"Do not buy into the B.S. that you hear about spending and fiscal constraint with regard to this administration," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Air Force One on Wednesday. Carney went on to cite a MarketWatch column by Rex Nutting, purporting to show that "under Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s."
Is this true? Is Obama, contrary to all conventional wisdom, actually the most fiscally restrained president since the 1950s? No. It is Nutting's analysis, which, in Carney's words, is "B.S."
Nutting's piece employs several abuses of the numbers (including some underhanded switching between projected and actual spending data), but his most productive sleight of hand is to assign all of fiscal year 2009's spending to President Bush. Nutting doesn't start the clock on Obama's spending until fiscal 2010.
In most cases, that would be fair, because presidents typically sign the next year's spending bills in the calendar year before they leave office. But not in 2009. The Democratic Congress, confident Obama was going to win in 2008, passed only three of fiscal 2009's 12 appropriations bills (Defense; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; and Homeland Security). The Democrat Congress passed the rest of them, and Obama signed them.
So whereas Bush had proposed spending just $3.11 trillion in fiscal 2009, for a 3 percent increase, Obama and the Democrats ended up spending $3.52 trillion, for a 17.9 percent increase in spending -- the highest single-year percentage spending increase since the Korean War.
By the end of Obama's first year in office, spending as a percentage of GDP was 25.2 percent, the highest it has ever been since World War II. As Obama's stimulus spending has receded, spending as a percentage of GDP has gone down, but only slightly. Under President Bush, spending averaged 19.6 percent of GDP. Under President Clinton, it was 19.8 percent. The historical pos/world/ War II average is 19.7 percent. In 2012, after four years of Obama's fiscal leadership, it is expected to be 24.3 percent.
It would be bad enough if Obama's press flak was the only person peddling these spending lies. But, scared by his recent drop in the polls, Obama has taken to touting the numbers himself. "Since I've been president, federal spending has risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years," he told a crowd of wealthy donors Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency in Colorado Springs.
Voters cannot expect the federal government to get its fiscal house in order until they elect leaders who do not live in denial about their own fiscal records. Obama is clearly in denial about his.