TheDC Morning: Robert Gibbs crows about power of big government, gets facts completely wrong

Pat McMahon Contributor
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1.) Your grandmother drives faster than the new Republican majority — Welcome to the Lowered Expectations dating service, where nobody’s profile picture reflects what he looks like in real life. First up: The House’s Republican majority. Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor promised $100 billion in spending cuts. Late Tuesday, unnamed GOP aides downgraded that amount to roughly $50 billion, reports the New York Times, “because the current fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, will be nearly half over before spending cuts could become law.” The Daily Caller’s Jon Ward, after attending Cantor’s press availability on Tuesday, reported that Republicans may be relying on Obama to do their cutting for them: “Once we get to the State of the Union I expect this president to put some action behind the words he’s been about,” Cantor said yesterday afternoon. “When pressed numerous times for whether there will be specific spending cuts proposed and regulations put under the axe prior to the State of the Union,” Ward added, “Cantor mentioned only an already announced five percent reduction to congressional office budgets that will save $35 million.” Hear that noise? That is the sound of the Tea Partiers sharpening their knives.

2.) Gibbs crows about power of big government, gets facts completely wrong — White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs may be out of a job soon, which would mean no more quips like this: “General Motor Co.’s sales were up 21 percent in 2010 for its four core brands.” Gibbs tweeted that pithy little line yesterday, but his glibness has an upside: He’s completely wrong. At The Truth About Cars, Edward Niedermeyer writes, “Play with these numbers a little, and you have no choice but conclude that Chevy is a brand in some real trouble. Through November, Chevy sold over 35% of its production to fleets… that’s 503,743 fleet sale units, a 66.9% increase over 2009.” (The problem with fleet sales being that they do not reflect consumer preferences.) Meanwhile, the sales figures that actually do reflect what average Americans want in a car suggest that GM’s biggest brand is on its last legs: “Chevy’s retail sales climbed a measly 1.2% through November of last year. And, as a whole, GM’s retail market share fell a full 1.8%, from 18.6% to 16.8%. That’s more retail consumers leaving The General than recall-scandal-battered Toyota, which lost only 1.2% of the retail market last year.” Gibbs was half right and completely wrong at the same time. He should add that to his resume.

3.) Earmarks for road repairs disappear down the crapper — Perhaps earmarks aren’t a problem after all: “Almost 13 years ago, Rep. David McIntosh, R-Ind., directed $375,000 in federal funding ‘to improve State Road 31’ in Columbus, Ind.,” reports USA Today. According to a spokesman for Indiana’s Department of Transportation, “There is no State Road 31 that travels through Columbus, only U.S. 31.” As a result, the money for the road with two names hasn’t been spent. And “because Congress counts money earmarked for highway projects against a state’s share of federal gas tax revenue, the amount of the earmark reduced what Indiana would have received in federal funding — almost dollar for dollar.” According to a study by USA Today, “McIntosh’s botched attempt at earmarking is one of more than 7,374 congressionally directed highway projects in which at least some money that lawmakers set aside remains unspent….[For] at least 3,649 of those earmarks, not a single dollar has gone toward its intended purpose.”

4.) Community college subjects Iraq veteran to humiliating bureaucratic hoops — Charles Whittington was discharged from the Army in 2008 for medical reasons after serving in Iraq. Upon returning to the states, he tried to lead a normal life. One aspect of that was taking classes at the Community College of Baltimore County. Whittington was a good student and had no disciplinary problems, until he wrote a personal essay for the student paper about killing enemy combatants. For writing in the tradition of Tim O’Brien (author of “The Things They Carried” and “Going After Cacciato”), Whittington was deemed a potential threat by school administrators, who forced him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation if he wanted to continue taking classes at the college. Two months after the school made its request, Whittington gave the school his latest psychiatric evaluation from his VA therapist. According to the Baltimore Sun, the file “describes [Whittington] as cooperative, pleasant, realistic and goal-oriented. It says he suffers from depression, inability to sleep and post-traumatic stress disorder, but shows no signs of suicidal or homicidal ideation.” The school rejected the file and told Whittington to get a “fresh” evaluation.

5.) Former journalist bemoans FCC’s failure to further regulate Internet — Peter Osnos, publisher of Public Affairs Books and a Washington Post reporter for 18 years, recently reviewed the FCC’s net neutrality regulations and had this to say after: “What the FCC has done is create a major administrative loophole that enables [Internet providers] to determine how those technologies will work — although it does require them to be more transparent in explaining their decisions as they are made.” In other words, a publisher at a private communications company is bemoaning the fact that other private communications companies are still allowed to make their own decisions.

6.) Who will be Obama’s next COS? — If staffing changes are your cuppa, the National Journal’s Marc Ambinder has a rundown of who could be diddling who in the new year: “Team Obama generally plays well together, but anticipated friction that could develop between certain personalities is causing several top aides to spill the beans to reporters in an effort to influence the outcome of the president’s staff and structure review,” writes Ambinder. “That’s one reason why Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle are now being mentioned alongside former Commerce Secretary William Daley as potential chiefs of staff — months after their names were first circulated.” Curious fact: The words “according to,” “said,” and “told me” do not appear anywhere in Ambinder’s piece.