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Hinderaker’s Deceptive Budget Analysis

February 14, 2012

In Obama’s Deceptive DOA Budget – Part 2, John Hinderaker says:

For FY 2013, Obama proposes to spend $3.856 trillion, $873 billion–29%–more than the last year of pre-recession spending by the Democratic Congress, FY 2008.

[T]he amount of debt held by the public has nearly doubled to $6.4 trillion from 2001 to 2008. We are now living with the fallout of this deep fiscal irresponsibility.

In hindsight, the “deep fiscal irresponsibility” of the Bush administration (and, of course, the Democratic Congress that was elected in 2006) looks like a golden age. After three years of Obama’s presidency, the debt held by the public has almost doubled, and stands at $11.6 trillion as of FY 2012.

It’s great when Hinderaker uses numbers in his criticisms – because numbers can be analyzed and verified – as opposed to his vague assertions that “Obama’s regulations are killing the economy”.

So what are the numbers? Is it true that the Bush years “look like a golden age” when it comes to fiscal responsibility? Contrary to popular belief, no president controls the economy. They only control (with congressional approval) spending and tax policy. Since Obama has not raised taxes yet, let’s compare the spending increases under Bush and Obama. Let’s even be generous, and exclude the last 2 years of Bush’s presidency – when those big spending liberals took back the congress.

George Bush’s first budget was for FY 2002 and his final budget with a GOP-controlled congress was for FY 2007. Over those 6 years, spending went from $1.863 trillion to $2.729 trillion. This is an annual rate of increase of 6.57%.

Spending in the “last year of pre-recession spending by the Democratic Congress, FY 2008” was $2.978 trillion and the FY 2013 budget just proposed by Obama calls for $3.803 trillion. This works out to an annual rate of increase of  5.01%.

Now I’m no mathematics professor, but I’m pretty sure 5.01% is less than 6.57%. That would make Obama and the democratic congress more responsible when it comes to spending than the GOP.

Note: The FY 2013 budget proposal was originally stated to be $3.856T, this has been corrected.

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14 Comments
  1. knight427 permalink

    I am a mathematics professor and I can confirm that 5.32% is definitely less than 6.57%.

  2. Lawman153 permalink

    I disagree with your punchline, “That would make Obama and the democratic congress more responsible when it comes to spending than the GOP,” because I believe you are drawing your conclusion from the wrong numbers, and ignoring the focus of the article. Hinderaker wasn’t using % increase in spending to make his point, he was using deficit and debt increases. So you are just changing the subject to defend the indefensible.

    To counter your point, I would argue that spending, in and of itself, is not an issue. The deficit and resulting debt is the real issue. While we may agree or disagree on what the Government SHOULD spend money on (and I think the Federal Government should spend PROFOUNDLY less), we can probably agree that as long as the Government isn’t spending more than it takes in, its mostly an academic debate.

    I know you like charts and graphs, so let’s consider this one that covers up to the present day and projects into the future.

    http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/hist01z1.xls

    Now I believe everything from this Whitehouse is an absolute lie, but let’s assume the numbers here are correct…..

    You’ll notice that the deficit was coming down under Bush, from a high of 412 billion in 2004 to 160 billion by 2007. As you may recall, the nation was mired in a recession when Bush took over (you might have forgotten since Bush didn’t blame Clinton non-stop for the first three years of his Presidency). So even with the “unpaid for” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the new “unpaid for” prescription drug benefit, Bush and the Republican Congress was “bending the cost curve down,” as Obama would say.

    You’ll also notice that the 2008 budget, the first budget year of our wonderful Democrat controlled Congress, saw a dramatic increase in deficit spending. I’m a cop, and not a mathematics professor, but by my calculation, that was almost a 3X increase in the deficit from 2007 (160 billion) to 2008 (458 billion). As you pointed out, the 2008 budget was pre-recession, so really, it was a three fold deficit increase just for the hell of it. What we got out of that I don’t know, but I do know that two wars and a new entitlement didn’t triple in cost overnight.

