About the idea that Obama’s spending has been tame

You’ve heard of lies, damned lies, and statistics? Well, here’s Exhibit A: a column at MarketWatch by Rex Nutting.

Nutting’s column, titled “Obama spending binge never happened,” has caused a lot of excitement among people who would like to believe it’s true. And the bottom-line numbers — which are as far as Nutting goes in his column — do show that total spending has risen more slowly between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2013 than you might have otherwise believed. Annual federal spending growth during President Obama’s first term, Nutting’s numbers show, has been 1.4 percent. That would be slower than in any of the seven previous terms, dating to the beginning of the Reagan years. Going out of his way to be even-handed, Nutting even graciously attributes Obama’s “stimulus” spending in FY09 to Obama rather than to George W. Bush, under whom that fiscal year began.

What a guy!

But what Nutting’s surface-level “analysis” fails to acknowledge — aside from the fact that he’s giving Obama full credit for a level of spending that won’t even begin for four more months, making it a completely unknowable quantity — is the vast amount of spending that was supposed to be temporary but instead has been baked into Uncle Sam’s cake. Accounting for the temporary-turned-permanent gives us a truer depiction of the Obama’s (sorry to say it!) spending binge.

Let’s start with the appropriations bills Obama signed for FY09 other than the stimulus. The two major ones were the $105.9 billion supplemental defense bill and the $2.9 billion “cash for clunkers” bill. So that’s $108.8 billion that ought to be put on Obama’s ledger rather than Bush’s.

Now let’s take a deeper look at the stimulus spending Nutting attributes to Obama in FY09. Nutting puts it at $140 billion. The next year’s budget, which included the FY09 spending,  instead pegged it at $202 billion with an estimated $30 billion in FY13; subsequent budgets have not broken out the spending specific to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (probably because the ARRA has been so amazingly popular and successful). Nutting doesn’t tell us where he gets that $140 billion figure, and so, to avoid mixing numbers, I’m going to stick with the figures from the FY10 budget. That’s $172 billion in “temporary” spending that, under The Most Fiscally Responsible President Evah, should have disappeared.

That’s not all. Spending in FY09 also included $151 billion for the bank bailout, or TARP, and the FY13 budget puts the figure at $12 billion. That’s another net $139 billion in “temporary” spending that should have gone away. Add that to the $172 billion from the stimulus, and we’re talking about $311 billion.

Now, to be truly fair to Obama, let’s make comparisons without including the costs of Medicare, Social Security and net interest. These are big-ticket items that are growing quickly on automatic pilot, and they couldn’t have been changed without a long national debate. So, here’s what we have:

FY09 spending: $3,518 billion

Less Medicare, Social Security and net interest: $2,218 billion

Less “temporary” TARP and stimulus spending: $1,907 billion

Less Obama’s supplemental spending for defense, clunkers: $1,798 billion

The equivalent figure in Obama’s FY13 budget is $2,418 billion, which would represent an annualized growth rate of 7.7 percent. That’s five and a half times faster than the rate with which Nutting credited Obama. Once we adjust Bush’s record to account for the $108.8 billion in Obama’s supplemental FY09 spending outlined above, it places his spending as the second-fastest out of the last eight presidential terms rather than the slowest, as Nutting claimed. (The rankings are the same even if we adjust for inflation.)

Where did Obama want to stick this extra money? In International Affairs ($22 billion, or 59 percent, higher than FY09), Transportation ($30 billion, or 36 percent), Education ($42.2 billion, or 53 percent), Health (not counting Medicare, $51.5 billion, or 15 percent), Energy ($9.2 billion, or 193 percent), to name a few of the largest examples.

However, Nutting did not use Obama’s FY13 budget as a comparison. Perhaps that’s fair, given that the president’s budget was defeated 99-0 in the Senate recently. In any case, Nutting instead used the Congressional Budget Office’s projected baseline, and this really is the coup de grace for his argument.

