Never Trust Government Numbers

Like most politicians, Obama misleads with his latest budget.

President Obama said in his State of the Union speech, “We’ve already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings.”

That was reassuring.

The new budget he released this week promises $4 trillion in “deficit reduction”—about half in tax increases and half in spending cuts. But like most politicians, Obama misleads.

Cato Institute economist Dan Mitchell, a recent guest on my Fox Business show, cut through the fog to get at the truth of the $2 trillion “cut.”

“We have a budget of, what, almost $4 trillion? So if we’re doing $2 trillion of cuts,” Mitchell said, “we’re cutting government in half. That sounds wonderful.”

But what the president was talking about is not even a cut. The politicians just agreed that over the next 10 years, instead of increasing spending by $9.48 trillion, they’d increase it by “just” $7.3 trillion. Calling that a “cut” is nonsense.

Mitchell gave an analogy: “What if I came to you and said, ‘I’ve been on a diet for the last month, and I’ve gained 10 pounds. Isn't that great?’ You would say: ‘Wait, what are you talking about? That’s insane.’ And I said: ‘I was going to gain 15 pounds. I’ve only gained 10 pounds, therefore my diet is successful.’"

Democrats use this deceit when they want more social spending. Republicans use it for military spending.

And the press buys it. The Washington Post has been writing about “draconian cuts.”

“The politicians know this game,” Mitchell said. “The special interests know this game. Everyone gets a bigger budget every year. ... And we wind up, sooner or later, being Greece.”

We are definitely on the road to bankruptcy.

“We have maybe 10, 15 years' advanced notice. And what’s frustrating is that we’re not taking advantage of that, even as we see these other countries collapsing into social chaos and disarray.”

Mitchell points out that the politicians don’t even have to make actual cuts to save the future. If they just slowed the growth of government to about 2 percent per year, the U.S. economy could grow out of this mess. But the politicians won’t do even that.

“Being from the Cato Institute, I actually do want to cut spending. But if all we’re trying to do is balance the budget over 10 years, which is sort of the minimal thing that politicians keep saying we should do, if we simply limit the growth of spending to 2 percent a year, which is about the projected rate of inflation, we’ll have a balanced budget in 2022. ... But instead, the politicians say, 'Oh, we’ll have draconian and savage budget cuts.' ... They don’t want to put government on a diet, even if that diet allows spending to grow 2 percent a year.”

They also continually mislead us about what their schemes will cost.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    But what the president was talking about is not even a cut. The politicians just agreed that over the next 10 years, instead of increasing spending by $9.48 trillion, they’d increase it by “just” $7.3 trillion. Calling that a “cut” is nonsense.

    Of course, they probably won't even hold below the $9.5 trill, so it's a double lie.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Isn't that great how they can do this. Can you imagine some CEO getting in front of a group of sharholders and saying "we were planning on spending a billion dollars more on party supplies next year, but I made the tough call that we would only spend an additional 500 million so I saved this company 500 million dollars and I'm only going to keep half that savings for myself" Applause?

  • Occupier||

    Most CEOs already do this.

  • Sevo||

    Bullshit.

  • wsd||

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  • Realist||

  • Jett Rucker||

    ALL of them?

  • shrike||

    How do you cut SS/Medi when they are adding 10,000 new beneficiaries a day?

    The only way, of course, is to cut the actual benefits. Paul Ryan's budget did that - in 2021. Big Fucking Deal.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    How do you cut SS/Medi when they are adding 10,000 new beneficiaries a day?

    You don't have to cut it, just sit by and watch it collapse as it becomes more and more financially unsustainable.

    Especially with Medicare, as the exponentially rising cost of healthcare due to inflation finally submarines the whole system.

  • Kreel Sarloo||

    How about means testing.

    You know like geezers who can pay their own medical bills pay their own medical bills.

    I would be a start anyway.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    If you did that you would expose the lie that these programs are "insurance" and leave it clear to even the most ignorant member of the public that they are wealth transfer programs.

    Not that the lie isn't on display even now, but you'd be pulling away the last fig leaf.

  • Emperess McNastypants||

    All lies. Why do we elect liars?

  • AlmightyJB||

    Because we can't handle the truth.

  • Sam Grove||

    Because no decent person wants to be a politician.
    First, no one is perfect. All imperfections will show under the media magnifier.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    If we don't vote the wrong lizard might get in.

  • ||

    we elect liars,,,,,because we cant handle the truth,,,, or the truth hurts,,,,,,what is the truth anymore, is thier such a thing,,

  • rather||

    Nothing new; I saw him bitching about this on O'Reilly

    -Speaking of loofah man: he's having shit fits all over the media on Whitney Houston's memorialization of her career, and not criticism of her drug addiction

    http://nation.foxnews.com/bill.....nalized-it

  • AlmightyJB||

    There was a time when talking bad about the recently deceased was considered to be low class and sleazy by most people. I still consider it that.

