Will a proposed 2.7% reduction to the budget of the Department of Health and Human Services starve 6 million seniors? On Sunday, Nancy Pelosi claimed that six million low-income elderly would be “deprived of meals” under Republican budget proposals. The Washington Post did a fact-check and found out that (a) only 2.6 million seniors actually receive meals from HHS’s Administration on Aging, (b) the Republican cuts aren’t specified to that program, and (c) Nancy Pelosi can’t do math.
OK, I extrapolated that last one, but Glenn Kessler does note that Pelosi doesn’t do corrections, even when confronted with evidence:
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.
And that’s assuming that HHS cuts that specific program, an assumption that not even the White House will corroborate:
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.
Kessler also notes that Obama himself has made $150 million in cuts to HHS, more than twice that of the Republicans, although their cuts would be in addition to Obama’s. The budget that Obama produced noted specifically that the administration has cut 36 million meals from the program from initial projections between 2010 and their 2012 proposal by keeping the number of subsidized meals flat. So why isn’t Pelosi accusing the President of starving 36 million seniors over the last two years?
In a city with overheated rhetoric, Pelosi’s statement ranks high on this year’s list of bloviated bluster. It’s bad enough that she repeatedly mixed up 6 million meals and 6 million people — and made no effort to correct the record after her statement was reported in the media. But the figure she used appears to have been invented itself, with little basis in fact.
Well, I think that comes close enough to (c) above, although it might be more accurate to say that Pelosi won’t do math. However, we already knew that from her refusal to produce a budget for FY2011, which would have allowed Republicans to focus their attention on FY2012 instead.