Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher September 23, 2012

Paul Ryan backs cutting veterans funding 24 percent, House opponent Rob Zerban says

So controversial are the budget and Medicare reforms pitched by GOP vice-presidential nominee Paul Ryan that they’re being used not only to attack him, but other Republicans running for the U.S. House of Representatives, as well.

Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, is seeking election to an eighth two-year term even as his name appears on the ballot as Mitt Romney’s running mate.

Ryan’s opponent, Democrat Rob Zerban, went beyond the more common attacks when he appeared Aug. 9, 2012, on Ed Schultz’s national radio talk show.

Schultz, who also hosts a talk show on MSNBC, asked Zerban whether Ryan’s proposals play well in his southern Wisconsin district.

Zerban said constituents are "overwhelmingly against" them once they hear details, such as "cutting funding for veterans by 24 percent."

That’s a big reduction.

Has Ryan really sought a 24 percent cut for veterans?

Zerban’s evidence

When asked for evidence, Zerban campaign spokesman Karthik Ganapathy cited a Huffington Post article published 10 days after Zerban’s interview; it in turn cites an article published five months earlier in The Atlantic magazine. Both claim Ryan’s budget cuts veterans programs by 24 percent, but The Atlantic cites as its source a March 2012 item in The Washington Post Wonkblog.

The Post article says that over 10 years, Ryan’s budget would spend 13 percent less on veterans than Obama’s budget.

Ganapathy said the two articles he cited claimed a 24 percent cut because that was the figure Post originally used. The Post article does say it was updated, but refers only to the 13 percent figure, so it’s not clear whether 24 percent had been cited previously.

It doesn’t really matter.

Both the Ryan budget and the Obama budget cited by the Post actually raise -- not cut -- spending on medical, disability, housing and other services for veterans by billions of dollars. It’s just that Ryan’s budget doesn’t increase spending for veterans as much as Obama’s does.

To be sure, there are fears that Ryan’s long-term budget plans -- which largely aim to reduce federal spending -- could necessitate dramatic reductions in services.

Zerban’s spokesman cited a March 2012 article by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal Washington, D.C. think tank, about the long-term spending "path" traced by Ryan’s budget. By 2050, the article claimed, "most of the federal government aside from Social Security, health care and defense" -- including veterans programs -- "would cease to exist."

But Zerban didn’t say Ryan’s plan would someday cause veterans programs to "cease to exist." What’s more, that sweeping prediction is a measure of long-term outcomes, not actions in one-year budget increments.

Indeed, many budget watchers point out that Ryan’s long-term plan lacks enough detail to know where, and to what degree, specific cuts would occur.

In an August 2012 analysis, University of Maryland public policy professor Philip Joyce said the level of proposed spending cuts "will require the federal government to stop doing lots of things that it does now." The cuts could be realized through a two-thirds reduction in, for example, doctors and nurses in veterans hospitals, the professor said.

But Joyce also said the lack of detail on cuts to federal services makes it "impossible to know what the actual impact" of Ryan’s long-term budget would be.

Similarly, our friends at observed in August 2012 that "Republicans boast of cutting the deficit more than the president, but don’t detail how what programs would have to be eliminated or reduced to achieve that. And the Democrats fill in the details, claiming popular programs like education are on the chopping block."

Our rating

Zerban said Ryan supports "cutting funding for veterans by 24 percent."

But Ryan’s short-term budgets provide for spending increases for veterans services. And even if his long-term plans lead to spending reductions, there isn’t enough detail to know whether and how much programs for veterans would be trimmed.

We rate Zerban’s statement False.

Our Sources, Ed Schultz interview (at 6:00) of Rob Zerban, Aug. 9, 2012

Interview and email interview, Rob Zerban campaign communications director Karthik Ganapathy, Sept. 13 and 14, 2012

Email interview, Paul Ryan campaign communications director Kevin Seifert, Sept. 14, 2012

Washington Post, "What Paul Ryan’s budget actually cuts -- and by how much," March 20, 2012

University of Maryland, "Election policy fact check: Ryan budget plan impact," Aug. 29, 2012, "Outdated attacks on Ryan," Aug. 14, 2012

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Tom Kertscher

Paul Ryan backs cutting veterans funding 24 percent, House opponent Rob Zerban says

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up