A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

FactCheck Mailbag, Week of March 12-18

This week, readers sent us letters about federal revenues and Sen. Mitch McConnell’s statement on making Barack Obama a “one-term president.”

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.


Adjusting Revenues for Inflation

You opined that federal revenues are most appropriately measured and compared to other years as a percentage of GDP [“Boehner’s Revenue Reach,” Feb. 28]. That has been done for a long time, but it is NOT the common, or the appropriate method.

Certainly, nominal dollars has a built in flaw — a 1953 dollar bought a lot more at that time than a 2013 dollar does now. But using inflation-adjusted dollars makes that adjustment — the White House commonly uses “constant FY2005 dollars” (in billions) in its reports.

The fallacy of comparing revenues as a percentage of GDP is this: It does not measure what the government actually needs and takes in as revenues, but rather what the government COULD TAKE IN as a percent of the economy. That percentage of GDP measurement is wishful thinking on the part of liberals (and apparently some economists), who might believe that government only gives back to taxpayers what the government thinks the workers deserve. Furthermore, the “percent of GDP” measurement is NOT the way our tax structure is set up — percent of income (or capital gains, etc.)  is the actual method of taxation.

You are wrong for not recommending the comparison of constant, inflation-adjusted dollars for revenues.

Mark P. Burgoon
Denver, Colo.

FactCheck.org responds: We disagree that using revenues as a percentage of GDP is not the most common or appropriate measure. Using inflation-adjusted dollars, as the reader recommends, does not account for population growth, which increases the demand for government services. In any case, Boehner’s comment would still be wrong even by the inflation-adjusted yardstick. The White House Office of Management and Budget estimates revenues in fiscal 2013 of $2.409 trillion in constant 2005 dollars; it was higher, at $2.413 trillion, in 2007. (See Table 1.3)


He Said What He Meant

I simply cannot credit your comment on [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell’s statement about making sure that Obama is a “one-term president.” [“Pelosi Stretches an Old McConnell Quote,” March 12]. Besides the fact that he said it, his performance in the Senate proves that he meant it. If anyone in the media watched the Senate on C-Span, then they have to acknowledge that he tried to do what he said he would try to do, by filibustering every administration proposal. McConnell must appreciate your willingness to let him ramble on with modifications of what he actually said, and, in fact, did. He set a record for obstruction not rivaled in history. How can you excuse him?

Paul R. Cooper
Yellow Springs, Ohio