Here are some statistics that will drive some conservatives into a fit of apoplexy.
According to Marketwatch, the respected service provided by none other than the Wall Street Journal, President Barack Obama is actually the smallest government spender since President Dwight Eisenhower.
That hardly fits the perception created by the nonstop Republican echo chamber that Obama is spending the country into oblivion.
According to the figures provided by Marketwatch, the annualized growth of federal government spending on budgets for which Obama has been responsible is 1.4 percent. And that even includes the stimulus package that the president succeeded in getting passed in his first year in office.
Obama’s 1.4 percent compares to annual increases in Ronald Reagan’s first term of 8.7 percent and George W. Bush’s second term of 8.1 percent, two presidencies that added trillions to the national debt at a time when the country was enjoying good economic times. Bill Clinton’s first term, incidentally, averaged 3.2 percent per annum and his second term 3.9 percent.
Rich Ungar, a Forbes Magazine contributor, asks how then could Republicans have managed to vilify Obama as a “big spender”?
He answers himself that it might have something to do with the first year of the Obama presidency, when the federal budget increased a whopping 17.9 percent — jumping from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. But, he adds, you’d be wrong to attribute that big jump to Obama.
Every incoming president the first year is saddled with the budget signed by the president he is replacing. The 2009 budget — Obama’s first year — was the property of George W. Bush (remember tax cuts and two wars). It was in effect for four months before Obama was sworn in to office in January of 2009. Obama’s first budget was for 2010 and federal spending actually fell from that $3.52 trillion to $3.46 trillion, a drop of 1.8 percent.
Marketwatch shows that in 2011 it rose again to $3.6 trillion (4.3 percent). In 2012 total government spending is slated to increase 0.7 percent, to $3.63 trillion. For next year, the final one of Obama’s first term, it is slated to drop back to $3.58 trillion, a drop of 1.3 percent.
All of this underscores just how much the country’s economic woes — the problems set in motion during George W. Bush’s last year in the presidency — are adding to the national debt.
It isn’t Obama’s spending that is causing the deficits, it’s the drop in tax revenues caused by the Great Recession, which devastated the housing market, imploded the financial industry, and threw millions of Americans out of work. When people aren’t working, they’re not paying taxes. When folks don’t have the money to spend on goods, they’re not producing revenues needed to fund governmental programs and services.
And, of course, cutting taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans, as Bush accomplished during his presidency, only added to the problem.
Yet Mitt Romney, largely funded by that 2 percent, is insisting that Obama has failed Americans by spending recklessly and stumbling as the leader of our economic recovery. Romney’s only plan, however, is to return to the days of extended tax cuts, less regulation of banks and businesses, and the discredited “trickle down” gimmicks that got us all into this terrible mess in the first place.
Like many so-called “small government” Republicans in the past, who irresponsibly increased the federal deficit when we were in a position to start paying it down (a la Bill Clinton), Romney hopes to convince Americans to forget the past, just as they’ve been able to sell the people
the idea that Obama is a big spender.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org