Policy

The GOP’s Obsolete Talking Point

Lummis recently used a common GOP talking point on federal government borrowing that is actually outdated. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a column this week, Rep. Cynthia M. Lummis begins with a variation of a favorite GOP talking point.

“America’s Budget Made Simpler — The federal government now borrows $4.8 billion a day, every single day, to support its spending habit,” the Wyoming Republican wrote and tweeted.

The only problem is, that particular fact is no longer true.

The Congressional Budget Office projects the deficit this year will be $845 billion, about $2.3 billion per day, less than half the figure that Lummis cites. (The gross debt will rise $1.02 trillion, or $2.8 billion a day. But the gross debt includes items such as borrowing to finance new student loans, which do not factor into the CBO’s deficit projections.)

It’s true that the gross debt increased by about $5.8 trillion, or $4 billion a day, in Obama’s first term in office. It’s a talking point Republicans repeatedly and accurately used on the campaign trail last year.

But the deficit is shrinking rapidly, with the the expiration of both the payroll tax cut and tax cuts for the wealthy on Jan. 1, the withdrawal of forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, the implementation of parts of the health care overhaul and now with the automatic across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester. The improving economy — including record-setting corporate profits, a pickup in job growth and higher home prices — also helps.

The deficit is on track to shrink by almost 70 percent in 2015 from its $1.4 trillion high in fiscal 2009. By the next fiscal year, the CBO projects, the gross debt will increase by $2.2 billion a day. And in 2015, it will drop to $1.7 billion a day. although it would then start rising again with no end in sight.

Lummis’ office did not return requests for comment.

Among other Republicans who have used the old $4 billion-a-day figure in recent weeks, according to a CQ transcript search, are Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Reps. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., and Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio.