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On CNN, House Republican Leader John Boehner Pulls a Number Out of Thin Air

September 23, 2010

In an interview today with CNN’s Dana Bash to discuss the GOP’s “new” agenda, House Republican Leader John Boehner appeared to just make up a number when pressed for specifics about where the GOP would cut spending:

How about the unspent stimulus money? Let’s stop it. Let’s stop it and bring it back. How about all the TARP funds? No more bailouts. And no more using this money for unintended purposes. There’s $700 billion right there.

Really, there is $700 billion in unspent stimulus and TARP money? Not so much, Mr. Boehner. This isn’t the first time Mr. Boehner has made the charge about “unspent stimulus money.” Nonpartisan Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact calls his bluff in August and rates it “FALSE”:

As of Aug. 4, 2010, $223 billion of the promised $288 billion in tax relief had already been paid out, as had $132 billion of the budgeted $275 billion for projects and $140 billion of the $224 billion set aside in the stimulus for entitlements. That comes to $495 billion that has already gone out the door.

There was $787 billion in the stimulus, so that leaves only $292 billion that hasn’t yet been paid out by the government… But we think it’s misleading to refer to even that lower number as “unspent” stimulus, because much of the $292 billion has been obligated, even though it has not been paid out.

The term “unspent” becomes even more suspect when talking about the stimulus projects … According to Recovery.gov, 80 percent ($215 billion) of the project funds have been awarded and are under contract and agreement. Most are currently underway. Another $25 billion has been awarded but isn’t under contract yet. And the final $25 billion is in the process of being awarded. … There’s not nearly as much left unspent – and that could conceivably be used to offset the expense of extending the Bush tax cuts – as Boehner suggested. We rate his claim False.

Furthermore, repealing the Recovery Act would effectively raise taxes on 110 million American families and thousands of small businesses.

As for “all the TARP funds” Mr. Boehner is talking about – according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, TARP (which Leader Boehner strongly supported when it was created under President Bush in 2008) is expected to cost less than 10 percent of the $700 billion initially authorized. And the bank capital investment program is actually on track to make a substantial profit for taxpayers.

Congressional Republicans like to talk about ending TARP but when they voted against Wall Street Reform, they voted against a provision winding down TARP as of June 25, 2010 – saving the U.S. taxpayers $11 billion. Overall, TARP spending authority expires next week, on October 3rd – so a GOP promise to “end” TARP is just political hyperbole.

So Mr. Boehner’s alleged “savings” turn out to be a small fraction of his claim. And then Republican proposals add 4 trillion in debt. That’s the kind of irresponsible spending and budget policies that nearly doubled the national debt under President Bush and Congressional Republicans.