One man’s pork spending is another’s “relative bargain.” That’s how a CBS reporter views it.
The April 15 “CBS Evening News” observed Tax Day by exploring how federal tax dollars are spent, but what they chose to highlight was peculiar.
“The biggest tab for taxpayers is defense,” CBS correspondent Bob Orr reported. “The average American household is paying $2,761 in 2007 – or put another way, enough to cover 12 car payments for a new Honda Accord. Social Security is nearly as expensive, $2,663 – enough to heat and cool a home for a year. In total, the average tax bill this year tops $13,000, and most taxpayers have no idea what the government is doing with their cash.”
Orr was correct on both counts, but he left out another key expenditure that rivals Social Security and defense – spending on health care entitlements.
According to Matt Fiedler, a researcher at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “three health insurance programs – Medicare, Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) – together accounted for 21 percent of the budget in 2007, or $572 billion.”
That nearly matches defense and Social Security, which get $590 billion and $586 billion respectively.
Another sizable chunk of federal spending not included in the “Evening News” report included “safety net programs.” The CBPP said the U.S. government spends $254 billion – about 9 percent – on programs that provide aid (besides health insurance or Social Security benefits) to individuals and families facing hardship.
“Evening News” employed the commentary of the vice president of a left-wing think tank and labeled him as a “taxpayer advocate.”
“They might know in some broad sense that we spend hundreds of billions of dollars on this or that, but they have no idea really what their money is going for,” said Jim Kessler, vice president for policy of Third Way.
According to Third Way’s Web site, the group has released a study “laying out the Bush defense failures” that was used at a press conference with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). The group labels it positions on public policy issues as “progressive.”
Orr didn’t disclose the group was left-of-center on most issues. But he did use their talking points for his report – calling some federal spending “relative bargains.”
“Now taxpayer advocate Jim Kessler has prepared a receipt, an itemized breakout of government spending,” Orr said. “The average household is paying $19 for the office that tracks hurricanes, about the cost of a fancy umbrella. Just over 12 bucks for national parks, about the cost of one bleacher seat at the new Nationals ball park. Some seem like relative bargains: $313 for education, $99 for farmers, and just $62 for all federal law enforcement. But another big-ticket item is interest on the national debt. The average taxpayer is forking out more than a thousand dollars this year.”