ARTICLE

FACT CHECK: Ernst claims nation borrows 40 cents per dollar spent

Ernst is candidate for U.S. Senate

Liz Martin/The Gazette

Joni Ernst’s camp said they didn’t rely on a specific source for her claim that the federal government borrows 40 cents for every dollar it spends, but that the figure has been widely cited in the media and deemed true by fact-checking organizations.
Liz Martin/The Gazette Joni Ernst’s camp said they didn’t rely on a specific source for her claim that the federal government borrows 40 cents for every dollar it spends, but that the figure has been widely cited in the media and deemed true by fact-checking organizations.
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Introduction

“As a mother, and you know this, many of you that are parents and grandparents, we have to stop Washington, our federal government, we have got to stop borrowing 40 cents of every dollar that the federal government spends.”

Source of claim

Joni Ernst, a Republican state senator from Red Oak and a candidate for U.S. Senate, at the Polk County Republican convention in Ankeny on March 8.

Analysis

Government spending always has been a contentious issues, and Ernst rallied supporters around it at the county convention.

When asked for the source of the claim, Ernst’s camp said they didn’t rely on a specific source, but that the figure has been widely cited in the media and deemed true by fact-checking organizations.

A Google search of “U.S. borrows 40 cents of every dollar” reveals several news articles citing a borrowing rate of 40 cents or more per dollar. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel fact checked U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. and chairman of the House Budget Committee, when he claimed, “We borrow 42 cents of every dollar Washington spends today.”

The figure comes from looking at the federal budget, and dividing government revenue by government expenses.

The claim was deemed true by that newspaper. But the problem is these figures and news articles are from 2011.

Ryan’s claim was made on July 6, 2011. Numbers from the fiscal 2012 federal budget and a June 2011 budget review by the Congressional Budget Office, which provides non-partisan analysis for Congress, supported the claim at the time.

But the Congressional Budget Office’s January 2014 monthly budget review, which was available for more than a month when Ernst made the claim, shows $1.145 trillion in spending, and $961 billion in revenue from October 2013 to January 2014, which is the first four months of the federal fiscal calendar.

This equals 16 cents borrowed per dollar spent.

The White House posts historical budget figures, as well as estimates for 2014 and beyond. The summary shows 31 cents borrowed per dollar spent in the 2012 budget, 20 cents borrowed per $1 in 2013, and an estimate of 18 cents borrowed per $1 spent in 2014.

The U.S. Treasury released a fiscal 2013 budget review after the fiscal year ended in October, which showed the nation had revenue of $2.77 trillion, expenses of $3.454 trillion, which equals 20 cents borrowed per dollar spent.

Conclusion

The deficit remains large. It is projected to be $469 billion in 2014, and borrowing 16 or 20 cents per dollar is significant.

While some may say Ernst’s point is that the nation borrows too much, her actual claim doubles the real numbers. Plus, the borrowing rate has been trending down.

We rate this claim mostly false.

Sources

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel fact check: http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2011/jul/15/paul-ryan/gop-rep-paul-ryan-says-us-borrows-42-cents-each-do/

Congressional Budget Office January 2014 monthly budget review: http://cbo.gov/publication/45091

Budget from the White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2015/assets/hist01z1.xls

U.S. Treasury 2013 budget review: http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2197.aspx

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