Rex Nutting, of the financial website MarketWatch, recently published a column titled, “Obama Spending Binge Never Happened.” In it, Nutting analyzed the spending practices of presidential administrations going back to Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s. His findings indicate that Obama, whom everyone believes is a reckless appropriator of federal funds, has actually presided over the smallest increase in federal spending since President Eisenhower ended the Korean War in the early 1950s. Using George W. Bush’s last federal budget of $3.52 trillion as a baseline and projecting Obama’s fourth and final budget of his first term to be $3.58 trillion, Nutting figures that the annualized growth of federal spending under Obama will increase by 1.4 percent in his first term. Compare that to Reagan ‘82-85 – 8.7 percent, Bush II ’02-05 – 7.3 percent, and Bush II ’06-09 – 8.1 percent and Obama looks like a frugal fellow.
And don’t think that Obama isn’t going to use the analysis to clear his name and further his reelection chances. In fact, at a campaign stop last week, the president boasted, “Since I’ve been president, federal spending has risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years. Think about that.” Now that is an interesting comment. Obama has never wanted to be known as a spendthrift, but he sure doesn’t want to be known as the Herbert Hoover of this financial crisis either. The same Herbert Hoover who is much maligned by Paul Krugman and other Keynesians for not spending enough to prevent the Great Depression from happening. Funny thing is that under Hoover real government spending rose by 12.3 percent per year and we still had the Great Depression. According to Keynesian logic, with Obama’s paltry spending increase we should already be in another Great Depression.
The bottom line is that Obama can’t have it both ways. He can’t claim his spending has kept us out of depression while at the same time claim that his spending has been meager by comparison to other administrations.
Obama is a big spender because, Nutting’s irrelevant analysis aside, he is still outspending his big-spending predecessor. Just because the increase in the rate of spending under Obama is small does not make him a responsible custodian of the federal purse strings. Not only has he maintained Bush’s spending spree, but he has slightly enlarged it. So Keynesians can rest easy that Obama is one of them.
And of course they will claim that his fiscal policies have kept us from another depression. I don’t disagree, but Obama has borrowed more than five trillion dollars from future generations of Americans in order to do it. He essentially has traded a much needed economic correction for temporary serenity. The economy is not improving. Analysts have been warning about a double dip recession for years now. In order to maintain the charade Obama must continue to spend lavishly or the economy will collapse. At some point our current rate of spending will become unsustainable. Given that we will be many more trillions in debt and have a lot more mal-investment in our economy, the next crisis will make the last look like a walk in the park.