PolitiFact exposes budget lies–from both sides of the aisle

PolitiFact, the nonpartisan fact-checking arm of the St. Petersburg Times, this week evaluated key talking points about the federal budget made by both Republicans and Democrats. Though Congress has passed a continuing resolution to fund the government through March 18, PolitiFact predicts a future budget showdown.

Politifact started with President Obama.

“We will not be adding more to the national debt,” President Obama said, after he released his budget for fiscal year 2012, starting in October.

We looked at the numbers, though, and found that the debt continues to grow because of interest on the debt service. The White House didn’t count the interest in their estimates. We rated his statement False.

“The federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs,”
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) said, referring to growth in the last two years.

We rated this False, because it counts temporary Census workers as new federal jobs. Those Census jobs are temporary and go away when the once-a-decade Census is over.

“We can save $125 billion in simply not giving out money to Medicare recipients that don’t exist for procedures that didn’t happen,” from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif).

We looked into that number, though, and found the total also included improper payments for programs including Medicaid, food stamps, unemployment insurance, Social Security and the school lunch program. Medicare is the government agency with the largest chunk of improper payments, but it’s still less than half the total. We rated his statement False.

PolitiFact confirmed other statements:

“The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy,” from Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.).

We found that the United States’ total debt at the start of the year was $14 trillion. We also found that the size of the U.S. economy, measured by the gross domestic product, or the value of all goods and services, was about $14.745 trillion last year. After discussing the nuances of the data and different ways to look at the public debt, we concluded Ryan’s statement was True.

“One of the biggest causes of our soaring debt and economic insecurity ends up being Pentagon spending. The budget for the Pentagon consumes more than half of our discretionary spending,” from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).

Our partners at PolitiFact Ohio rated that True, keeping in mind that total discretionary spending includes both domestic and international spending.

“Eliminating earmarks does not reduce spending,” from Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.).

Ending earmarks would stop pet projects for lawmakers, but it wouldn’t directly reduce overall spending. We rated Lugar’s statement Mostly True.

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