Earlier this week, MarketWatch’s Rex Nutting claimed President Obama has not increased federal spending dramatically. Despite four years of evidence to the contrary, Nutting posits that the whole “misunderstanding” comes from widespread naiveté of the federal budgeting process—in fact, federal spending has grown 27 percent in just the last four years alone.
To start, Nutting claims that since the 2009 Fiscal Year began in October of 2008, President Bush is responsible for the “major spending decisions in the 2009 fiscal year.”
Really? For someone who spent an entire article bloviating on his budget acuity, Nutting has evidently not been paying attention to how federal spending actually works.
First, Nutting’s thesis relies on how the federal budget should work, rather than how it actually does work. As we trudge into the third straight year in which Democrats have refused to pass a budget, it is obvious that just because Congress is required to pass a budget before the beginning of the fiscal year doesn’t mean it does.
Budgets are hardly worth the paper on which they are written. It is the accompanying appropriation legislation that puts meat on its bones. Nutting glosses over the fact that the final appropriations package for FY2009 wasn’t signed until March 2009…by President Obama himself.
Secondly, Nutting’s account redacts the accomplishments so loudly lauded by the White House in its first year: Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which increased discretionary spending by 84 percent, the $410 billion omnibus bill he signed into law in the spring of 2009 and expansion of the TARP bailouts.
Attributing Obama’s first year to Bush allows Nutting to claim an “annualized increase” of only .4 percent under the current administration. Allowing Obama to take credit for his “stimulus” plan, the appropriations package and expansion of TARP, even the Washington Post estimates the annual rate of growth under President Obama to be 5.2 percent.
However, year-over-year spending comparisons don’t tell the whole story. The legacy of the Obama Administration is the growth in the overall size of government; how it crowds out private enterprise and increases burdens on families and businesses. In total, spending has increased by 27 percent since Obama came into office.
Historically, federal spending has averaged 21 percent of GDP. Under the Bush Administration, spending averaged 19.6 percent. In Obama’s first four years alone, spending has averaged 24.4 percent of GDP. Looking at the President’s most recent budget, spending does not fall, as Nutter claims, but increases – the President plans to spend $47 trillion over the next ten years, keeping spending at 23 percent in perpetuity.
None of this is to say that the Bush administration was the image of fiscal restraint. President Bush put us on the train for big government; the Obama Administration has accelerated it to breakneck speeds, and is headed off the tracks.