There are things I can’t say on Newsvine because of the conduct policy. Which is fine. It’s hard to get a decent debate going when everyone is calling each other names and acting like little brats. But there’s no such conduct policy here (for me anyway, for you it’s another story my dear friend and reader) and sometimes I feel like it’s irrational and simply unproductive to respond nicely and rationally to epically stupid, dishonest, and outright rude behavior. Sometimes an asshole is an asshole and an idiot is an idiot, not just because you don’t like them or disagree with them.
This is one of those cases, and if you’ll follow along, I’ll explain why President Obama has predisded over the smallest increase in federal spending in 60 years, and show you how ReplyIfLoveIsMissingFromYourLife on Newsvine is lying his ass off about it.
A claim was posted on Facebook recently that President Obama has overseen the lowest growth of federal spending in the last 60 years. Understand that the only issue here is growth, not the exact figure of federal spending. Not the deficit. Not the national debt. Not even who is to blame. The only question is whether or not federal spending has increased (the result of population growth) under President Obama at the lowest rate in the last 60 years.
That post was based on a story in Market Watch by Rex Nutting. The claim, if true, seriously undermines a line of attack by the Republican Party and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney that President Obama is the reason government spending is out of control, and that President Obama is one of the biggest spending Presidents in history.
Nutting did what any of us could have done and looked at publicly available historical government data on spending. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has revenue and outlay data unadjusted for inflation available dating back to 1972, and if you dig harder you can find even more.
The last ten years looks like this:
The average increase between 2010 and 2011 (2012 isn’t finished so we don’t know what the final number will be) is 1.1%.
Now some explanations are in order. These are not “fiscal year” budgets, they are simply spending totals for the entire year. In this CBO data that’s January 1st through December 31st. But a fiscal year is October 1st of one year to October 1st of the next. FY2011 for example is October 1, 2010 through October 1, 2011. Congress normally dumps an entire year’s worth of spending into a single budget that covers an entire fiscal year, usually well in advance of when that fiscal year begins.
That behavior while common, is not required by law or by special rules in Congress. That said, Democrats didn’t pass the FY2011 budget in 2010 like they were “supposed” to, reportedly because they thought it would be a big long fight and they wanted to get the 2010 mid-term elections out of the way first. And that’s what happened. A budget for FY2011 was passed in 2011 with the government surviving on things called “continuing resolutions” which simply take the spending process of the moment and continues it for a few more months.
FY2012 was a long ugly fight last year that nearly resulted in a government shutdown, and that fight was largely the result of political games played by extremist radicals on the far right, freshly elected in the fall of 2010. Again a budget was passed, but late. (Don’t listen to your Republican friends that insist that Democrats haven’t passed a single budget in the last three years. You might as well be taking advice on communication satellite design from someone on their lunch break while digging a ditch for a living. These are largely people who only know about government what they learn from Fox News, and only became interested in government in 2008.)
You can’t say that the $3.5 trillion in 2009 spending is the fault of President Obama when a majority of that money was allocated by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by President Bush the year before. Remember, the table above from the CBO shows all spending for 2009, but January 1st through October 1st of that year was already decided and the law of the land before President Obama even won the Democratic primary in 2008.
If you take that into account, along with non-budget spending in 2009 such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka the “stimulus”), and some appropriation bills for 2009 spending left over from 2008 that President Obama signed into law, what you end up with is President Obama overseeing the smallest increase in federal spending in the past 60 years. About 1.4%, according to Politifact.
Politifact, which won a Pulitzer Prize for fact-checking during the 2008 election, rated this claim “mostly true”. (FactCheck.org also gave it a thumbs up.) In fact they went one step further than Rex Nutting did and also ran the numbers when taking inflation into account, and found that President Obama actually oversaw a marginal decrease in federal spending. About -0.5%.
Anyone can see for themselves just by looking at the CBO data that this is true. President Obama was responsible for something like $100-150 billion in 2009 spending, the rest is on George W. Bush’s books. And the massive leap in spending came in 2009 during that period.
It’s true that spending is at an all-time high, and there are both good and bad reasons for that. It’s also true that all spending goes through Congress first. A quick analysis I did a few days ago showed that Congress — even with Republicans controlling the House — tend to spend more money than President Obama asks for. If Congress had enacted Obama’s 2010, 2011, and 2012 budgets verbatim, the government would have spent $380 billion less than it actually did in reality.
None of this is a defense of President Obama’s budgets, or Congress. It’s a defense of the truth and an attack on the people who distort it for their own personal gain.
Before I wrap back around to the point of this post, you need to understand a few things.
