A Memo Which Should Be Required Reading for Reporters

MRC's Brent Baker noted in today's CyberAlert about Brian Williams's latest instance of describing a spending increase as a "cut" in spending. I emailed Williams's comments to the Heritage Foundation's lead budget analyst, Brian Riedl. Riedl's reply:

The reconciliation bill would reduce the 5-year growth of entitlement spending from 39% down to 38%. Spending would still increase.

Riedl then dropped a link which took me to a WebMemo from November. What follows should be required reading for any reporter, but broadcast ones especially, to read before covering spending bills on Capitol Hill. Portions in bold are my emphasis:

Despite the “sky is falling” rhetoric warning of the dismantling of government, the budget reconciliation savings are exceedingly modest. The House’s $54 billion of reconciliation savings represents just half of 1 percent of the $7.8 trillion entitlement spending planned over the next five years. The challenge is no greater than that facing a family of four making $50,000 a year and suddenly faced with the need to pay off a $250 emergency room bill over a five-year period.

The table below illustrates these savings in a different way. Rather than imposing massive cuts in spending, these savings only slow the growth in spending, and even this is very modest. Following a 28 percent increase since 2000, the reconciliation bill would reduce the mandatory spending growth rate from 39 percent down to 38 percent over the next five years. Medicaid’s growth rate would drop from 41 percent to 39 percent. Food stamps would barely be affected at all. The steep spending increases since 2000 would still be followed by additional spending increases.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.