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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of Nov. 27-Dec. 4

This week, readers sent us comments about the “cost” of cutting taxes and the difference between the largest entitlement programs.

In the FactCheck Mailbag, we feature some of the email we receive. Readers can send comments to editor@factcheck.org. Letters may be edited for length.


Cuts ‘Cost’

I do appreciate the in-depth analysis and explanations in your article [“Facing Facts on Fiscal Cliff,” Nov. 30], but I do have a problem with some of the wording that I believe is very misleading.

Stated in this article numerous times is the phrase “cost.” This is used in the article to explain how much a tax cut costs the government. A tax cut costs nothing. It is true that there could be a decrease in revenue because of it.

Using the term “cost” implies that the government is paying for it. That is simply not true. Cost is the opposite of revenue. By using this term, you reinforce the Democratic line of thinking, which is that all tax cuts cost the government money. That is not fair and impartial, in my opinion. And as someone who wants more honesty across the board, I would like to see this revised.

Charles Guthrie
Jacksonville, Fla.


Entitlement Distinctions

In this article, you made what I consider a major error in a sense. Indeed, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are all entitlements by the definition of the word. However, there is a big distinction between Medicare and Social Security versus Medicaid.

The latter is provided by the government to help folks. However, the first two were paid into by most of the folks who are to get it (I say most because it seems like Congress likes to add non-payers into the mix at times — another backdoor on welfare). The last two programs may not be that solvent, but at least they have been paid into.

What I am requesting is that, when you make these comments, you should distinguish between programs that have been paid for by the recipients (even if the management of the funds has been pitiful) and the programs that are welfare in nature. It is not necessarily that welfare and such should not exist, but there is a major distinction, and lumping them together as though they are the same is a misrepresentation of the funds.

Bill Davis
Blacksburg, Va.

FactCheck.org responds: Forty-one percent of total Medicare expenditures in 2011 were paid for with general government revenues, according to the Medicare trustees. The figure is expected to be 40 percent in 2012, as this chart from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows. Only Medicare Part A is financed primarily through payroll taxes.