Fact Checking The Sunday Shows - April 3, 2011

April 04, 2011 10:47 am ET

The Sunday political talk shows dedicated most of their time to Libya, but the ongoing budget struggle in D.C. grabbed some attention as well. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) appeared on Fox News Sunday to disseminate a standard GOP talking point blaming President Obama and exonerating President Bush for the nation's debt trouble. Ryan also did some laughable cheerleading for his health care plan, which he says is not a voucher system even though the CBO uses the word "voucher" a half-dozen times in describing how the plan would work. Meanwhile, on ABC, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) dissembled about the effects of a balanced budget amendment, and absurdly criticized Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for 'refusing to take up' a partisan House bill that the Senate already voted on.

Fox News Sunday

CLAIM: Rep. Ryan Overstated Obama's Responsibility For Mounting National Debt

REP. PAUL RYAN: The public debt will double in his first term and triple by the end of his budget. He adds $13 trillion more to our debt.

FACT: Bush Policies Are Driving The Debt Higher, And Public Debt Will NOT "Double In His First Term"

Projections Show 71 Percent Increase In Public Debt — Not Doubling — From 2009-2013. From FactCheck.org: "As for the debt held by the public, the president's budget projects that it will reach $12.8 trillion in FY 2013. That's a nearly 71 percent increase from the $7.5 trillion public debt for fiscal year 2009. That's a significant increase, but it's not "double," as the Budget Committee claimed. That would require a 100 percent increase. If you look at the total federal debt, which includes money the government owes itself, it still doesn't amount to a doubling over the same time period ($11.9 trillion in FY 2009 and $17.8 trillion in FY 2013)." [FactCheck.org, 2/16/11]

FY 2009 Numbers Include The $1.2 Trillion In Debt President Bush Left Behind Before President Obama Took Office. As reported by the Washington Times: "The Congressional Budget Office announced a projected fiscal 2009 deficit of $1.2 trillion even if Congress doesn't enact any new programs. [...] About the only person who was silent on the deficit projection was Mr. Bush, who took office facing a surplus but who saw spending balloon and the country notch the highest deficits on record." [Washington Times1/8/09, emphasis added]

  • Before President Bush Took Office, There Was A Projected Surplus Of $128 Billion. As reported by CNN: "President Bush inherited abudgetsurplus of $128 billion when he took office in 2001 but has since posted a budget deficit every year." [CNN.com, 7/28/08]

The Bush Tax Cuts Are The Primary Driver Of Federal Budget Deficits Over The Next Decade. Below is a chart from CBPP showing the deficit impacts of war spending, financial recovery spending, the recession itself, and the Bush tax cuts:


[CBPP.org, 6/28/10]

CLAIM: Rep. Ryan Claimed The CBO Did Not Describe The Rivlin-Ryan Medicare Reform Package As A Voucher Program

REP. PAUL RYAN: Meaning, we want to fulfill the mission of health retirement security for future seniors, and so we will be proposing a premium support system like the Rivlin-Ryan plan, which is identical to the system I as a member of Congress and all federal employees have.

CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Obviously, I am at a disadvantage, because I haven't seen the plan, but the CBO did an analysis of the Ryan-Rivlin plan, and it said that it would — the effect of the plan would be to shift more of the burden of health care costs out of their own pockets to seniors.

REP. RYAN: Right, so for wealthy seniors especially. It also did not say these are vouchers. These are premium support, and there's a big difference here with that.

FACT: CBO Says People Becoming Medicare-Eligible After 2021 "Would Receive A Voucher" To Buy Insurance

CBO: Beginning In 2021, Plan Offers Seniors "A Voucher With Which To Purchase Private Health Insurance." In the "Key Features" section of its preliminary analysis of the Rivlin-Ryan proposal, the Congressional Budget Office wrote: "People who turn 65 in 2021 or later years would not enroll in the current Medicare program but instead would receive a voucher with which to purchase private health insurance." [CBO Letter, 11/17/10, emphasis added]

CBO: Vouchers Calibrated From 2012 Costs. According to the Congressional Budget Office: "Although the voucher system would not be implemented until 2021, the amount of the voucher would be calculated by taking the average federal cost per Medicare enrollee in 2012 (net of enrollee premiums) and growing that amount at the annual rate of growth in GDP per capita plus one percentage point. While the voucher program is being phased in, the voucher amount would be adjusted downward to reflect the fact that eligible individuals would be younger and less costly than the average Medicare enrollee." [CBO Letter, 11/17/10, emphasis added]

