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On the Economy

Mitt Romney needs to get his facts straight

Mitt Romney asserted that federal low-income programs are administered so inefficiently that “very little of the money that’s actually needed by those that really need help, those that can’t care for themselves, actually reaches them.” But administrative costs only count for between 1 and 10  percent of these programs' spending.

By Jared BernsteinGuest blogger / January 15, 2012

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney speaks to supporters during a campaign event at the University of South Carolina Aiken,January 13, 2012.

Chris Keane/Reuters/File

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…but not to their own facts.

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Before joining the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as a senior fellow, Jared was chief economist to Vice President Joseph Biden and executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class. He is a contributor to MSNBC and CNBC and has written numerous books, including 'Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed?'

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When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney asserted that federal low-income programs are administered so inefficiently that “very little of the money that’s actually needed by those that really need help, those that can’t care for themselves, actually reaches them,” my colleagues at the CBPP got to work on this graph.

It shows that “federal administrative costs range from less than 1 percent to 8 percent of total federal program spending.  Combined federal and state administrative costs range from 1 percent to 10 percent of total federal- and state-funded program spending.”

Gov Romney is singing from the same playbook as Rep Paul Ryan along with a litany of conservatives whose goal for years has been for the Federal gov’t to shed the responsibility for Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), low-income housing, and so on.  Once you “block grant” these functions to the states, it’s easier to cut them.  And remember, this is from a candidate (and the same is true for the House R’s budget) that wants to cut taxes deeply for the richest households.

So he’s launching his attack based on inefficient administration—the claim that most of the dollars don’t reach the clients.  Trouble is, the facts got in the way.

Many people argue that Gov Romney is the reasonable R candidate…you might not love his policies, they tell me, but he’s not known for making stuff up, for repeating outrageous statements with no basis in fact.

OK, let’s see—if he keeps repeating this falsehood, then they’re wrong.

I know these are dark times for substantive debate, but there are people out there to whom facts still matter and they need to know when someone asking for their vote is trying to mislead them.

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