More Lies from the Vice President

Cheney’s lies about the existence of an Iraq – 9/11 connection on his Meet the Press appearance last Sunday got some long-overdue attention, as pointed out in yesterday’s AB post.

But Cheney, being the fair-minded guy that he is, didn’t restrict his lying to just one topic. He actually told several lies about economic issues in that appearance, as well. Let’s go to the tape…

Transcript from Meet the Press, September 14, 2003:

VICE PRES. CHENEY: The deficit that we’re running today, after we get the approval of the $87 billion, will still be less as a percentage of our total capacity to pay for it, our total economic activity in this country, than it was back in the ’80s or the deficits we ran in the ’90s. We’re still about 4.7 percent of our total GDP…. A significant chunk was taken out of the economy by what happened after the attacks of 9/11.

MR. RUSSERT: And tax cuts.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Tax cuts accounted for only about 25 percent of the deficit.

[And a minute later:]

VICE PRES. CHENEY: The cost of one attack on 9/11 was far greater than what we’re spending in Iraq.

How many lies about economic issues can we find in these few sentences? At least four.

1. “We’re still about 4.7% of GDP.”

In actuality, the White House projects that the budget deficit will be $455 billion in 2003, and that GDP will be $10,746 bn in 2003. (You can find the White House estimates here. ) If you add the administration’s request for $87 billion, my calculator tells me you get $542 billion. Which my calculator then tells me is 5.0% of GDP. (It’s a very clever calculator.) Wait, maybe he was referring to FY2004, not 2003. Well, the White House projection is a deficit of $475 billion in 2004, not including Iraq. Add in $87 bn, and you get $562 bn, which is… 5.0% of their projected 2004 GDP of $11,266 bn. So he lied: the deficit is significantly above “4.7% of GDP.”

2. “The deficit we’re running today… will still be less… than it was back in the 80s or the deficits we ran in the 90s.”

If you check the data (which you can find in Table 1.2 of this White House document), you will find that there are only two years in the 80s when the deficit was greater: 1983, and 1985 – and in 1985 it was just barely greater, at 5.1%. Cheney’s statment implied that we regularly ran greater deficits back in the 80s. It is therefore misleading at best. And in the 90s? There are zero years in the 90s when the deficit was 5.0% of GDP, so that’s just a plain old lie.

3. “Tax cuts accounted for only about 25 percent of the deficit.”

The CBO has conveniently provided estimates of the cost of the various Bush tax cuts, here here and here. If you add up the estimates of the cost of the tax cuts contained in those three CBO documents, you get a total cost of tax cuts of $199 billion for 2003 and $293 billion for 2004. The White House projection of the deficit is $455 billion in 2003, and $475 billion for 2004. My clever calculator tells me that the tax cuts therefore are responsible for 44% of the deficit this year, and 52% of the deficit next year, once the additional Iraq request is included. So he lied: tax cuts definitely account for more than “about 25 percent” of the deficit.

4. “The cost of one attack on 9/11 was far greater than what we’re spending in Iraq.”

The CBO also has conveniently estimated the cost of 9/11, published in this document. They added up all spending on disaster relief, increased spending on counter-terrorism, increased defense spending related to the invasion of Afghanistan and other counter-terror operations, victim compensation funds, and the airline bailouts. How much is it? The total of 2001 through 2004 will be about $68.3 billion. As far as I can tell, the Bush administration’s original request for $64 billion for Iraq, plus its new request for $87 billion for Iraq, adds up to a number larger than $68.3 billion. So Cheney had it exactly backwards: Spending in Iraq is far greater than the cost of the attack on 9/11.

Four easily verifiable lies in just a few sentences, by the Vice President of the United States on national television – pretty impressive! Lying liar.