CBO: "Voucher Recipients Would Probably Have To Purchase Less Extensive Coverage Or Pay Higher Premiums." In its preliminary analysis of the Rivlin-Ryan proposal, the Congressional Budget Office wrote: "For purposes of this analysis, CBO assumed that all individuals projected to enroll in Medicare would use the proposed voucher. Voucher recipients would probably have to purchase less extensive coverage or pay higher premiums than they would under current law, for two reasons. First, most of the savings for Medicare under the proposal stem from reducing the amounts that the federal government would pay for enrollees on a per capita basis, relative to the projections under current law. Second, future beneficiaries would probably face higher premiums in the private market for a package of benefits similar to that currently provided by Medicare." [CBO Letter, 11/17/10, emphasis added]

State of the Union

CLAIM: Sen. Cornyn Falsely Claimed Harry Reid "Refused" To Take Up H.R. 1

SEN. JOHN CORNYN: I'd like to cut more, because we're still spending 40 cents out of every dollar the federal government spending is borrowed money, adding to the deficit and to the debt. But really the — I think it's up to Harry Reid, the majority leader in the Senate. The House has actually already passed a bill that would fund the government through the end of September, but he's refused to take it up.

I hope we can solve the problem, because frankly, people are looking for a little bit of adult interaction and interested in solutions to our debt and to our deficits and not just games. And that's what we're getting it looks like.

FACT: The Senate Did Vote On The House's Budget Measure — And It Failed

Senate Took Up, Voted Down H.R. 1 Spending Measure. From PBS:

The Senate rejected H.R. 1, the temporary spending measure that would fund the federal government through Sept. 30 while cutting about $57 billion from current spending levels, setting the stage for a new round of negotiations over how to fund the federal government.

The measure failed to reach the necessary 60-vote threshold, with 44 in favor to 56 opposed. Tea Party-affiliated Republican Senators. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah and Jim DeMint of South Carolina joined with Democrats to defeat the measure. [PBS, 3/9/11]

CLAIM: Sen. Cornyn Demanded A Balanced Budget Amendment In Return For GOP Support On Raising Debt Ceiling

MONICA CROWLEY (HOST): Let me just put a little explainer in here and then have you comment. And that is that this debt ceiling, if you all do not act to raise the debt ceiling, that is, the amount of money that Congress allows the U.S. to go into debt, it will cause us to default on things. 

There is no way that this debt ceiling can be allowed not to — let's see, let me put this positively. There is no way you can't pass this, right? You have to lift the debt ceiling.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN: I intend to vote against the — raising the debt ceiling unless we can get some systemic reforms, the kinds the president's own fiscal commission recommended in December of 2010. I think we need to pass a balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution that 47 of my colleagues and I rolled out this last week. 

I hope we can get bipartisan support. We came within one vote in 1997 of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution which would force it the federal government to live within its means instead of spending money we don't have. 

But that's the price that's going to have to be paid, systemic reforms, in order to get Republican support for raising the debt ceiling, otherwise I think you are going to see Democrats having to do that all by themselves. 

FACT: Failing To Raise The Debt Ceiling Would Have "Catastrophic Economic Consequences"

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): Failure To Lift Debt Ceiling Could Cause "Calamity Throughout The World." During an interview on CNN, Sen. Lindsey Graham explained that our financial system would be in jeopardy if the debt ceiling were not raised:

Let me tell you what's involved if we don't lift the debt ceiling: financial collapse and calamity throughout the world. That's not lost upon me. But we've done this 93 times. And if we keep doing the same old thing, then that is insanity to the nth degree. We're going to have calamity of a different fashion if we don't get our spending under control. So what I said is the House is going to go back to 2008 spending levels. I would like to see the Senate mirror what the House does. Now that means tightening our belt, but name somebody in America who hasn't had to tighten their belt. [The Situation Room, 1/6/11, emphasis added, via ThinkProgress]

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: Failure To Raise Debt Ceiling Would Cause, "Catastrophic Economic Consequences That Would Last For Decades." According to the Washington Post:  "Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner warned lawmakers Thursday that the national debt could hit the legal limit on borrowing as soon as March 31, and he urged quick action to avoid a government default that would spark 'catastrophic economic consequences that would last for decades.'" [Washington Post1/6/11]

FACT: A Balanced Budget Amendment Could Worsen Recession

A Balanced Budget Amendment Would "Make Economic Recessions Worse" By Forcing Spending Cuts During Downturns. According to former Reagan domestic policy advisor Bruce Bartlett: "A BBA would force the federal government to make economic recessions worse. Since federal revenues fall and spending rises automatically in economic downturns, it would force spending cuts and tax increases at precisely the point when the economy is reeling, potentially turning a modest downturn into a depression." [Fiscal Times8/27/10]

For more on the flaws of a balanced budget amendment, click HERE.