Monday, April 19, 2010

Obama's Spending Habits

Wall Street Journal (January 2010)
WSJ – Mr. Axelrod wrote that no one is entitled to his own facts, even as he argued that George W. Bush is responsible for Barack Obama’s deficits. He argued that Mr. Bush forced the hand of this administration by leaving office in the midst of a sharp recession.

That argument won’t fly for two reasons. First, at some point this administration has to take responsibility for itself. It’s also not even close to accurate. Consider that from Jan. 20, 2001, to Jan. 20, 2009, the debt held by the public grew $3 trillion under Mr. Bush—to $6.3 trillion from $3.3 trillion at a time when the national economy grew as well.

By comparison, from the day Mr. Obama took office last year to the end of the current fiscal year, according to the Office of Management and Budget, the debt held by the public will grow by $3.3 trillion. In 20 months, Mr. Obama will add as much debt as Mr. Bush ran up in eight years.

Mr. Obama’s spending plan approved by Congress last February calls for doubling the national debt in five years and nearly tripling it in 10.

Mr. Bush’s deficits ran an average of 3.2% of GDP, slightly above the post World War II average of 2.7%. Mr. Obama’s plan calls for deficits that will average 4.2% over the next decade.

Team Obama has been on history’s biggest spending spree, which has included a $787 billion stimulus, a $30 billion expansion of a child health-care program, and a $410 billion federal spending bill that increased nondefense discretionary spending 10% for the last half of fiscal year 2009. Mr. Obama also hiked nondefense discretionary spending another 12% for fiscal year 2010.

Mr. Bush did move to give voters more control over their tax dollars. Both his Social Security reform ideas and the drug program he created offered templates for driving federal spending curves in the right direction, counter to what Democrats wanted to do.

Democrats, for example, proposed creating a prescription drug program as an alternative to the one Mr. Bush proposed that would have cost a projected $800 billion over 10 years. The Bush drug benefit was originally expected to cost half that amount and today costs a third less than what it was initially expected to cost because it uses market forces to drive prices down.

Mr. Axelrod claims the pork-laden stimulus package has been a success. But Mr. Obama told Americans that if it were passed, unemployment wouldn’t rise above 8%. It is now 10%. The president also said it would create 3.7 million jobs, 90% of which would be in the private sector. By Mr. Obama’s standards, the stimulus failed miserably.

Mr. Bush did sign the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) into law and loaned $240 billion to banks. But those loans are being returned at a profit to the Treasury. Rather than using those funds to pay down the deficit, Mr. Obama wants to use them for new spending. What’s more, he has lavished some $320 billion from TARP on car companies, union allies, and pet causes that will never be fully returned.

Mr. Axelrod boasts Mr. Obama’s proposed health reforms will “not add to the federal deficit.” But if that turns out to be true, it will only be because Massachusetts voters just elected a senator who promises to vote against those reforms.

In going after Mr. Bush’s fiscal record, Mr. Axelrod unwittingly revealed why Democrats are losing. Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats have made a mess of the nation’s finances and are desperate to pin the blame on someone else. It’s not likely to work.
  1. Obama’s One Big Accomplishment: Shatters Spending Record for First-Year Presidents
  2. CBO: Obama Budget To Generate $10 Trillion In Budget Deficits
  3. Karl Rove Sets the Record Straight
  4. Obama racked up a record-high monthly budget deficit of $220.9 billion in February
  5. CBO Paints Grim Picture: U.S. Budget Deficit 1.2 Trillion Higher Than Predicted

Washington Examiner (Feb of 2009!)
Back in 2006, when Democrats were hoping to win control of the House and Senate, party leaders worked themselves into a righteous outrage over the issue of out-of-control federal spending. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the Republican budget “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic” because it increased the amount of U.S. debt held by foreign countries. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., accused Republicans of going on “an unprecedented and dangerous borrowing spree” and declared GOP leadership “the most fiscally irresponsible in the history of our country … no other president or Congress even comes close.”

You won’t find too many defenders of George W. Bush’s record on spending these days, even among Republicans. But a check of historical tables compiled by the Office of Management and Budget shows that the spending that so distressed Pelosi and Reid seems downright modest today. After beginning with a Clinton-era surplus of $128 billion in fiscal year 2001, the Bush administration racked up deficits of $158 billion in 2002, $378 billion in 2003, $413 billion in 2004, $318 billion in 2005, $248 billion in 2006, $162 billion in 2007, and $410 billion in 2008.

The current administration would kill to have such small numbers. President Barack Obama is unveiling his budget this week, and, in addition to the inherited Bush deficit, he’s adding his own spending at an astonishing pace, projecting annual deficits well beyond $1 trillion in the near future, and, in the rosiest possible scenario, a $533 billion deficit in fiscal year 2013, the last year of Obama’s first term.

And what about the national debt? It increased from $5 trillion to $10 trillion in the Bush years, leading to dramatically higher interest costs. “We pay in interest four times more than we spend on education and four times what it will cost to cover 10 million children with health insurance for five years,” Pelosi said in 2007. “That’s fiscal irresponsibility.”

Now, under Obama, the national debt — and the interest payments — will increase at a far faster rate than during the Bush years.

“We thought the Bush deficits were big at the time,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, told me this week as he prepared to attend Obama’s Fiscal Responsibility Summit. “But this is going to make the previous administration look like rank amateurs. We could be adding multiple trillions to the national debt in the first year.”

At some point last week, the sheer velocity of Obama’s spending proposals began to overwhelm even experienced Washington hands. In the span of four days, we saw the signing of the $787 billion stimulus bill, the rollout of a $275 billion housing proposal, discussion of Congress’s remaining appropriations bills (about $400 billion) and word of a vaguely-defined financial stabilization plan that could ultimately cost $2 trillion. When representatives of GM and Chrysler said they might need $21 billion more to survive, it seemed like small beer.

The numbers are so dizzying that McConnell and his fellow Republicans are trying to “connect the dots” — that is, to explain to the public how all of those discrete spending initiatives add up to a previously unthinkable total. Obama’s current spending proposals, Republicans point out, will cost more than the United States spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the general war on terror and Hurricane Katrina in the last seven years. And that’s before you throw in the $2 trillion fiscal stabilization plan.

“This is big government, man,” McConnell exclaimed, his matter-of-fact manner giving way to sheer amazement. “It makes previous attempts at big government pale in comparison — they’re going to go beyond the New Deal and the Great Society by far.”

The new spending guarantees that the problems that so disturbed Pelosi and Reid just a couple of years ago — high interest payments and an increasing number of foreign debt-holders — will get worse. Yet so far, the Democratic leaders have refrained from using words like unpatriotic, irresponsible and dangerous to describe Obama’s budget.

Of course, they would never use such phrases to attack their own team. But the most important thing to understand about Pelosi and Reid is that while their rhetoric has changed, their substance hasn’t. Back in the Bush days, when they were denouncing Republican over-spending, they were also pushing the congressional leadership to spend more, not less, on just about everything. Now, returned to power, they’re doing the same thing. Only bigger.