    As you can clearly see, in 2009 the deficit went up almost 1 trillion dollars to 1.4 trillion overall, another 3X increase and a completely unprecedented one year deficit. Obscene is too kind a word to describe a three fold increase two years in a row. As the chart shows, there was only a slight decrease in outlays and the deficit in 2010, then more increases from 2011 forward. Unfortunately, the revenue and deficit numbers for 2011 have to be estimates since the final numbers for the 2011 tax year are still unknown. If I was a betting man, I would wager that revenue will be nowhere near the increase shown for 2011, and the deficit will ultimately be much higher.

    Again, I’m just a lowly cop and don’t claim super mathematical prowess, but if you total the deficits from Pelosi, Reid and Obama from 2008 through the 2012 estimate, you get a grand total of 5.8 trillion dollars of deficit spending. The deficit total from the entire history of the United States through 2007 was 4.8 trillion. So all of the deficits racked up from WWII, the Great Depression, the Civil War, the Cold War, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, the space program, Social Security, the Great Society, the New Deal, the “war on drugs,” the “war on terror” and on and on was still only 80% of the deficit run up by these clowns in FIVE years. What did we get for that money? Solyndra? Chevy Volts? Cash for Clunkers? Fast and Furious? Union payoffs? A nuclear Iran? This is the real punchline, but unfortunately, it isn’t very funny.

    So, while I would agree that Republicans (not Conservatives) are destroying the country with their spending, the Democrats are doing it at a much, much higher rate, and can definitely NOT be considered “responsible” stewards of our finances.

    By the way, I find it a little “deceptive” that you used the 2008 chart instead of the 2010 chart found here:

    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/120xx/doc12039/HistoricalTables%5B1%5D.pdf

    You weren’t trying to hide the deficit explosion under Obama were you? I’ll have to keep a closer eye on your charts….

    Did you miss me? ; )

    • Michael permalink

      I hope you will agree with me that presidents should only be given credit or blame for things they do or had control over. For example, I don’t give Bill Clinton credit for the internet boom and I don’t blame George Bush for 9/11. Those things would have happened regardless of who was president at the time.

      If you do agree with me, then you can only blame Obama for things he has actually had control over. He increased spending and he cut taxes and he deserves credit or blame for whatever effect they had on the economy. However, the recession started over a year before he took office making it pretty hard to blame him for that.

      And you are correct, I do like charts and graphs. They make the picture much clearer. Here is a very informative graph, it shows government spending and tax revenues. The difference between the two is the deficit or surplus. It should be obvious to anyone that the current deficits are mostly the result of the tax revenue drop due to the recession – Obama’s spending increases have been similar to Bush’s. Blaming Obama for the dramatic drop in revenues that were due to the recession is, to use your word, indefensible.

    • Michael permalink

      P.S. It appears the fiscal conservatives over at the Cato Institute agree with me!

      http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/dont-blame-obama-for-bushs-2009-deficit/

  3. Lawman153 permalink

    Nope, I think we are well in agreement on many things, including pinning blame where it rightfully belongs.

    Obama was a Senator during Bush’s Presidency, so he can hardly claim to be an innocent bystander of the effects of the recession, and is at least partially responsible for the state of the economy once he became President. So while I agree with the Cato article that spending is the problem, they are letting Obama off the hook since he clearly voted for the FY 2009 budget, and the largest share of the FY 2009 deficit was due to the Stimulus (a point Cato concedes), which was all Obama, Pelosi and Reid. The Cato article also ignores the fact that the last two years of deficits under Bush were a result of the Pelosi/Reid Congress (which again, Obama was a part of) and were a sudden increase after three years of declining deficits. In fact, the Pelosi/Reid deficit in 2008 (which Obama voted for) was higher than any previous deficit under Bush, including recession years, and as you noted, there was no recession in 2008. So no matter how you look at it, Obama is responsible of the increase in spending that began prior to his Presidency, the increased deficits, and is at least partially responsible for the recession that came afterwards.

