The definition of “lie” has two parts. The first part is the creation of a statement that is not true. The second is intent. When one lies, one deliberately intends to deceive; otherwise, there would be no point to the lie.
When your government lies to you, some of the lies are intentional, deliberate misstatements of fact. Some are simple omissions, a safe way to misrepresent the truth, because leaving out a pertinent fact or detail can always be excused as an understandable mistake. Sometimes an omission really is a simple mistake. Sometimes it is more.
It may soothe our anger to assume that lies from the government are intentional, but they also come from politicians repeating what they have heard, churning out repetitions of statements and “facts” that they never bothered to verify, or worse, assumed we would never verify for ourselves.
Advocates of the newly-deceased DREAM Act focused on a December 2, 2010 Congressional Budget Office cost estimate for the Senate version of the bill. The report estimated that the DREAM Act would reduce deficits by $1.4 billion over the next ten years:
CBO and JCT [Joint Committee on Taxation] estimate that enacting the bill would reduce deficits by about $1.4 billion over the 2011-2020 period.1
This statement was repeatedly cited by supporters of this legislation. The CBO’s review of the House version of the DREAM Act was even more favorable, and estimated that the bill would reduce the deficit even further, by $2.2 billion from 2011-2010.2
The $1.4 billion deficit reduction figure made the rounds in Washington throughout the December drive to approve the DREAM Act. For example:
From The White House Blog: Get the Facts on the DREAM Act. December 1, 2010:
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the DREAM Act in its current form will cut the deficit by $1.4 billion and increase government revenues by $2.3 billion over the next 10 years.
The exact same statement appeared on The White House Blog. 10 Reasons We Need The DREAM Act. December 3, 2010:
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, the DREAM Act in its current form will cut the deficit by $1.4 billion and increase government revenues by $2.3 billion over the next 10 years.
From U.S. Congressman Joe Baca. Baca Statement on House Passage of the DREAM Act. December 9, 2010:
The DREAM Act also increases Social Security and Medicare outlays by millions; and cuts the deficit by $1.4 billion.
From the U.S. Dept. of Labor, Statement of Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis on DREAM Act. December 8, 2010.
The DREAM Act would reduce our deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years. It would achieve that through the increased tax revenues that individuals who attend college and earn legal status will generate as they become doctors, engineers, or otherwise realize their full potential.
And from Republican Senator Patrick Leahy:
The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that the current version of the DREAM Act will reduce deficits by approximately $1.4 billion over the years from 2011-2020.3
Had legislators, bureaucrats, and the White House read the CBO report, or chosen to portray its contents accurately, they would have also mentioned that the Senate version of the bill was predicted to produce a $5 billion increase in the deficit after 2020:
Pursuant to section 311 of the Concurrent Resolution on the Budget for Fiscal Year 2009 (S. Con. Res. 70), CBO estimates that the bill would increase projected deficits by more than $5 billion in at least one of the four consecutive 10-year periods starting in 2021.4
The CBO also made an observation about spending increases after 2020 that would result from the House version of the DREAM Act:
Although the legislation would reduce the unified budget deficit over the 2011-2020 period, the eventual conversion of some of the conditional nonimmigrants to legal permanent resident (LPR) status after 2020 would lead to significant increases in spending for the federal health insurance exchanges, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).5
None of the statements made about the $1.4 billion deficit reduction were lies, but they were not the truth, either. Pertinent facts were omitted by politicians and bureaucrats either playing the telephone game and repeating what they had heard, or choosing to only report a portion of the truth.
While lawmakers would never hold themselves answerable for statements made in pursuit of a goal, when it comes to accountability of citizens to our government, lying to, or even misleading Congress is taken very seriously. If you do not believe this, next time you find yourself testifying before a Congressional committee, try leaving out a fact of import equivalent to a $5 billion increase in the deficit. See how it works out for you.