The CBO’s projected baseline gives us an equivalent FY13 figure of $1,968 billion, which in turn gives us an annualized growth rate of 2.3 percent, which is actually OK by recent historical standards. But what is the CBO’s projected baseline? It is the agency’s estimate of what revenues and spending will be if current law is kept in place. That is, it tells us what happens if the president and Congress do nothing. For this lack of action, Nutting wants to give Obama credit.

But wait, there’s more! Even if we use the CBO projections, it is worth noting the enormous difference between Obama’s first two years, when Democrats had huge majorities in Congress, and his third and fourth years, during which Republicans have controlled the House. The annualized growth rate in the first two years was 7.7 percent; since then it’s minus-2.9 percent.

So, to conclude:

We are supposed to ignore Obama’s budget proposal, which showed his spending rising faster than what’s typical for the past 30 years, and instead give him credit for a) not going beyond the baked-in spending he set in motion early in his term and b) the gridlock that came to Washington after Republicans took over the House?

Seriously?

You will not find conservatives lauding the George W. Bush years as a model of fiscal restraint, because they weren’t. But it is just as laughable for Nutting and his fellow travelers to try to make such a claim for Obama.

– By Kyle Wingfield

Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter

324 comments Add your comment

Jefferson

May 24th, 2012
11:46 am

Money wisely spent to turn the trend. Now raise revenue and cut spending to get back on track, then maybe we could afford a tax cut after some years of sacrafice.

Becky

May 24th, 2012
11:51 am

Kyle-why are you rehashing a Bookman column from yesterday? No original ideas?

Class 'of '98

May 24th, 2012
11:55 am

Like Ann Coulter wrote, the liberals will be able to claim that Obamacare doesn’t go over budget and raise the deficit because they will blame it on Calvin Coolidge.

Class 'of '98

May 24th, 2012
11:55 am

Becky obviously didn’t read the column.

xdog

May 24th, 2012
11:56 am

Nutting wrote about rate of growth and had some nice charts.

You counter with the same old handwaving you’re known for.

You write “You will not find conservatives lauding the George W. Bush years as a model of fiscal restraint, because they weren’t.”

But you will find every conservative lauding the Ronald Reagan years as a model of fiscal restraint. It’s an article of faith, facts be damned.

Here’s a nice link for you: http://mediamatters.org/research/201205240001

Becky

May 24th, 2012
11:58 am

Quoting Ann Coulter??? Oh my. This was rehashed to death by Bookman’s bloggers. Very telling that Kyle is reposting a rewritten version for bashing by his minions. They will be here soon…..

Kyle Wingfield

May 24th, 2012
12:05 pm

What’s telling is that Becky has no response other than “Jay already wrote about this!”

Kyle Wingfield

May 24th, 2012
12:07 pm

xdog: You don’t think Nutting is more credible because he had a couple of charts; you think he’s more credible because you want to believe him.

If you’d like to dispute that the stimulus and TARP spending has simply been replaced by other spending, making spending growth look flatter than it should, make that argument. If you’d like to dispute that Nutting didn’t account for $109 billion in spending that should have been on Obama’s ledger rather than Bush’s, make that case. If you’d like to dispute anything else, go right ahead. But all you’ve done so far is what I’d call “handwaving.”

Becky

May 24th, 2012
12:08 pm

Yes Kyle-and Bookman’s blog went well over 15 pages I believe. You have added absolutely nothing to what he posted other than the denials, handwringing and but but Obama! You are merely an entertainer on the same level as Rush, Hannity and Boortz. How do you call yourself a journalist? You need to work for National Enquirer or some other rag.

Bryan G.

May 24th, 2012
12:10 pm

What the Nutting report fails to note is what spending would have been the past two years without the Republicans getting the house in January 2011. Had the Dems had free run and the ability to pass the last two budgets unchecked, I imagine the spending would have continued to explode.

Manny

May 24th, 2012
12:11 pm

Wow, I didn’t realize the AJC was a right-wing blogger network.

This guys is just coming up with bogus numbers to attack an article that came from a WSJ affiliate. If the WSJ is a liberal gushing well, truly these right wingers have gone off the range.

