Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Washington Post's Dishonest Fact Checking of Rand Paul's SOTU Response

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post's fact-checker, published an article titled "Rand Paul's Misleading Budget Cuts" in which he gave Rand Paul 3 Pinocchios.  According to their scale, 3 Pinocchios means there was a "significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions".  Having listened to and read Rand Paul's response a few times I was wondering what huge, glaring error had I missed?  It turns out the issue that Glenn Kessler had was more of a pet peeve of his rather than an actual error on the part of Rand Paul.  Kessler's problem is that Rand Paul talked about cutting the budget and then said that we should start with foreign aid:

"Where would we cut spending? Let's start with ending all foreign aid to countries that are burning our flag and chanting 'Death to America.' In addition, the president could begin by stopping selling or giving F-16s and Abrams tanks to Islamic radicals in Egypt."


Over ten years, that adds up to $90 billion. (Traditional congressional baseline budgeting, which assumes inflation growth, would bring the 10-year figure even higher, but Paul in his speech suggested he rejects that approach.)

So Paul, in theory, has identified about 2 percent of the $4 trillion in cuts he says is necessary.

So apparently, foreign aid just isn't a big enough bogey for Kessler, hence the three pinocchios.  Though given his response was only 15 minutes long, how much could Rand Paul actually shove into the speech and keep it interesting?  Plus, he wasn't releasing his budget, he was making a response to Obama's speech where he proposed a laundry list of new programs.  Also, Rand Paul said we should START with foreign aid, not finish with it.  Glenn Kessler even acknowledges that in Rand Paul's budget, which he will re-introduce this year, he does specify which cuts he would make, though then attacks him for not mentioning them in this short 15 minute speech:

To be fair, Paul last year unveiled a budget plan that he said would balance the budget in five years, and it included many specific program reductions. In his response to the State of the Union, Paul said he would reintroduce the plan, but oddly he mentioned none of its proposals, such as eliminating four Cabinet agencies and cutting foreign aid from its current level of about $50 billion a year to just $5 billion.

Oh yeah, that would have been great.  A Tea Party response that features getting rid of the Commerce Department, a department that 75% of Americans probably don't know exist.  That would have been really effective.  Anyway, let's check the transcript to put all of what Rand Paul said in this segment into context, he was clearly not just referring to foreign aid:

It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud.

Where would we cut spending; well, we could start with ending all foreign aid to countries that are burning our flag and chanting death to America.

The President could begin by stopping the F-16s and Abrams tanks being given to the radical Islamic government of Egypt.

Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another downgrade of America's credit rating.

Both parties will have to agree to cut, or we will never fix our fiscal mess.

Bipartisanship is not what is missing in Washington. Common sense is.

Trillion-dollar deficits hurt us all.


Next month, I will propose a five-year balanced budget, a budget that last year was endorsed by taxpayer groups across the country for its boldness, and for actually solving the problem.

I will work with anyone on either side of the aisle who wants to cut spending.

But in recent years, there has been no one to work with.

The President's massive tax hikes and spending increases have caused his budgets to get ZERO votes in both houses of Congress. Not a single Democrat voted for the President's budget!

But at least he tried.

Senate Democrats have not even produced a budget in the time I have been in office, a shameful display of incompetence that illustrates their lack of seriousness.

This year, they say they will have a budget, but after just recently imposing hundreds of billions in new taxes, they now say they will include more tax hikes in their budget.

We must stand firm. We must say NO to any MORE tax hikes!

Only through lower taxes, less regulation and more freedom will the economy begin to grow again.

Our party is the party of growth, jobs and prosperity, and we will boldly lead on these issues.

Under the Obama economy, 12 million people are out of work. During the President's first term 800,000 construction workers lost their jobs and another 800,000 simply gave up on looking for work.

With my five-year budget, millions of jobs would be created by cutting the corporate income tax in half, by creating a flat personal income tax of 17%, and by cutting the regulations that are strangling American businesses.

So let's see, he says Democrats must be willing to cut domestic programs and Republicans must be willing to cut defense.  That clearly covers more than foreign aid.  He also says he favors the sequester which cuts discretionary domestic spending across the board, again, clearly more than foreign aid.  Then he talks about specific pro-growth policies such as cutting corporate taxes, introducing a flat tax and cutting regulation.  All of those pro-growth policies could cut the deficit by sparking economic growth which leads to greater tax revenues.

I'm not surprised that the Washington Post would use these dishonest tactics against Rand Paul, that's doesn't make them any less wrong though.  

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