    Same site, same author, three years later, and proves my point that under Obama spending is exploding:

    http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/according-to-obamas-budget-burden-of-federal-spending-will-be-2-trillion-higher-in-10-years/

    I don’t think Bush’s level of spending was at all palatable, but still I disagree with your assessment that Obama has maintained the same spending levels as Bush, and the recession alone is causing the deficit. The graph you linked to clearly shows a huge bump in spending at the time of the stimulus, and an increase in spending after. This validates my point from an earlier post (that you disagreed with) that the stimulus spending became the baseline moving forward. The stimulus added nearly one trillion dollars in spending, and if it had been rolled back, there would have been a significant drop after 2009, which there clearly wasn’t. When you consider that each budget Obama has submitted during this Presidency was far OVER what was eventually put in place, one can reasonably assume that if Obama had his way, spending would have increased more than it did. Either way, I think that Obama is 100% responsible for the increased deficit and stalled economy his Administration has brought about, a position I think is easily defensible when looking at the facts.

    Not for nothing, you are avoiding the main theme of my post, which is that spending is way out of control, and exploded once Democrats took control of Congress. Do you agree, or are we going to continue debating around the margins?

    • Michael permalink

      No, I don’t agree that spending under the democrats has exploded and the numbers prove it. Let’s look at the actual numbers in Table 1.1.

      With Obama’s latest budget proposal, we have six years of Pelosi/Reid/Obama budgets. We can compare that to the previous six years of Bush/GOP Congress budgets.

      Spending in Clinton’s final year (2001) was $1.862T. Six years later, the final Bush/GOP budget (2007) was $2.728T, for a total increase of 46.5%.

      Obama’s latest budget proposal (2013) calls for $3.856T. This is a six year increase of 41.3% – 5.2% lower than the Bush/GOP increase.

      BTW, the most fiscally conservative president in my lifetime has been Bill Clinton. His total spending increase over eight years was only 32.2%. And, no, it’s not because of the GOP congress in his final six years. Clinton’s first two budgets – with a democratic congress – only increased 2.02% and 3.72%.

      These facts should put to rest the myth that it’s the democrats that are the big spenders. Republicans spend more.

      As to the Cato article you linked to, I agree with it. Obama’s latest budget proposal was a disappointment. He completely passed on any kind of entitlement reform – which is where most of the spending increases come from. I fully expect that next year we will either have a GOP controlled or a divided government. Either way, I expect that entitlements will be addressed.

      • Lawman153 permalink

        As I said, I’m not a Mathematician, but I’m man enough to admit I was wrong…. And thanks for giving me more reasons to dislike Republicans. No amount of wishing it wasn’t true will make it so.

        In my defense, I never defended spending, not Bush’s, not Reagan’s. My point all along was that deficits and the debt were/are out of control, but admittedly, that was a point I veered off of myself. I still maintain (and I know you agree) that this amount of debt is out of control and cannot continue, regardless of the party in power.

        I wish I could agree with you that entitlements will be worked on next year. Assuming Obama is re-elected, I don’t think there is much chance that he will work the solve the issue. He ignored his own bipartisan commission on debt (and entitlement) reduction, and could have stolen a lot of Republican thunder if he had pushed forward something this year. Even if he proposed a plan full of his typical phony accounting, he could have hoped that enough “moderates” could have been duped to win their vote, which didn’t happen. I’m not trying to be controversial, but I believe the Democrat party needs dependency to win elections. As they say, when you are robbing Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on Paul’s vote.

        I’m not sure Republicans, even if they take the White House and Senate, will do much either. The current leadership has shown they are more than willing to “manage the decline” and just slow, not reverse course. I think there are glimmers of hope in Rubio and Ryan, but they are not in control of the Republican party by any stretch. Ryan put forth a perfectly sensible plan that took forever to balance the budget, and slowly reigned in entitlements and the left cried bloody murder. I don’t think any of the current crop of Republican Presidential candidates have the backbone to withstand the inevitable cries of racism, classism, ageism, etc. that would come from the media and Democrats. However, I hope I am wrong again….

        Anyway, thanks again for hosting some intelligent debate!

