Two Pinocchios for ‘Biggest Cuts Ever’

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker column looks at the claim that this week’s budget deal delivers the biggest spending cuts in history:

For instance, during World War II, the federal budget soared from $9.4 billion in 1940 to nearly $93 billion in 1945. Talk about an expansion of government! But then in 1946, the budget was cut to $55 billion. That’s a cut of $37 billion, technically less than the $38.5 billion in cuts reached last week. But it’s also a cut of 40 percent, which means it is 40 times larger than the deal that is routinely described as historic….

There is yet another way to measure these cuts. As little as $15 billion of the cuts are in the domestic nondefense discretionary budget. How do these cuts stack up to the historical record, when adjusted for inflation (2005 dollars)? From 1981 to 1982, this part of the budget fell by $43 billion (this was during President Ronald Reagan’s term, so at the same time, the defense budget went up $30 billion.) This part of the budget also fell about $15 billion — twice — during the Clinton administration. So, again, the current round of cuts are not the biggest even when looked at through this narrow prism.

Fact Checker Glenn Kessler concludes:

The Pinocchio Test

We’re going to give the politicians a pass here. Technically, these appear to be the largest raw-dollar spending cuts in history, and we have not found evidence that either Obama or Boehner has pretended otherwise — at least in public. (Note that Obama and the White House always are clever to insert the word “annual” before the phrase “spending cut.”) At worse, these are one-Pinocchio violations, typical bragging that all of the strum and drang over the budget was worth the effort.

But it is up to the media to provide context to these claims. On that score the media, including (alas) The Washington Post, misled its readers.

Two Pinocchios

(to the media)

Hats off to Glenn Kessler for holding his colleagues to a higher standard than politicians. And note that Chris Edwards and I have also questioned these claims about “the biggest cuts ever.”