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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bush vs. Obama on Spending: It's No Contest


The No. 1 Republican talking point these days seems to be this: Profligate spending by President Barack Obama is the reason we face a debt-ceiling crisis.

Any rational, reasonably well informed citizen should know that is not true. But prominent GOPers still chant it like a mantra. God only knows how many otherwise sane Americans are starting to believe it.

That's why a chart in Monday's New York Times should be sent to every household in the US of A. It shows, in clear, indisputable numbers, that policy decisions by Republican president George W. Bush led to spending that dwarfs financial outlays under Obama. (See the chart at the end of this post.)

In fact, the cost of just the Bush tax cuts ($1.8 trillion) exceeds the costs of all spending under Obama ($1.4 trillion).

The final tally--$5.07 trillion of spending under Bush, $1.44 trillion under Obama. By the way, those figures for Obama are projections from 2009 to 2017. In other words, both presidents are being judged in eight-year time frames. And Bush "wins" the spending contest in a runaway.

If my math is correct, spending under Bush was more than three times greater than that under Obama. Yet we still get bilge like this from the blog of U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA): "President Obama Refuses To Acknowledge That His Out Of Control Spending Sparked A Debt Crisis."

In a piece titled "The Chart That Should Accompany All Discussions of the Debt Ceiling," James Fallows of The Atlantic explains why the Times' graphic handiwork is so important:

It's based on data from the Congressional Budget Office and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Its significance is not partisan (who's "to blame" for the deficit) but intellectual. It demonstrates the utter incoherence of being very concerned about a structural federal deficit but ruling out of consideration the policy that was the largest single contributor to that deficit, namely the Bush-era tax cuts.

The chart is titled "Policy Changes Under Two Presidents," and Fallows says it is called that for a reason:

An additional significance of the chart: It identifies policy changes, the things over which Congress and Administration have some control, as opposed to largely external shocks--like the repercussions of the 9/11 attacks or the deep worldwide recession following the 2008 financial crisis. Those external events make a big difference in the deficit, and they are the major reason why deficits have increased faster in absolute terms during Obama's first two years than during the last two under Bush. (In a recession, tax revenues plunge, and government spending goes up--partly because of automatic programs like unemployment insurance, and partly in a deliberate attempt to keep the recession from getting worse.) If you want, you could even put the spending for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in this category: Those were policy choices, but right or wrong they came in response to an external shock.

The point is that governments can respond to but not control external shocks. That's why we call them "shocks." Governments can control their policies. And the policy that did the most to magnify future deficits is the Bush-era tax cuts. You could argue that the stimulative effect of those cuts is worth it ("deficits don't matter" etc). But you cannot logically argue that we absolutely must reduce deficits, but that we absolutely must also preserve every penny of those tax cuts. Which I believe precisely describes the House Republican position.

In other words, the GOP of 2011 is utterly illogical. But large chunks of the America public still lap up Republican sound bites.

Want another example of GOP rhetoric and its disconnect from reality? Republicans often explain away Bush's spending by saying, "Yes, but he had to deal with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan." Never mind that it was Bush's policy to start those wars without raising taxes to pay for them. But even when you consider only "non-defense discretionary spending," Bush still tops Obama easily. The totals in that category: $608 billion for Bush, $278 billion for Obama.

Why do we have a debt-ceiling crisis? The answer is clear: George W. Bush probably was the most fiscally irresponsible president in American history.

What is the GOP's plan for addressing the crisis? To pretty much continue the policies of the president who got us in this mess in the first place.

Perhaps most alarming is this: Recent news reports indicate the whole debate is not about deficits, debts, ceilings, or even arithmetic. It's about politics. Consider this from an Associated Press report earlier this week:

Obama wants legislation that will raise the nation's debt limit by at least $2.4 trillion in one vote, enough to avoid a recurrence of the acrimonious current struggle until after the 2012 elections.

Republicans want a two-step process that would require a second vote in the midst of a campaign for control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

Translation: Obama wants to solve the problem in a relatively long-term fashion; Republicans want to make sure that the issue is alive, and the economy still sucks, when voters go to the polls in November 2012. The GOP, in essence, wants to make political hay out of your economic misery.

That's an evil, anti-American scheme that would have made Osama bin Laden proud.


35 comments:

Redeye said...

But, but, Bush is not a black, democratic, man.

jeffrey spruill said...

What I like to know is "where are all the jobs" after Bush lowered the taxes on the so called job creators?

Obama should REALLY call their bluff and invoke the 14th Amendment.

Robby Scott Hill said...

