"We’re borrowing 20% of (the federal) budget."

Glenn Grothman on Sunday, November 30th, 2014 in an interview


Glenn Grothman says 20 percent of federal budget is borrowed

Wisconsin Republican Congressman-elect Glenn Grothman foresees another showdown with President Barack Obama over federal spending.

"I assume he’s going to want to spend a lot more on a lot of programs than we are," the Republican from Campbellsport said Nov. 30, 2014, on "UpFront with Mike Gousha."

Grothman, elected to succeed retiring Republican Tom Petri, threw out a statistic to make his point: "Just the fact that right now we’re borrowing 20% of our budget does show there are going to be some big differences between the president and us on government spending."

Last time we fact checked a similar budget-borrowing claim was mid-2011.

Then, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin made two points in an interview regarding an increase in the federal government’s debt limit.

One of them was that America borrows 42 cents of every dollar Washington spends. In other words, 42 percent.

That was accurate, we found, based on actual budget figures from fiscal year 2010 and estimates for 2012. (Some problems with the other part of his claim dragged the overall rating down to Half True).

That time period, marked by the Great Recession, coincided with the deepest borrowing for federal purposes since World War II.

Let’s bring this up to date.

Grothman was using accurate figures from a reliable source. He made the same claim repeatedly during his congressional campaign earlier this year.

But the numbers were slightly out of date by the time he spoke on Gousha’s show.

In fiscal year 2013, the U.S. government’s outlays outstripped revenues by $680 billion, forcing borrowing that amounted to 20 percent of spending. The fiscal year ended in September 2013.

That’s what Grothman cited.

But we now have federal spending and revenue data through the end of the 2014 federal fiscal year that ended in September 2014.

They show the deficit was still large, but fell significantly, to $483 billion, according to a summary of U.S. Treasury figures analyzed by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

In the latest accounting, the borrowing figure amounts to 13.8 percent, the lowest since just before the recession.

Deficits have been falling markedly in recent years. As we reported in rating True an Obama claim at LaborFest in Milwaukee in September 2014, deficits have dropped by more than half during his presidency as the economic recovery has boosted tax revenues and spending on emergency assistance has dropped.

The Treasury and White House announced the results on Oct. 15, 2014, six weeks before Grothman’s appearance on "UpFront."

The subsequent CBO report came out Nov. 10, 2014, about three weeks before Grothman made the claim.

Looking ahead to the 2015 budget, the borrowing proportion is predicted to drop again, noted Marc Goldwein, senior policy director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. He cited CBO projections.

A final note on the bottom line.

The declining share of borrowing doesn’t mean overall spending is dropping.

In 2014, spending actually went up 1.4 percent, but revenues increased 9 percent as a result of stronger flows of individual and corporate income tax receipts, as well as payroll tax deductions for social insurance programs.

In 2014, Social Security rose by $37 billion (or 5 percent); Medicare increased $14 billion (or 3 percent); and Medicaid rose $36 billion (or 14 percent), largely because of the expansion of insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, the Congressional Budget Office reported.

On the other hand, spending for unemployment benefits declined by $24 billion (or 33 percent) as fewer people received benefits after an emergency extension expired, CBO said.

Our rating

Grothman claimed that "We’re borrowing 20% of our budget."

He was on target earlier this year with that figure based on 2013 results, but the latest numbers are just in for 2014 and show a decline from that 20 percent mark.

On balance we rate his claim Half True.



Delivered to your inbox weekly


This donation will make you a Inside Voice member.

For Membership benefits click here