Showdown in Pelosi-town. Fact checking the fact checkers.
While doing my taxes and browsing LGF last night I came across a link to this Washington Post article. It tries to refute a recent statement by Nancy Pelosi. She said that the House budget bill would deprive 6 million seniors of meals (and that is indeed false). There are some interesting statements made in the article by the author as well. I decided to check with another source and found this PolitiFact article.
There is quite the contrast between the two. The WaPo article says:
The House bill would cut $65 million from the approximately $2.4 billion budget of the agency — a figure derived from GOP estimates of the savings in the agency from repealing the health care law — as well as eliminate $6 million in earmarks.
While the PF article says:
The bill specifies that aging services programs within the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging will get about $1.4 million. That’s roughly 5 percent below the funding for those programs during fiscal year 2010.
So by now red flags are going up. Both of these articles are from self described fact checkers, yet the details and the conclusions are miles apart. So who better to check the fact checkers than, well, everybody? To that end I will provide some links and my own thoughts. However, I am by no means an expert, so if I am missing something or if you simply have a different take then please speak up.
The very first thing that stands out is that both quotes are correct, to a degree. HR1 says:
SEC. 1820. (a) Notwithstanding section 1101, the level for ‘‘Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Aging, Aging Services Programs’’ shall be $1,445,323,000.
While the AoA FY2012 document page 10 says:
The FY 2012 President’s Budget request for AoA is $2,237,944,000, a net decrease of - $150,513,000 below the FY 2010 enacted level.
Or, more simply, from the “all-purpose” table on page 22: $2,432,236,000.
I am left wondering: since when is $987 Million (2,432,236,000 - 1,445,323,000) equivalent to $65 Million or 5 percent of 2.4 Billion?
It seems that both articles are, instead, using the “2010” budget from the FY2011 document. I’m not sure why, it appears to have been created in Febuary 2010 and would be quite out of date. But the numbers match the articles much better.
The table on page 7 of the FY2011 document specifies a discretionary budget of: $1,516,297,000. If we subtract the $1.4M budget from HR1 it is a reduction of about $71M, or about 5%.
So why use the old numbers? The PF article doesn’t say why. The WaPo article gives an entirely unsatisfactory answer and that leads me to my next quote:
Marta Dehmlow, a spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee, says the $65 million figure came from estimates on savings the administration provided regarding a provision of the new health care law that would be administered by the agency.
If we subtract the $6M in earmarks (why am I doing this? it feels unjustified) from the $71M budget difference we arrive at the $65M claimed. Yet there is no justification given for how repealing the healthcare bill would shrink the AoA budget shortfall in HR1 from nearly a billion ($2.4B to $1.4B) down to a mere $65M.
Since the healthcare bill hasn’t actually been repealed this brings up some quite fascinating points:
A) Are they making claims of savings based on legislation that hasn’t, and might never, pass?
B) Where is the justification that the repeal of the healthcare bill would actually save that much money, if at all? What does the CBO think about that, specifically?
C) Did Glenn Kessler (the WaPo article author) swallow a load of bullshit without even double-checking?
The biggest difference between the 2010 budget in the 2011 document and in the 2012 document is the inclusion of $825M for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). Except that doesn’t appear to be related to the healthcare bill. And even if it was repealing the healthcare bill wouldn’t make it go away. It is new in the budget because it is being moved over from the Department of Labor to AoA because it makes more sense there and can save some money.
There is the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS), that came about because of the healthcare bill. But that isn’t in the AoA appropriations budget yet (it was being funded elsewhere). So where is this Billion dollars in savings going to come from? Are they lying to our faces, again?
Both articles note that Pelosi is, or at least thinks she is, being conservative in her numbers. And that she admits to a mistake in her speech - it should be 6 million meals instead of 6 million seniors. They both also note that the figure she cites won’t necessarily come from the food programs specifically, but don’t show that it necessarily won’t.
And then we come to this in the WaPo article (link preserved):
Second, in the administration’s 2012 budget request, President Obama identified $150 million in cuts to the agency’s budget. It seems that those already-identified targets would be a more logical place to start looking for trims than meals for senior citizens, most of whom have incomes of less than $20,000.
Except, having read the documents he so helpfully provided in his own article, I already know that is not correct. While it is true that if you look at the discretionary budget it is about $150M less, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Actually reading the FY2012 document reveals why. From Page 10:
The FY 2012 President’s Budget request for AoA is $2,237,944,000, a net decrease of - $150,513,000 below the FY 2010 enacted level. This decrease is due to the inclusion in the FY 2010 base of one-time, special funding totaling $225,000,000 for Community Service Employment for Older Americans, commonly known as Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), that is proposed for transfer to AoA from the Department of Labor. After adjusting for this one-time funding, the request provides increases of +$74,487,000 for AoA.
I’m going to bed now, I’m tired and taxed (lol). I feel that Louis Jacobson at PolitiFact did a poor, but not wholly inaccurate job while Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post is just plain full of shit.
I could go on for many pages, but I have a feeling you are coming to your own conclusion and want to share it now. So please do!