Wednesday, December 15, 2021

LIndsey Graham out of context

Here we go again. PolitiFact has had quite a run in 2021 when it comes to taking Republicans' claims out of context.

This latest one forced me to set aside other projects that have crow(d)ed out PolitiFact Bias posts.

Did Sen. Graham say the CBO says the "Build Back Better" Act would amount to $3 trillion in deficit spending. 

He did say that, but PolitiFact took it out of context.

PolitiFact explained to its readers that Graham was talking about a modified version of the "Build Back Better" Act (bold emphasis added):

Graham said the CBO predicted the Build Back Better Act would add $3 trillion to deficits over 10 years.

He’s referring to a bill that’s not the Build Back Better Act. At Graham’s request, the CBO looked at the impact of extending the temporary programs in the bill for a full 10 years. That is an assessment of a hypothetical situation, not the bill at hand. 

We rate this claim False.

What's the problem with PolitiFact's reasoning?

It was clear in context that Graham was talking about the CBO's scoring of permanent versions of the bill's temporary provisions. The Fox News interviewer, Chris Wallace, made that clear at the outset of the interview (bold for the portion PolitiFact may have relied on for its quotation of Graham):

WALLACE: You commissioned the Congressional Budget Office to project how much Build Back Better will cost over the 10 years, assuming that the programs that are in it, the spending programs that are in it, go on for 10 years and are not as in the case with child care just for one year.

GRAHAM: Right.

WALLACE: The CBO found, instead of adding $200 billion to the deficit, it will add $3 trillion to the deficit. But, Senator, the White House says that that's fake because if the programs are extended, they'll find ways to pay for them.

GRAHAM: Well, give me a plan to pay for them then. President Biden said the bill was fully -- fully paid for. Vice President Harris said it was paid for. Schumer, Pelosi, Secretary of Treasury Yellen. The CBO says it's not paid for. It's $3 trillion of deficit spending. It's not $1.75 trillion over 10 years, it's $4.9 trillion.
We doubt PolitiFact's headline version of Graham's statement qualifies as proper application of AP style for quotations. But the main point is that, in context, Graham would be understood to be talking about the added cost of making the temporary measures permanent. And PolitiFact affirms what Graham says about that CBO projection.

So how does Graham warrant a "False" rating if he wasn't trying to fool people into thinking the new CBO scoring was for the version of the bill with the temporary provisions?

PolitiFact's Twist on the Committee For a Responsible Budget

Also of note, PolitiFact's fact check takes the Committee For a Responsible Budget out of context, using a part of one of its articles to make Graham look out of line for citing the CBO's scoring of the bill with the temporary provisions made permanent:

Modified means the CBO scored a bill that’s different from the one on the table.

"These estimates do not reflect what is actually written in the Build Back Better Act nor its official cost for scorekeeping purposes," the deficit hawk group Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget wrote. "Lawmakers may choose to allow some provisions to expire, to extend some as written, and to modify some."

That's exactly what the Committee said, but it was in the context of explaining the CBO's alternative scoring and comparing that scoring to the Committee's own alternative scoring of "Build Back Better" with its temporary provisions made permanent (highlights for the portion PolitiFact cherry picked):

Importantly, these estimates do not reflect what is actually written in the Build Back Better Act nor its official cost for scorekeeping purposes. Lawmakers may choose to allow some provisions to expire, to extend some as written, and to modify some. To offset the cost of extending these provisions as President Biden has committed, they would need to more than double current offsets in the bill. Extending programs without these offsets would substantially increase in the debt. $3 trillion of new debt would increase debt to over 116 percent of Gross Domestic Product in 2031, up from 107.5 percent under current law.

The Build Back Better Act relies on a substantial amount of short-term policies and arbitrary sunsets to reduce its cost, raising the possibility of deficit-financed extensions in future years. A more robust and fiscally responsible package would not rely on these gimmicks to achieve deficit neutrality.

The second paragraph in particular aligns well with Sen. Graham's criticism of "Build Back Better."

PolitiFact hid that also from its readers, along with the fact that Graham was obviously talking about the CBO's scoring of temporary provisions made permanent.

Such fact-checking is no better than lying.

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