House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said something interesting this week that caused a minor stir, in part because of the basketball reference, but I found it interesting for some other reasons.
Here's what the #3 Republican in the House had to say to Fox News' Greta Van Susteren about the fight with President Obama over the budget:
"How can a president not want to balance the budget? How does he forget what he said? One of his first goals in the first four years was to cut the deficit in half. Now he doesn't care. He doesn't even produce a budget," McCarthy told Fox News. "I'll bet you this. I bet you he spends more time filling out his March Madness brackets than he does writing a budget."
Now, I suspect the congressman came up with the snarky little quip about college basketball, was eager to deliver it on Fox, and didn't give the substance of his argument a whole lot of thought.
But so long as the quote made the rounds, let's give it a little fact check.
* "How can a president not want to balance the budget?" Well, it's really not that complicated -- with high unemployment and a sluggish recovery, President Obama doesn't see deficit reduction as a top priority. It's a position most economists heartily endorse. Perhaps the better question is, "How can a House Majority Whip not want to focus on economic growth?"
* "How does he forget what he said? One of his first goals in the first four years was to cut the deficit in half." Yes, and this year, the deficit will be cut to nearly half of what it was when the president took office four years ago. McCarthy is one of the 6% of the country that knows this, right?
* "Now he doesn't care." Actually, he does care -- probably too much. It's why Obama keeps offering Republicans multi-trillion-dollar debt-reduction Grand Bargains, much to the chagrin of his base.
* "He doesn't even produce a budget." I know these issues can sometimes get confusing, but President Obama has produced -- and continues to produce -- a budget every year. Congress gets plenty of copies, and if Kevin McCarthy lost his, the whole thing is always posted online. How is it that a member of the House leadership isn't aware of this?
Budget fights might be more productive if lawmakers brushed up on the basics. A little homework can do a long way.