  • rather||

    Ever read a Reason thread after someone famous dies? I always hope the family never googles

  • rather||

    Speaking of:

    Will they fly the flag at half-mast?

  • Muad Dib||

    Wait, there have always and will always be truly despicable famous people. Should you have something nice to say just because they died? News Flash: We're all on our way out, who gives a shit?

  • rather||

    A mouse cursed with black and white thinking?

    You could have nothing to say at all

  • rather||

    Whitney was an addict; I don't believe she was in recovery but it doesn't take away from her claim-to-fame.

    BTW, I have never met a recovered addict that I didn't enjoy as a person; something about hitting the ditch makes you human

  • ||

    I've know Junkies and I've know prohibitionists. You have to keep your hand on your wallet with both groups, but the junkies are hands-down better company.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    You could always damn them with faint praise.

    I figure such tactics should be reserved for only the most vile of individuals, but sometimes they seem pretty thick on the ground.

  • NotSure||

    I guess it is better not to "bitch" about these things. It is far more polite to accept government deceptions and mismanagement.

  • ||

    Why, of course it's a cut! Just ask Tony! Children will starve! The old folks will be thrown out into the snow to die! All the schools and hospitals will close! There'll be no firemen or policemen!

    And of course we can avoid all that with just a teeny weeny tax on those evil rich people. Is that about how it goes?

  • anon||

    You forgot to work "heartless" in there somewhere, or some variation of feeling morally superior.

  • CE||

    Makes you wonder how Americans even survived way back in FY2007, when the government spent 1.1 trillion less than it does in FY2011.

  • Blacksmithking||

    2007 was part of the Dark Time(tm). Roving bands of Dickensian orphans, Running Man food riots, Thunderdome matches, anarchy.

  • johnc||

    "Roving"—get it?

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    I'm loving the image, it's so impromptu, so casual...

    I'm a hand model, mama. A finger jockey. We think differently than the face and body boys... we're a different breed.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Mitchell gave an analogy: “What if I came to you and said, ‘I’ve been on a diet for the last month, and I’ve gained 10 pounds. Isn't that great?’ You would say: ‘Wait, what are you talking about? That’s insane.’ And I said: ‘I was going to gain 15 pounds. I’ve only gained 10 pounds, therefore my diet is successful.’"

    Better analogy: Washington has decided that rather than kicking you in the balls twice, they will only kick you in the balls once. The option of not kicking you in the balls is simply beyond the pale.

  • anon||

    The other failure of that analogy is that I'm actually on a diet to gain weight.

  • Pike||

    "The other failure of that analogy is that I'm actually on a diet to gain weight."

    That is not the failure of the analogy; that is the point of the analogy. They say they are on a diet, but in the end, they are just gaining less weight than.

  • Newsweek||

    We are all Socialists now.

    Resistance is futile.

  • Old Mexican||

    And the press buys it. The Washington Post has been writing about “draconian cuts.”


    Are you suggesting that opinion-makers and journalists are not being... *gasp* ... honest?

    Say it ain't so, Shoeless!!!

  • Muad Dib||

    I'd like someone to address the way the media just swallows whatever slop the politicians feed them and then regurgitates it onto the public. Perhaps the cornerstone of this ability comes from the fact that in order to broadcast your message you must first have sanction from the modern equivalent of the Reich Ministry of Propaganda the lovely FCC.

  • Sevo||

    And if that weren't enough, just wait until print papers can't make it commercially, and have to be subsidized by the government.
    You know, so they can 'tell the pravda', so to speak.

  • CE||

    You're assuming the "journalists" and "commentators" in the media are just being duped, or sucking up to the people spoon feeding them the information, and not actively recruited by the CIA to spread the desired propaganda, or under direct orders from the defense contractors who own the broadcast networks to stay within certain bounds of commentary.

  • ||

    Never attribute to conspiracy what is adequately explained by simple shared ideology. The "media" self describe as Liberal on the close order of 80% of the time. In practice, this means that they consider themselves part of the Political Class, and morally superior to all of us peasants. They pass on what they are told by Democrats and Right Thinking (read Washington Insider) Republicans because their personal bias tells them that, even when what they are told is a fairly transparent lie, it is in the service of Greater Truth.

    H. L. Mencken would spit on the lot of them.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Tuned in just in time to see Hensarling weasel out of "hard choices" on the budget.

  • @AgoristDon||

    The government lies about statistics, too. 3% inflation? 8% unemployment? Balderdash!

    Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics - FedGov's Tall Tales
    http://tirelessagorist.blogspo.....stics.html

  • austrian||

    get out the stossel scissors!

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