Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

CRFB Appears Prominently In Fact Checking at Democratic Convention

Sep 7, 2012

Last night, President Obama gave his acceptance speech in Charlotte (with our team on the ground). Among the many points in his speech, President Obama talked about our nation's debt. He claimed that his plan would save $4 trillion over the next ten years. Doing what they try do best, fact checkers looked at his numbers. And this time, CRFB's own analysis was there to help. CRFB's analysis was used in Politifact and Bloomberg articles, as well as in The Hill. It was also used jointly by Factcheck.org and USA Today. As they wrote:

$4 trillion deficit reduction?

Obama exaggerated when he claimed "independent experts" say his deficit-reduction plan would reduce the federal deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years. Actually, one independent analysis criticized a central part of the president's plan as a "gimmick."

In September of last year, Obama released "The President's Plan for Economic Growth and Deficit Reduction." The plan purports to generate $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years — including "more than $1 trillion in savings over the next 10 years from our drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq."

In February, when Obama released his fiscal year 2013 budget, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget criticized the president's plan for relying on savings from winding down the two wars. Maya MacGuineas, president of the bipartisan group, called it a "gimmick."

"There are a number of good policies in this budget, but the use of this war gimmick is quite troubling," said MacGuineas. "Drawing down spending on wars that were already set to wind down and that were deficit financed in the first place should not be considered savings. When you finish college, you don't suddenly have thousands of dollars a year to spend elsewhere — in fact, you have to find a way to pay back your loans."

In addition, the president's plan includes another $1 trillion in savings from the Budget Control Act that had been agreed to as part of the deal with Congress to raise the debt ceiling. That's not new savings, but accounts for already agreed-upon savings.

For this and other reasons, the $4 trillion figure cited by the President is not the same as the Simpson-Bowles commission's $4 trillion in savings. As we explained back in February:

The President employs a major budget gimmick by relying on the war drawdown for savings. This drawdown is already in effect and not the result of new deficit-reducing policies, and so it should not be counted as deficit reduction … The Administration claims that, when combined with the savings already enacted under the Budget Control Act and elsewhere, their policy proposals will result in over $4.3 trillion in deficit reduction from 2012-2021 and $5.3 trillion from 2013-2022. On the same basis, these savings are far below those in the Fiscal Commission’s plan – which we estimate at about $6.6 trillion through 2021 and $7.5 trillion through 2022 when war savings and already enacted deficit reduction measures are included.

Both candidates and parties are likely to make many claims about the budget, and we will continue to work towards setting the record straight. The winner of this election will have to deal with our nation's fiscal future and the American people deserve to know the facts.