I demand to see Cheesy Grits Birth Certificate- Long Form Please

May 24th, 2012
12:11 pm

Becky

He voted for Newt Gingrich.

We aren’t talking rocket scientist here.

Kyle Wingfield

May 24th, 2012
12:12 pm

Becky: You haven’t made an argument yet. And by yet, I mean since you first started showing up on this blog.

Do you disagree that the TARP and stimulus were temporary spending, but that spending on other items has increased to take their place? Do you disagree that this makes Obama’s spending look artificially flat? Do you disagree that Nutting left out spending in 2009 that Obama, not Bush, approved?

Or do you just disagree with those things you don’t like? Because that seems to be more your pattern.

Kyle Wingfield

May 24th, 2012
12:13 pm

Manny: Feel free to point out which of my numbers are bogus.

Manny

May 24th, 2012
12:13 pm

Bryan G: What the Nutting report fails to note is what spending would have been the past two years without the Republicans getting the house in January 2011. Had the Dems had free run and the ability to pass the last two budgets unchecked, I imagine the spending would have continued to explode.

—————-
Problem is that Mitt Romney is attacking Obama as the most spendthrift president in the last 80 years when the opposite is true. The reasons why don’t matter. THe truth is Romney and the right wing is attacking Obama with a big whopper of a lie.

I demand to see Cheesy Grits Birth Certificate- Long Form Please

May 24th, 2012
12:14 pm

Republicans getting the house in January 2011. Had the Dems had free run and the ability to pass the last two budgets unchecked, I imagine the spending would have continued to explode.

This is the myth the republicans put forward every time.

Its the have your cake and eat it too deal.

Whichever part of government they were in control of was the ones trying to control the spending.

The parts they weren’t in control of were doing all the spending.

See so its never their fault.

Classic bogeyman stuff and the yokels buy it.

Bryan G.

May 24th, 2012
12:15 pm

Manny – I don’t think it is a lie. My understanding is that the party line is that Obama has created more debt than the first 42 Presidents combined. As I understand the numbers, GWB took over with about a $5B debt and Obama has created more than $5B in additional debt. Obviously Bush is responsible for another $5B, but at least he did that in 8 years and not 3.5 like Obama.

Ivan

May 24th, 2012
12:16 pm

“You have added absolutely nothing to what he posted other than the denials, handwringing and but but Obama!”

wait….wasn’t the topic about Obama?

Becky

May 24th, 2012
12:16 pm

Kyle-do you disagree the Obama presidency was given the huge debt of Bush’s war? We can play this game all day.

Darwin

May 24th, 2012
12:17 pm

One simple comment – why do you guys always talk about spending when a Democrat is president? Tell me what you were saying when W was president? Or any of the other Republicans who were president? Please publish your documents with dates that prove government spending is a priority for you. And please explain how the Republican House wants to spend more for defense (and for projects) than they agreed to. What – defense spending isn’t BIG GOVERNMENT?

Kyle Wingfield

May 24th, 2012
12:17 pm

Becky: We’re talking about spending, not debt. But nice try.

Bryan G.

May 24th, 2012
12:17 pm

@ Cheesey grits – but it isn’t a myth. Just look at the ridiculous budgets the President has proposed. The GOP has their responsibility for where we are now, but at least they are conscious about the problem (it remains to be seen if they would care if they had both houses and the WH).

Kyle Wingfield

May 24th, 2012
12:21 pm

Oh, and Manny? I was working for WSJ when it bought MarketWatch. To suggest the latter has the same culture as the WSJ editorial page shows you really don’t know what you’re talking about.

Junior Samples

May 24th, 2012
12:21 pm

Republicans aren’t happy unless they can parrot ‘tax and spend, tax and spend’ while referring to a Democrat.

Of course all was quiet while President Bush was just spending….

I demand to see Cheesy Grits Birth Certificate- Long Form Please

May 24th, 2012
12:22 pm

Tell me what you were saying when W was president?

They were very very very quiet.

