Jewish World Review March 7, 2011 2 Adar II, 5771
Democrats keep misleading on claimed budget cuts
By Glenn Kessler
-- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), March 3, 2011
"We are also prepared to put out specifics that will move another over $6 billion closer -- so that we will have met them halfway -- essentially split the difference between the president's request and [the GOP cuts in] H.R. 1."
-- Gene B. Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council, March 3, 2011
"We have met them halfway, which in many ways is a perfect definition of an attempt to compromise."
-- White House press secretary Jay Carney, March 2, 2011
This has become a constant refrain by Democrats -- that they have already gone some distance to accommodate the Republicans' efforts to cut federal spending. We already awarded Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) two Pinocchios for this claim, but the talking point keeps popping up again and again.
We take no position on whether it makes sense to make these cuts at this time. But Democrats are being disingenuous by suggesting they have already worked hard to reduce spending or to reach out to Republicans.
The 2011 fiscal year began Oct. 1, but Congress, then led by the Democrats, failed to pass any of the annual spending bills that would fund the government. Instead, lawmakers have passed a series of stopgap measures, known as continuing resolutions, based largely on 2010 spending. The most recent one was approved this week, though it also included $4 billion in cuts based on proposals in Obama's 2012 budget blueprint.
Yes, it's a bit confusing. Lawmakers mix and match the three budgets in their rhetoric faster than any three-card monte player.
The situation was different in 1995, the last time Republicans took control of the House. Then, the GOP pushed through $16 billion in cuts -- known as recissions -- from an existing budget that had been passed by the previous Democratic-led Congress. But since no spending bills were passed last year, politicians are able to pretend that budgets that exist only on paper are real.
When Democrats say they are meeting Republicans halfway, they are talking about "cuts" from Obama's never-enacted 2011 budget. By the White House's math, they have proposed $41 billion in cuts from the 2011 budget, plus $4 billion in the latest stopgap measure, plus $6.5 billion in unspecified cuts annnounced Thursday, for a total of $51 billion. But there was no heavy lifting involved, and certainly little discrete examination of which programs to preserve and which ones to cut. It's lot like saying you are running a 100-yard dash, but starting on the 50-yard line.
Democrats have justified this language by noting that Republicans claim they cut $100 billion from 2011 budget, when it is actually $61 billion from the 2010 budget. Republicans should not have tried to boast about such a nice, round number, but it is noteworthy that no major newspaper used that figure. Reporters did not fall for the GOP spin; it was always characterized as a $61 billion cut.
Similarly, the Democrats can not claim to have gone "halfway." It's not a difference between $51 billion and $100 billion, which makes the situation look benign.
Instead, the Democrats have offered just over $10 billion -- the $4 billion in the stop gap measure and the $6.5 billion announced late Thursday. Republicans have proposed $61 billion, so the gap between the two parties remains wide indeed.
The Pinocchio Test
"Halfway" is an appealing concept, but thus far Democrats have done little to match the cost-cutting drive launched by Republicans.
Repeating the same talking point over and over again does not make it correct. In fact, the rhetoric may come back to haunt Democrats, because in theory that would mean they eventually will have to come up with at least $30 billion in cuts from the 2010 budget.
We'll award two Pinocchios again, but if Democrats keep saying this -- or President Obama says it -- it will start to move into three Pinocchio territory.
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