Politico, Fox News advance McConnell's "fuzzy math" on cost of omnibus and stimulus bills

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

The Politico uncritically reported Sen. Mitch McConnell's claim that the combined cost of the omnibus and recovery bills amounts to spending $1 billion an hour. Fox News' Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade also repeated McConnell's claim. But as Time's Michael Scherer explained, McConnell's figure is "fuzzy math that does not really mean what it seems to mean" because it is based on dividing the cost of the two bills over 50 days, when, in fact, the money will be spent over the course of many months.

In a March 11 article, the Politico uncritically reported the claim by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that the combined cost of the Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act amounts to spending $1 billion an hour. Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade also repeated McConnell's claim on Fox News. But as Time magazine White House correspondent Michael Scherer explained, McConnell's figure is "fuzzy math that does not really mean what it seems to mean." McConnell's calculation is based on dividing the cost of the two bills over 50 days, but, as Scherer noted, "that money will not be spent in 50 days. The omnibus is a spending bill to run the government over the course of an entire year. ... The stimulus will be paid out over several years, with most of the money going out the door over the next 18 months."

In its March 11 article, the Politico reported:

McConnell declined to answer the question about earmarks, and instead criticized the president's contention that the omnibus bill was simply last year's unfinished business.

"Let me tell what was not last year's business was plussing the bill up 8 percent, which is twice the rate of inflation" McConnell said. "This bill is not last year's business. ... It further illustrates my point that when you add up the stimulus and the omnibus, the spending in the first 50 days of the administration [comes] at a rate of $1 billion an hour."

Discussing President Obama's signing of the appropriations bill during the March 11 edition of his show, Hannity stated: "Mitch McConnell -- you know, Senate minority leader -- he goes, 'In just 50 days, Congress has voted to spend, you know, 1.2 trillion between the stimulus and the omnibus.' " Hannity added, "Then he goes on: 'To put that in perspective, that's about $24 billion a day, a billion dollars an hour, most of it borrowed.' How do we sustain that?" On the March 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Kilmeade similarly stated, "[W]hen Mitch McConnell points out how much so far has been spent: $24 billion a day -- now we're on day 51 -- $1 billion an hour, 1.2 trillion in 50 days." Co-host Steve Doocy responded, "That's staggering, Brian."

In a March 11 post on Time's Swampland blog, titled, "The Math Behind A 'Billion Dollars An Hour,' " Scherer addressed McConnell's "fuzzy math":

This is the new Senate Republican talking point: If you take the cost of the stimulus bill and add in the cost of the Fiscal Year 2009 omnibus bill, and then divide that number by the number of hours in the first 50 days of the Obama presidency, the result is $1 billion-per-hour of spending by Congress. Sounds big and scary. But it's also a great example of fuzzy math that does not really mean what it seems to mean.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is doing the arithmetic this way, per Politico's Mike Allen. "50 days times 24 hours equals 1,200 hours. 1,200 times 1 billion equals 1.2 trillion (a thousand billions is a trillion)."

It's true that if you add the stimulus and the omnibus you get about $1.2 trillion. But that money will not be spent in 50 days. The omnibus is a spending bill to run the government over the course of an entire year. (It should have passed last fall, but was delayed for the presidential election and because of partisan infighting.) The stimulus will be paid out over several years, with most of the money going out the door over the next 18 months. So no one is spending a billion dollars an hour. Consider this comparison: If over the course of a one hour board meeting, the head of Mattel decided to produce 1 million new Barbie dolls over the coming year, no one would say that Mattel is making 1 million Barbie dolls an hour. They would say Mattel is making 1 million Barbie dolls a year.

From the March 11 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: Let me go to Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell -- you know, Senate minority leader -- he goes, "In just 50 days, Congress has voted to spend, you know, 1.2 trillion between the stimulus and the omnibus." Now, this is without interest, folks. This is important.

Then he goes on: "To put that in perspective, that's about $24 billion a day, a billion dollars an hour, most of it borrowed." How do we sustain that?

BIANNA GOLODRYGA (ABC News financial correspondent): Well, I think -- yeah, I mean, blame lays on both sides. I mean, McConnell also had earmarks here in this bill as well, about $50 billion -- million worth of earmarks.

From the March 12 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

KILMEADE: You know, when Mitch McConnell points out how much so far has been spent: $24 billion a day -- now we're on day 51 -- $1 billion an hour, 1.2 --

DOOCY: That's staggering, Brian.

KILMEADE: -- trillion in 50 days.

Posted In
Economy, Budget
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, The Politico
Person
Sean Hannity, Brian Kilmeade
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends, Hannity
Stories/Interests
Economic Recovery Plan
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