Junior Samples

May 24th, 2012
12:23 pm

correction: spend and borrow

Grimlock

May 24th, 2012
12:24 pm

Me, Grimlock, no like how 0bama JiveTalker spend other people’s money and keep making federal government bigger and bigger.

Chris Willett

May 24th, 2012
12:24 pm

In his piece, Nutting wrote, “Over Obama’s four budget years, federal spending is on track to rise from $3.52 trillion to $3.58 trillion, an annualized increase of just 0.4%.”

Wingfield writes, “Annual federal spending growth during President Obama’s first term, Nutting’s numbers show, has been 1.4 percent.”

This doesn’t give me too much confidence in the rest of the figures cited here, which now should be double-checked by every reader.

After reading lots of these analyses, I’ve concluded that both parties engage in “big spending.” The only difference seems to be that the Democrats are at least willing to raise the revenue to cover it, while the Republicans have pledged never to raise taxes again. Indeed, the Republican presidential candidates all stood on stage earlier in the primary season and indicated that they would not even raise taxes if they could achieve ten times that amount in cuts (video here: http://youtu.be/WKzGZj32LYc)

If we are to accomplish a balanced budget through cuts alone (except to defense), which the Republicans propose, then all other discretionary spending must be cut to the bone – including funding for education and research. That’s not a smart way to run a nation that needs to compete in a 21st Century economy.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

May 24th, 2012
12:25 pm

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

May 24th, 2012
12:25 pm

Aahhh, I jumped the gun-

Apparently when desperation sets in for a dummycrat, they swell up with psychobabble. I could have swore last week they were all torn asunder because Conservatives wanted to impose austerity upon them. Woe was them, they cried us a river. Now, less then one cycle of a Spouting Bull Elizabeth Warren moon later, Conservatives have evolved on Planet Moonbat into wild eyed government funding villains and proponents of massive federal Stimulus programs. Egad, could this be true? Should we flee now?

Manny

May 24th, 2012
12:26 pm

Hey Wingfield, check this: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/may/23/facebook-posts/viral-facebook-post-says-barack-obama-has-lowest-s/

Same source you use. Oh, and that 99-0 vote on Obama’s budget?

A. It was a republican mockery of his budget
B. It was a procedural vote to consider the republican mockery – not even a vote on a budget itself.

Keep posting your B.S. How about some truth from the media for once?

Grimlock

May 24th, 2012
12:27 pm

Me, Grimlock, no like that Fake Republican President Bush for also bloating federal government and intruding into lives of law-abiding citizens by creating out-of-control Department of Homeland “Security,’ letting TSA perverts touch little children and backing so-called “Patriot” Act to snoop into everyone’s personal, not-breaking-the-law business.

I demand to see Cheesy Grits Birth Certificate- Long Form Please

May 24th, 2012
12:27 pm

After bankrupting California, Reagan took over the Presidency and reduced taxes for the top 2% from 38% to 12%.. the biggest tax break EVER, and the beginning of the largest gap between the middle-class and the upper-class in America.

He tripled the National Debt while in office.

Yet for some reason he is a hero.

Becky

May 24th, 2012
12:27 pm

Kyle’s minions are here. Leaving before the craziness breaks out.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

May 24th, 2012
12:27 pm

The “tax and spend Presidency” is the chief, if not only, mantra the GOP has against Obama right now. They will try to tear this report down 9 ways to Sunday.

Bryan G.

May 24th, 2012
12:28 pm

I fail to understand why the Obama apologists can’t just admit that the President has done nothing to control spending, debts, and deficits.

I will gladly admit that the GOP ran up way too much debt in the 2000s via reckless spending on wars and a new entitlement (and I will gladly admit that we were all ignorantly silent). But this President has done nothing to address the problem. And to say that “you guys were quiet when Bush was in office” is sort of the intellectual equivalent of “nanny nanny boo boo.” The GOP was wrong then, but at least its acknowledging the problem now.

I can give President Obama credit where it’s due (Libya, OBL, etc.), but he has done nothing to address this problem other than to ignore the Simpson-Boles commission which he, well, commissioned.