All this talk of a federal "balanced budget amendment" from the Tea Party really scares me. If a balanced budget alone was the key to economic success, Alabama would be the richest state in America. Balanced budgets & low taxes have been the law in Alabama since the Constitution of 1901 took effect nearly 110 years ago. Alabama does a really good job of protecting the wealth of millionaires & that's about it.

Anonymous said...

sorry to say this media like others adhere to their own drum beat. They are not interested in
listening to me or you the average
joe. They have their own agenda and
it started in zeal with the year 2000

Anonymous said...

& where does one suppose all the tax breaks go... in a mattress. It's invested. Businesses grow. Employees pay taxes. Or shall we be like Apple & have everything made in China. This is a capitalistic society. The more you take from the private sector & give to the pueblic, the closer we are to tyranny. The trouble with socialistic tendencies it always runs out of money. As far as comparing, as much as Bush spent, The Democratic party wanted to spend even more.

Anonymous said...

How do Bush and Obama compare on closer inspection? Just about like they do on an initial glance. According to the White House's Office of Management and Budget, during his eight fiscal years, Bush ran up a total of $3.283 trillion in deficit spending (p. 22). In his first two fiscal years, Obama will run up a total of $2.826 trillion in deficit spending ($1.294 trillion in 2010, an estimated $1.267 trillion in 2011 (p. 23), and the $265 billion in "stimulus" money that was spent in 2009). Thus, Bush ran up an average of $410 billion in deficit spending per year, while Obama is running up an average of $1.413 trillion in deficit spending per year — or $1.003 trillion a year more than Bush. http://www.npr.org/2011/01/25/133211508/the-weekly-standard-obama-vs-bush-on-debt

Anonymous said...

Liberals.....gotta luv em!

legalschnauzer said...

Anon:

Appreciate the luv!

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonamous,

let us not forget there was a 2 trillion dollar surplus added to bushes spending, and a lot of the accounting was taken off the books regarding the wars such as 6 billion on skids that just walked out of the buildings...

Anonymous said...

the Npr artical was done 6 months prior than the NY times artical and the facts in the NY times artical are true the numbers in the NPR artical are just not true a President could not spend that much money per year and not get impeached!

Anonymous said...

That graph is a completely fabricated lie. http://commoncts.blogspot.com/2010/10/economic-records-bush-vs-obama-vs.html From your own liberal media network: "By the end of the 2007, a Congress controlled by Democrats" Nanci Pelosi was democratic speaker of the house! And when Was Obama Inaugurated? 2009. So WHO WAS in control of congress before the 2009 inauguration??? http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/12/18/2007/main3629842.shtml

Anonymous said...

Wow, tax cuts as part of spending, where did you learn accounting? By that premise everyone's money is property of the government and they allow us to keep it. You see anything wrong with that? Nope, you're brainwashed.

Anonymous said...

There is no question that bush spent alot of money, then again he was the first president to deal with a terror attack on U.S. soil since pearl harbor, but the obama care is going to cost atleast 1.4 trillion according to the CBO so i really dont know where these facts are coming from...

David said...

Dear Anonymous... 'a lot' is actually two words, not one. But thanks for playing.

David said...

Dear (Jan 12) Anonymous, when you type 'alot' I have to ask, did you mean 'allot' or 'a lot'? There's no word spelled 'alot' in the English language.

I hope you're ability to understand spending and political rhetoric is better than your ability to use the English language to communicate.

Oh, and by the way. 'atleast'?

Anonymous said...

@David said.....Nice deflection! You are a true liberal. When a liberal cannot debate an issue they deflect the issue by babbling about nonsense! Is it nonsense David, or non-sense David? Please educate me with all your wisdom!

Anonymous said...

Gotta love the people who chastise people for not knowing that "alot" is not a word, and who are totally clueless as to the straightforward difference between "your" and "you're".

Heidiho said...

Anonymous - I think you managed to shut up David lol

Anonymous said...

@anonymous Oh I see, so it's all good when bush spends money after 9/11 and a recession, but when money is being spent now because of a recession, it's bad. A recession republicans caused by deregulating wall street. You also say that it was also the dems fault because they were in power starting in '07. When did we go to 2 wars? When did we pass the tax cuts? When was glass steigal repealed?I'll give you a hint, it was before then. These are all policies from the right we have spent money on and are spending money on now. Not to mention soaring medical costs due to the stupid for profit med system. Do more research.

Anonymous said...

Redo your research. It is not inline with reality.

Anonymous said...

So by this curious method of accounting most of the spending under Obama is still Bush's fault? and apparently Obama is powerless to stop even a penny...instead he spends 3 billion more per day then the Bush admin did. I think no one could careless how you try to slice it...bottom line is no jobs and the rate of women in the workforce has plummeted to the lowest level in 40 years. I think everyone will have to look at all the numbers for themselves and figure it out. I am sure Obama supporters will take the time for that.

