus, while the deficit on a cash basis may be correct at $600 bn, on an accrual basis, the deficit appears to be more like $5 trn per year.

    * Debt held by the public, Social Security obligations, Medicare A,B + D, plus Federal Employee and Veteran benefits; GAAP accounting.

    1. Menzie Chinn Post author

      Steve Kopits: So, Stephen Moore was wrong again! (If he had said he was using a non-standard definition of the deficit, which he did not). In no universe was he right, as far as I can tell. Can you figure out a definition of the deficit in which $1 trillion is correct?

      1. Steven Kopits

        Sure. If you take the accrued deficit and adjust it for rounded dog years, you can get $1 trillion easy.

  7. Rick Stryker

    Why does this matter? People get facts wrong all the time. Just recently, Hillary Clinton claimed at her alma mater address that Nixon was impeached. Clinton was reading prepared remarks, remarks that would have been checked and scrutinized, not engaging in an off the cuff tv debate. Moreover, Clinton worked for the Nixon impeachment committee. So, she should certainly know that Nixon was not impeached. Only two US presidents have been impeached–Andrew Johnson and her husband.

    Is Hillary Clinton a liar? Or is she historically incompetent? You can’t look into people’s minds to see their motives, but its hard not to come to the conclusion that Clinton was fibbing, given her experience and background. But why does it matter for the point that she was trying to make?

    In a similar fashion, does Moore’s mistake matter for the argument he was making? Moore’s point was that the Paris Accord obligated nations to spend 100 billion annually on climate “research” by 2020. So far, about 10 billion has been collected, with the US pledging 3 billion of the total. If those proportions hold, that means the US would be contributing 30 billion per year. And it won’t stop there. Moore knows that the number will climb, with the US contributing enormous amounts of money annually to a new international climate boondoggle organization, which will spend enormous amounts of US taxpayer money on useless studies, fly climate bureaucrats around to conferences (probably first class), agitate for new regulations, etc.

    If we have that kind of money to throw around, why aren’t we spending it on Americans to serve their needs, especially when we have to borrow large sums every year? Whether that large sum is 600 billion or a trillion doesn’t really matter. We shouldn’t be doing it. I agree with Moore.

      1. Rick Stryker

        Obviously, I was not defending lying. I was saying that people make mistakes all the time. Unless you can look into their minds to understand their motives, or unless you have outside evidence that they should have known better (e.g. Hillary), you shouldn’t claim they are lying.

        But I was also pointing out that it’s relevant to ask whether a wrong statement, whether uttered on purpose or not, matters for the argument the speaker was trying to make.

        1. Menzie Chinn Post author

          Rick Stryker: I see. So your statement:

          “does Moore’s mistake matter for the argument he was making?”

          is akin to “a half a trillion dollars here, a half a trillion dollars there, that’s not really important”? Geez. I give up.

          By the way, I see you didn’t mention all the mistakes tabulated here regarding just one oped. Those were just innocent mistakes not germane to his main argument? If you say they were inconsequential, well then, we know what you are.

          1. Rick Stryker

            I think the point was clear. If we have 30 billion dollars a year lying around to create a new international boondoggle, that’s way to much money to be wasting, especially when we already borrow a lot of money and we have unfulfilled needs in America. If Moore had gotten the deficit figure correct, it would not have changed his argument–600 billion is still a lot of money to borrow.

            On your other question, you go first. Was Hillary’s assertion that Nixon was impeached an innocent mistake? Or was it something else? Hint: Remember, these were prepared remarks that would have been vetted. And she did serve on the Nixon impeachment inquiry staff. And how many times must she have heard that Bill Clinton was the second President to be impeached after Johnson? It was in all the papers at the time.

            If you can get the correct answer, I’ll answer your question.

          2. Menzie Chinn Post author

            Rick Stryker: No, I asked you first many, many months ago to justify your statement (which you subsequently iterated away from to being aspirational) that 500,000 jobs/mo on a percentage basis was perfectly plausible. Each and every time you post on this website, I’m going to ask again.