Kyle Wingfield

May 24th, 2012
12:28 pm

Chris Willett: Nutting uses both the 0.4% figure and the 1.4% figure. If you read his piece, he explains the former is without putting the stimulus spending in Obama’s column, the latter is with doing so.

If you want to question the disparity, you might ask why he used the 0.4% figure at all when he admits the 1.4% figure is more correct.

Finn McCool (The System isn't Broken; It's Fixed)

May 24th, 2012
12:29 pm

So, Conservatives can’t stand Bush but they voted for him not once, but twice? Was he supposed to get more conservative in his final term?

hehehehe

Kyle Wingfield

May 24th, 2012
12:29 pm

“Leaving now that I realize I don’t have an argument.”

FIFY, Becky.

Manny

May 24th, 2012
12:29 pm

Bryan – The deficits are a result of the following:

1. Bush Tax Cuts
2. Economic recession depressing revenue
3. Bush Wars
4. Entitlement automatic spending increases

Obama’s biggest initiative was adding a few hundred billion to Bush’s stimulus package. Republicans haven’t let him do anything since – including raising taxes to try to help with the deficit.

So if the deficit is your concern, they should be attacking Bush, not Obama, and they should attack their own congress for not raising taxes and making the grand compromise that Obama proposed last year – tax increases and spending cuts.

I demand to see Cheesy Grits Birth Certificate- Long Form Please

May 24th, 2012
12:30 pm

The biggest thing going on here is that Obama not being the biggest spender of all time doesn’t fit the narrative.

And so people like Kyle have top push back hard against any suggestion of that immediately.

Rafe Hollister

May 24th, 2012
12:32 pm

The man is a spending fool. This AM his Carney barker was blaming the press for not taking on the GOP about their emphasis of Oblama’s spending. The only thing Oblama is frugal about is role in our malaise.

He campaigned that he was going to veto bills with ear marks. As soon as he gets into office, he is presented with GWB’s budget bill, loaded with ear marks. What does he do, blames Bush for the irresponsible budget, but signs it anyway. The man never met an expense he was not in favor of funding, if it was in line with his socialistic ideology.

Any one who believes that Barry Oblamer has not increased spending at unprecedented levels, are not worth engaging in a discussion.

Becky

May 24th, 2012
12:32 pm

Kyle-you so funny. There are smarter people than me tearing your post to pieces. I am just sitting back and watching the destruction of your “theory”.

Kyle Wingfield

May 24th, 2012
12:33 pm

And yet, Cheesy Grits, you haven’t pointed to one actual fact in my piece that you dispute.

Bryan G.

May 24th, 2012
12:34 pm

Manny – Assuming all that is true…why does this President continue to propose budgets with $1.3-$1.5T deficits? Even with the President’s budgets assuming that the Bush tax cuts go away for those making over 250k?

Kyle Wingfield

May 24th, 2012
12:35 pm

And yet, Becky, these “smarter people than [you]” have yet to rebut a single one of my points, just engage in some generic screaming and hollering.

What does that say about your smarts?

Hillbilly D

May 24th, 2012
12:35 pm

You need to work for National Enquirer or some other rag.

Weren’t they the ones who broke the John Edwards story? Just sayin’.

TBone

May 24th, 2012
12:39 pm

With or without a budget passed by Congress the past three years, the spending goes on and on. The whole idea that we stick it to the rich by way of tax increases and then curtail spending is typical liberal crap. The spending cuts never materialize. Here’s the dirty little secret; we are all going to have to sacrifice if this ship is to turned around.

Bobby

May 24th, 2012
12:39 pm

It really kills you when President Obama is running the country better than the Republicans, doesn’t it Kyle?

TBone

May 24th, 2012
12:40 pm

With or without a budget passed by Congress the past three years, the spending goes on and on. The whole idea that we stick it to the rich by way of tax increases and then curtail spending is typical liberal crap. The spending cuts never materialize. Here’s the dirty little secret; we are all going to have to sacrifice if this ship is to be turned around.