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Both parties obscure the truth on debate over the fiscal cliff

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Right now, most of Washington has one thing on its mind: the looming fiscal cliff.

And as members of Congress and the Obama administration try to fix the economy, they're also working to fix some numbers.

Start with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's statement that the administration has proposed $600 billion in cuts to mandatory and entitlement programs - a sign of compromise with Republicans.  It's a statement he made on two different Sunday news shows on Dec. 2.

"We've laid out a very comprehensive detailed framework of how we do it and in what stages with $600 billion of spending cuts spread over 10 years in entitlement programs," Geithner told CNN.

But looking at the White House plan describes some of those savings as increased revenue as opposed to actual cuts in programs - such as new fees and increased IRS enforcement.  And the cuts that are made largely avoid entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid, something Republicans have been seeking

A report by the White House's Office of Management and Budget says the actual cuts to mandatory spending would only be about $79 million plus $340 billion in other savings.

House Speaker John Boehner has also been misrepresenting some numbers.  The Ohio Republican said that President Barack Obama now wants to increase taxes by double what he said during the campaign.  Obama had advocated for roughly $800 billion in new taxes, but now - after winning election - wants $1.6 trillion in new taxes.

"The proposal calls for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenue, twice the amount you supported during the campaign," Boehner wrote in a letter to the president, along with several other Republicans that included former Vice President candidate Paul Ryan.

But Obama has long been supporting the $1.6 trillion tax hike.  In fact, it was an item GOP nominee Mitt Romney attacked him on during the campaign, warning that the president's plan was "one of the biggest tax increases in history."

The fact is that both Democrats and Republicans are going to support whatever numbers best represent their cases.  Facts have become murky as both parties use different definitions of "cuts" and "savings."

But talking past each other and stretching the truth isn't going to help a compromise.  That's why both parties' rhetoric this week about the fiscal cliff wins the Whopper of the Week, a distinction awarded by the Washington Guardian to the most misleading and mistaken statements made by lawmakers and political leaders.

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