            Oh, and you have inspired me to start a blogpost series called “Stephen Moore Watch” which will regularly include links to your comments that defend him. Some day, when your identity is unmasked (even Deep Throat was inevitably identified), we’ll all be able to laugh at your (i) mendacity or (ii) gullibility (you choose).

        2. baffling

          “Obviously, I was not defending lying.”
          in the past, you have defended trump lying. it was acceptable, if he accomplished his goal.

    1. 2slugbaits

      Rick Stryker Once again your tin ear with all things involving the English language has failed you. Yes, I heard Hillary Clinton incorrectly refer to Tricky Dick’s impeachment. And yes, we all know that although the House Judiciary Committee did vote to recommend a bill of impeachment, technically Nixon was not impeached because he resigned before the full House could vote for his impeachment. Sort of like saying that ancient Roman politicians weren’t really executed because they were allowed to commit suicide. Technically true, but largely a distinction without a difference. But your tin ear problem refers to the fact that Hillary was not trying to present a piece of historiography; she was setting up a joke. No one accuses Jimmy Fallon or Seth Meyers of “lying” or uttering historical untruths during their monologues. Unless your name is Dr. Sheldon Cooper (or apparently Rick Stryker) we all understand the context of a set up line for a joke. Hillary Clinton’s impeachment comment was a piece of poetic license in the service of a sly joke. Mr. Moore on the other hand simply is the joke.

      1. Rick Stryker


        She didn’t make the statement on the Tonight Show. She made the statement during prepared remarks in which she gave the 2017 commencement address at her alma mater, Wellesley. As I pointed out to Menzie, these remarks would have been reviewed and vetted by her staff. Moreover, she served on the Nixon impeachment staff. And her husband was only the second President to be impeached after Johnson. If anybody knows what happened with Nixon, she does.

        Here is what she actually said. She was not joking:

        “We didn’t trust government, authority figures or really anyone over 30, in large part thanks to years of heavy casualties and dishonest official statements about Vietnam, and deep differences over civil rights and poverty here at home. We were asking urgent questions about whether women, people of color, religious minorities, immigrants, would ever be treated with dignity and respect.

        And, by the way, we were furious about the past presidential election of a man whose presidency would eventually end in disgrace with his impeachment for obstruction of justice after firing the person running the investigation into him at the Department of Justice.”

        1. baffling

          nixon was the only sitting president to have impeachment charges brought before the entire house of representatives and resulting in the president’s removal from office.

        2. 2slugbaits

          Rick Stryker Oh my, you really are Dr. Sheldon Cooper!!! Go check the video of her speech (at the 3:06 mark). Listen to the timing of her delivery. Listen to the knowing pauses. Notice the “And, by the way…” That’s a tell. Notice how she uses the word “we” in a deliberately ambiguous way…at one level “we” referred to her generation, but at another level she intends “we” to mean everyone at the commencement ceremony. Notice the laughing on stage after her pauses, which you do not get by only reading the transcript. She was speaking with a kind of sly irony, saying one thing and clearly meaning an additional thing. Notice the audience reaction. They all got the joke. Too bad you didn’t. Clinton was taking poetic license in order to conflate Nixon and Trump. The Nixon reference is in the past, but she uses it in order to jump to an implied future tense with Trump.

          You and Dr. Sheldon Cooper just aren’t very good at deconstructing the subtleties of performance art.

  8. baffling

    rick stryker, why do you spend so much time arguing about hillary, and so little time arguing about the current president trump, moore and others who have lied? in fact, you actually defend trump, moore and others who have lied. oh that’s right, you are a political hack. that is why you will not criticize the trump administration for lying.

  9. joseph

    Keep in mind that Stephen Moore is a paid shill for the oil billionaire Koch brothers. Lying for your paymasters comes with the territory.

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