First, the increase in spending in recent years has co-existed with a decrease or stagnation in revenue, or taxes. Republicans have viciously cut taxes since the early 80s, with the top tax bracket being savaged from 69.13% in 1981 to 28% in 1989. (I bet you haven’t seen your taxes cut by 50% since 1981.) The drop in revenue due to these irresponsible tax cuts has contributed to the bloated deficits we’re facing today. It’s not just spending. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 that were set to expire in 2010, but were extended through 2012, are blowing a $238 billion hole in the budget every single year. Repealing those cuts would reduce the budget deficit by nearly a quarter trillion dollars practically overnight.
Second, a lot of the increase in federal spending is the result the recession itself. I read that unemployment insurance outlays increased by around $250 billion between 2009 and 2010. That’s a quarter trillion in new spending that has nothing to do with politics and would have happened no matter who controlled Congress or who was in the White House.
You really need to look at the details to understand what all of this means. Jumping from $2.9 trillion in spending in 2008 to $3.5 trillion in 2009 was not entirely out-of-control political spending. A huge chunk of that was the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). Another chunk was unemployment insurance doing its job by catching 10+ million people who had just lost their jobs. And don’t ever forget how bad things were in early 2009. The economy was shedding 650,000 jobs per month in January and GDP was below -5% GDP.
Now, back to the original point. Now that you understand the truth of the claim about Obama and the data that proves it, consider this:
2007 2,568.0 2,728.7 — Obama, Reid, and Pelosi Congress under Bush Presidency
2008 2,524.0 2,982.5 — Obama, Reid, and Pelosi Congress under Bush and Obama Presidency
2009 2,105.0 3,517.7 — Reid and Pelosi Congress under Obama Presidency
2010 2,162.7 3,456.2 — Reid and Pelosi Congress under Obama Presidency
2011 2,302.5 3,598.1 — Reid and Boehner Congress under Obama Presidency
These numbers are the same as mine because they both came from the CBO. But the labels are so political and false that it’s laughable. This moron is splitting 2008 (remember that’s all of 2008, not fiscal 2008) between President Bush and President Obama, which is a flat out lie. The budget years without numbers break down like this:
Fiscal 2006: Oct 1 2005 – Oct 1 2006.
Fiscal 2007: Oct 1 2006 – Oct 1 2007.
**Fiscal 2008: Oct 1 2007 – Oct 1 2008.
Fiscal 2009: Oct 1 2008 – Oct 1 2009.
Fiscal 2010: Oct 1 2009 – Oct 1 2010.
FY2006, FY2007, and FY2008 are completely covered by the Bush administration, from October 2006 through October 2008. FY2008 began in late 2007 and ended in late 2008. FY2008 actually ended before President Obama won the election. That’s how bad of a lie that is, how dishonest this guy is, and why rational political discussions are becoming impossible in America. This isn’t an error, because I’ve been explaining how budgeting works to this person for the better part of the last week. To do this, a person would have to know the truth and lie anyway.
The debate has been how much of FY2009 (10-2008 through 10-2009) spending belongs to Bush and how much belongs to Obama. That’s an honest and legitimate debate, one I’ve enjoyed, and one that some Republicans have gotten wrong. Not because I say so, but because the data says so. But I still respect those people because I believe they are honestly confused about this mess (hardly surprising) and aren’t arguing from a well of dishonesty.
The anonymous coward that goes by ReplyIfLoveIsMissingFromYourLifeis is lying his or her ass off to mislead people into believing something that’s not true, purely for partisan political gain. Even Mitt Romney and the larger GOP establishment haven’t been lying like this about the spending issue. Everyone in the country that’s talking about this is issue is debating FY2009 spending and that’s it. Nobody is talking about 2008 except this fool.
And for the record, even if you take every single conservative criticism into account — fair and accurate or not — the result is amusingly the same. Federal spending has increased so much under all other presidents in the past 60 years that Obama still comes out at the bottom of the list.
I love Newsvine and value the user conduct policy that prevents me from getting personal and spiteful over there as I’ve done here. It usually keeps debates civil and therefore productive. But that doesn’t mean that calling someone a dishonest hack or a fucking liar is wrong, especially when it’s a perfectly accurate description. I’ve met only a few people more dishonest that this in my life, and it makes me wonder if their parents just didn’t spank them enough when they were kids. If this were my grown child, I’d be ashamed to be related to them and embarrassed that I didn’t do a better job raising a mature adult possessing even a minimal sense of ethics.
People like this make it difficult, if not impossible, to discuss the country’s problems and to find solutions that satisfy most people when you have to constantly deal with lies, ignorance, and stupidity. The problems themselves are big enough, why add to it by lying and deceiving people? Why talk about something you clearly don’t understand? Why refuse to be taught by the people who do understand? So what if it benefits your political party? Think about your country for once instead of yourself and your politics.