Wait a second, that’s not the federal budget!

I thought you guys would enjoy a demolition job I’ve just completed on this Tea Party website, which pretends to be objective, and has managed to rise almost to the top of Google if you’re searching for information about the 2011 federal budget. What follows is from a comment I left over at Simple Politiks. He’s a nice, earnest guy; his is really the first political blog I’ve read since I got sick of the meaningless, vituperative debates that dominate in that part of the blogosphere.

Here’s the pie chart I’m discussing below (which totally says 2012, in yet another instance of amazing negligence):

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I’m guessing that your source for these numbers was http://www.usfederalbudget.us. It’s important to cite that source, because it’s not an especially objective or trustworthy one. It’s a site designed to promote Tea Party ideas and candidates. Not surprisingly, the pie chart on the site is compiled and labeled in extremely misleading ways.

I’m not saying this as a Tea Party detractor. I’m saying it as somebody who worked as a budget analyst for California’s Employment Development Department. I was personally responsible for tracking approximately $80 million in government spending annually. If I’d turned in a pie chart like that one, I would have been fired.

For example, Social Security is bundled under “Pensions.” Here’s why: people like Social Security, but it’s very expensive. People don’t like government employees, particularly retired ones, but those costs are actually quite low relative to everything else in the budget. By calling Social Security “pensions,” you disguise the popular kid as the nerdy loner.

Not counting military retirements, which aren’t supposed to be paid for by federal employees paying into a retirement fund, our net loss was only $22 billion — exactly what you’d expect to happen when government shrinks, the population ages, and there are fewer current employees. Many former employees, from periods of larger government, are still around.

It gets worse. The only listed offsets are these retirement contributions from federal employees. Huh? What happened to all the money taxpayers contribute to Social Security? Sure, it’s running into a deficit as baby boomers age, but the entire thing is not a deficit. In this graphic, Social Security is a pension when it’s a cost, and it’s magically not a pension when it’s a tax.

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As for the expenses listed under the loaded term “welfare”…where to even begin? For example, the biggest line item in the category “Social exclusion n.e.c.” (meaning Not Elsewhere Considered) is the Earned Income Tax Credit. How, exactly, is offering a tax deduction to people who find and maintain employment welfare? It shouldn’t be a line item anywhere unless you are going to get into every deduction and tax credit on the books, the majority of which benefit wealthy taxpayers and corporations. That’s why they’ve hidden it under the boring-looking “miscellaneous” category of Not Elsewhere Considered.

Also included under NEC is money spent on Adoption and Foster Care Assistance, totaling 8.3 billion dollars. This is certainly surprising, considering that a category called “Family and Children” is right there under “Welfare.” But it’s also not surprising, because unwanted pregnancies that don’t result in an abortion either lead to adoption or else to state care and, ultimately, foster care. You don’t want people clicking on “Family and Children,” and getting distracted by a line item that (if they’re pro-life, as many people visiting this site would be) they’re basically obligated to accept. You want that cost folded invisibly into “welfare,” so that “Family and Children” only shows aid given to the poor, conjuring images of welfare mothers and octomoms.

Another example: workers’ compensation. First off, this includes disability insurance, which isn’t correct. Disability insurance for someone with MS is not “workers’ compensation.” However, what I find most amazing is the 5.3 billion dollars included in this category that were paid to rail workers receiving a pension. It literally says “Pension Fund” right in the title. Why not add it to “Pensions”? Because that chunk already looked fine — let’s beef up Workers’ Compensation to make it look like another one of those bleeding-heart programs the nation cannot afford!

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I’ll stop there, because I think you get the point. This chart is not factual or analytical; it’s extremely unscrupulous propaganda. It is designed to agree superficially with the facts, so it hides its fudges within submenus — within submenus, and on and on, sometimes extending four layers deep.

So until next time, this is Joseph Kugelmass, saying…

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