Anonymous said...

Bush spent way too much money...an average of 2 billion a day. Yet under Obama that has risen to more then 5 billion a day. So...the math does not add up. We know the deficit is over 14 billion vs 10 billion in Jan 2009. Creative accounting cannot help Bush or Obama. They are actually kindred spirits in this regard. Liberal socialists. Bush was only somewhat conservative on some social issues never on economics.

Doogey said...

Conservative == never admit you are wrong.

Anonymous said...

Good thing the election isn't Obama versus Bush. Your numbers do not take into account that most of his bullshit attempts at government control and overspending have been blocked in the last 2 years by Congress. If all of the spending that he proposed had passed (not counting the overwhelming amount of crap he did by Executive Order) I guarantee he would outspend any other president in history (except maybe Carter but I'll let you libs keep that embarassment to yourselves). Intent is what matters....and his intent is to spend this economy into the dirt deeper than it already is. Lastly, for the record, George Bush may have been a Republican, but he was not a Conservative. The majority of Conservatives think he was almost as liberal as Obama, and that government power grew way too much during his term. So your argument of "Bush did it too" or "Bush did it worse" make no sense. But I'll be sure not to vote for Bush in November...thanks for the advice.

Anonymous said...

Just read that "comment moderation has been enabled and that all comments must be approved by the blog author". This must be the reason that all of the comments above only agree with you. Nice censorship.

legalschnauzer said...

Anon at 2:06--

You comment was posted, just as were others that did not agree with my take on things. Comment moderation is not about "censorship"; it's about eliminating spam and comments that are threatening, nonsensical, crude, etc.

If you read this blog in a serious way, you will see there are plenty of comments that take a contrary view to mine. Anyone who adheres to simple matters of courtesy gets his comments published.

Most comments here are moderated and posted very soon after they are submitted; it took awhile on yours because, like most folks, I have other matters besides my blog to attend to. I was offline most of the afternoon, but your comment went up as soon as I saw it.

For the record, I've been quite critical of Obama, especially on justice issues, and I've even stated that I do not intend to vote for him (or anyone else for president) in November. If you think I am in the business of protecting Obama, you must not read this blog very closely. (I am considering a protest vote for former AL Gov. Don Siegelman for president; unless someone like Alan Grayson enters the race, I don't see my vote going to anyone other than Siegelman as a protest.)

Anonymous said...

This is just more liberal bs.

DevilsPrinciple said...

One of the great fictions of modern politics and government finance is that tax cuts are paid for somehow. Of course, it's akin to the belief in magic pixie's. In the real world there are liabilities and assets.There is no such thing as paying for a tax cut. Even the CBO numbers completely disagree with this assessment (emphasis on a$$).

Clever looking graphs though along with the standard and atypical liberal disinformation.

Rusty Taylor said...

Actually adding tax cuts to the debt is as ridiculus as saying that a city SPENT money by lowering the millage rate.

Anonymous said...

Well glass stegal was removed by clinton the recession was caused by democrats who protected fannie and freddie afghanistan was totaly necasary. Il give you medicare d and iraq thats bushs fault but obama is much worse

shellpol said...

At least when Bush was sending we all were making money and spending right along with him much easier pill to swallow than whats going on now! And who was it that insisted every idiot out there needs and has a right to buy a house even if they cant afford it which led to the big housing bubble and crisis?? Freaky Frank and his cronies!! Plenty blame to go around!

Tina Colada said...

After reading these comments, I think I am going to throw in the towel on any sane discussion of fellow Americans trying to come together and solve any of our problems. Everyone is right and everyone is wrong and we have lost touch with how utterly over bloated our opinions have become...and I've also come to the conclusion that none of these arguments will matter in the end because the American society will die out eventually due to obesity and drug addiction. Can't wait until this election is over.

Anonymous said...

Based on a large number of these posts I'm assuming most of these people don't understand calculus, dynamics, and in some cases simple patterns. There's no point in arguing with someone who cannot distinguish the difference between factual data, supported speculation (I.e. a hypothesis), and unsupported speculation, or as some of you hopefully know it, bullshit. Just something to think about. Good day.

K C Clark said...

When I finished college in the late '70's, the debt was under one trillion. So the disparity of revenue to spending has caused the debt to spiral to 16 T. The problem has to do with both guns and butter, as well as congress and the president(s) not working together and, instead, exploiting the problem for political gain.
We are, undoubtedly, suffering from Bush's policies. But we are also suffering from a stimulus spending bill from Obama thats necessity is questionable, and a President who is anxious to spend more if congress would let him.

Anonymous said...

I call B.S. the stimulus was passed by Democrats, but assigned to Bush's budget. Stop lying.