It's politically fashionable now to say you've helped reduce the nation's debt. And at nearly $1 trillion annually, there's a lot of debt to be reduced.
But during a speech this week on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid claimed that over the past two years the government has reduced the deficit by $2.5 trillion - almost double the amount the deficit is right now.
"In the last two years we have reduced the deficit by $2.5 trillion," he said. "The Senate budget continues this effort without jeopardizing our economic recovery or breaking our promises to seniors and veterans."
The Congressional Budget Office, which does non-partisan economic analysis at the behest of Congress, estimates that the federal deficit will be $845 billion by the end of this year. Two years ago, in 2011, the deficit was $1.3 trillion. That's hardly a reduction of the more than $2 trillion that Reid claimed.
In fact, CBO data shows that the deficit has only been reduced by about $450 billion over the last two years. That's about 20 percent of what Reid claimed.
For mangling budget numbers in a way that gave Americans too rosy a picture of the federal decific, Harry Reid wins the Whopper of the Week, a distinction awarded by the Washington Guardian to inaccurate, false, or misleading statements made by political leaders.
Reid's mistake was in making it sound like the budget deficits and their reductions over the next decade have already taken place, during 2011 and 2012. The Democrat's current fiscal plan projects $2.4 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years, according to documents released by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the Senate Budget Committee chairwoman.
What Murray's letter actually says is that the work in creating policy that will reduce the debt has been done over the past two years. It's the planning and preparation that have been done over the past two years, the policy changes that will lead to deficit reduction. But most of the reductions are years off.
"This memo first lays out the bipartisan work we've already done over the last two years to reduce our deficit and debt by at least $2.4 trillion," Murray's letter reads.
Exact numbers are often difficult to come by and sometimes a guessing game, but politicians need to be accurate in their claims, especially when presenting a timeframe. Reid's comments made it seem like the government has already cut the debt and should be operating at a surplus. But the reality is trillions in new deficits are on the horizon before those $2.4 trillion in savings are achieved.