  4. knight427 permalink

    Lawman, regardless of your profession, you are obviously comfortable with numbers. As such, I hope to save us both a lot of time by getting you to own up to the poor numeric arguments you’ve made.

    1) “As you pointed out, the 2008 budget was pre-recession, so really, it was a three fold deficit increase just for the hell of it. What we got out of that I don’t know, but I do know that two wars and a new entitlement didn’t triple in cost overnight.”

    1 reply) Do I really need to discuss amount, base and percent? Do you agree that tripling the deficit should in no way imply or suggest that spending has tripled?

    2) “The deficit total from the entire history of the United States through 2007 was 4.8 trillion. So all of the deficits racked up from WWII, the Great Depression, the Civil War, the Cold War, Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, the space program, Social Security, the Great Society, the New Deal, the “war on drugs,” the “war on terror” and on and on was still only 80% of the deficit run up by these clowns in FIVE years.”

    2 reply) You’ve heard of inflation, right? (although %GDP is a more convenient way to deal with inflation in this case) If that isn’t enough to get you retract your argument, then I suggest you apply the same analysis to Ronald Regan, and let me know how he fares. Until you do, I’m going to assume you admit that this is a terrible argument to persuade anyone but the idiots. Also, last time I checked, about half of the items you listed as pre-2008 spending drivers still exit today or until very recently.

    • Lawman153 permalink

      I’ll be brief….

      1. I never claimed spending tripled, I (correctly) pointed out that the deficit tripled two years in a row, a fact that most people will agree is rediculous. I quote (emphasis added):

      “…that was almost a 3X increase in the DEFICIT from 2007 (160 billion) to 2008 (458 billion)…it was a three fold DEFICIT increase…in 2009 the DEFICIT went up almost 1 trillion dollars…another 3X increase and a completely unprecedented one year DEFICIT…”

      You also seem to have missed my previous statement that so long as we are not running deficits, the argument over spending is arguably moot, and that I didn’t agree with Bush’s level of spending either.

      2. Inflation or not, debt is debt, and it has to be paid back. As I also stated earlier, I think spending across the board should be significantly less, regardless of who is in charge, so the fact that the same “spending drivers” are in place today is meaningless.

      Do you disagree that running this kind of deficit and/or national debt is bad? If so, I would love to hear your argument. While you are at it, do you think this country is headed in the right direction? Care to defend the economic policies of current administration or the Government as a whole? If so, I hope you can craft an argument that can persuade the non-idiots…..

      • knight427 permalink

        1) Perhaps I should have added emphasis to the last sentence in your quote,
        “I do know that two wars and a new entitlement didn’t triple in cost overnight.”
        …which to me reads exactly as though you did claim spending increased 3x (on those items at least…which of course they would NOT have to in order to triple the deficit).

        2) I agree that large deficits are bad. But my point was that your argument was poor because it ignores the most basic considerations of finance (inflation) and has been true of most modern Presidents (which makes it pointless to throw against just one of them).

  5. Lawman153 permalink

    Knight427:

    So you ignore entire paragraphs of writing, claim that one clearly sarcastic remark is representative of my position, and I am the one advancing “poor” arguments that do nothing but “pursuade the idiots?” I see…..

    Here is a “basic consideration of finance” for you: you cannot continually spend far in excess of what you take in. Once again, if you would like to provide a counter argument and defend the economic policies of this administration, rather than nit-picking the irrelevant, I would love to hear it.

    • knight427 permalink

      I never claimed anything I addressed was representative of your position. I was simply calling you out on some poor arguments that stuck out in an otherwise well-written post. If you are going to make “sarcastic” remarks that are factually incorrect, don’t be surprised when you are called out for them on a text based forum where the funny voice in your head is not apparent to readers. Also, if you think my nitpicking is addressing the “irrelevant”, you should keep in mind that the content being scrutinized was posted by you (i.e. don’t complain about ME address YOUR “irrelevant” points).

      Also, I have no interest in taking the position you seem determined to foist upon me.

  6. So, if Bush is a bigger spender than Obama, we ignore what has been added on his watch and let obama spend more??? hhhmmm

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