Half-Truths: Are They a Form of Lying?

In his state-of-the-union address, President Biden said that he was “the only President ever to cut the deficit by more than one trillion dollars in a single year.” Well, that would be true. The bragging rights belong to this president EXCEPT:

1. That claim will not be true if Mr. Biden passes his “Build Back Better” spending extravaganza, something that he say must be passed.
2. That claim does not cover COVID relief spending, something he asked for again for 2022.
3. That claim does not take into account that the reduction is based on the 2020 budget that included $2 trillion in COVID relief.
4. In December 2020, Congress added another $900 million to that 2020 budget.
5. In March 2021, Congress added another $2 trillion.

If the deficit is indeed declining, it is because the extraordinary COVID spending is not in Mr. Biden’s budget proposal — a total of $4.9 trillion in reductions. Despite all of those reductions, the deficit will still be $1 trillion. And that pesky deficit will remain at that level for a decade. Also, that $1 trillion deficit is actually higher than it was in 2019– the deficit that year was $984 billion and that was a normal year. No COVID spending in that year.

So, the bragging rights, even without the deficit additions of BBB spending, are actually that the deficit has increased, not decreased. It takes some math and detail to understand that, Nonetheless, President Biden has set his claim for bragging rights that are misleading. No one reads the footnotes on thesesclaims. Heck, no one writes the footnotes on these claims.(with the exception of the Wall Street Journal “Joe Biden Tells A Budget Whopper,” March 3, 2022, p. A20) that did the computations (except for the 2019 deficit) No one knows these claims except as claims that sound pretty good. If a claim is false and no one notices or explains why, is it still a lie? In the mysterious world of government accounting we are back to the great philosophical question, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it still make a noise?”

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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