Earlier this week, when Congressman Paul Ryan announced his plan to cut $6.2 Trillion dollars I predicted:
As the Democratic party begins to respond, as it surely will, you will hear cries of extremism, that Republicans hate the poor, or want to kill babies, but what you wont hear is the party of liberal progressives offering a plan of their own. In fact, when the Democrats, who by virtue of their control of the House, had the responsibility to initiate the budget process, they didn’t produce a budget which is why we are having that funding fight over how much to spend on less than one-fifth of the federal budget for the next six months.
It didn’t take long for Nancy Pelosi to pick up that baton. On the same day Ryan released his proposal, she responded with:
“In one of the bills before us, 6 million seniors are deprived of meals — homebound seniors are deprived of meals. People ask us to find our common ground, the middle ground. Is middle ground 3 million seniors not receiving meals? I don’t think so. We’ve got to take this conversation from a debate about numbers and dollar figures and finding middle ground there to the higher ground of national values. I don’t think the American people want any one of those 6 million people to lose their meals or the children who are being thrown off of Head Start and the rest of it.”
According the Washington Post, no bastion of conservatism the former speaker of the house was full of crap.
The first problem with Pelosi’s statistic is that, according to the agency’s budget documents, only about 2.6 million seniors receive such meals. That’s even less than what she decried as the mushy middle ground of compromise.
After we pointed out that fact, Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said “she means meals for seniors — 6 million meals.” In 2011, the agency is expected to deliver a little over 200 million meals, so that’s a cut of about three percent.
That’s a pretty big “oops.” She referred to “6 million seniors,” “3 million seniors” and “6 million people.” We understand slips of a tongue, but three times in a row, so emphatically, is hard to fathom.
But Hammill tried to defend the number of 6 million, though he acknowledged that “that pot of money I mentioned is not exclusively dedicated to this program.”
According to Hammill, the agency has “informally indicated” to Pelosi’s staff that if they had to cut $71 million in the last seven months of the fiscal year, the two programs where services could be cut quickly to achieve quick savings would be the senior nutrition programs and senior centers. So Pelosi’s staff assumed a $30 million cut from the overall budget for senior meals, or 3.6 percent, resulting in 6 million fewer meals.
…A spokeswoman for the Administration on Aging referred a question to the White House budget office, which did not respond to our query. Hammill later acknowledged: “The Obama Administration had not made any determination of how they would implement a $71 million cut at the Administration on Aging if HR 1 was signed into law.”
So, in other words, Pelosi’s staff took a wild guess at where the cuts would fall in the agency.
But there are other problems with Pelosi’s 6 million number.
First, the administration requested the elimination of $6 million in earmarks, so it seems strange for Pelosi to call that a Republican cut. That should not be included, leaving us with $65 million in possible cuts.
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.
Finally, the agency’s budget justification notes on page 55 that it has kept spending on senior meals essentially flat from 2010 to 2012, resulting in 36 million fewer meals for senior citizens. That’s six times higher than the figure that Pelosi has decried as an affront to “national values.” The administration’s budget, in fact, has earned the ire of some advocates for hungry seniors. Perhaps 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would be a more appropriate place for Pelosi to direct her outrage.
Put it all together and you see that Ms. Pelosi was pulling these charges out of her backside. Don’t be surprised if she follows up with the “eating little babies charge.”