You Can’t Beat The Math On Spending

Forbes columnist Rex Nutting unleashed a maelstrom of nail-biting and “left-wing media conspiracy” claims when he pointed out that President Obama has increased federal spending at the lowest rate in 60 years. Conservatives rushed to find “flaws” in the analysis, liberals pointed out that the reduction in spending pace has harmed the recovery. In fact, typing in the columnist’s name and “Forbes” gets one dozens, if not hundreds of results before the column itself is shown.

Just as when Obama was elected, and all of this “historical spending binge” nonsense started, conservatives have left their calculators at the door, checked their memories with the coat-girl, and changed the subject. “Bush spent all that money, which is why I never liked him…” How many times have we heard that line, even as the GOP Members of Congress who voted for all of Bush’s programs, and (literally, since Congress has the power of the purse) spent all those trillions, continue to be elected and point fingers.

Now, although President Obama’s spending curve after 2009 has been moderate, we hear the argument changed…the problem, they say now, is the new benchmark for spending he “established”. OK…let’s concede the point for the sake of argument, and forget that the Great Recession sapped the United States of several hundred billion in tax revenues that year. Handicapped as they are, I am willing to give today’s conservatives a break. Over our thirty year orgy of tax and program cutting at the federal level, we have heard over and over that the Democrats are the big spenders. This is an easy thing to resolve…a simple point that lends itself to crisp mathematical analysis…and don’t worry sports-fans, there is no calculus in this post.

For your consideration, here are the increases over the previous year by each president since Saint Ronny the Gipper. For consistency, I have set the first year of the term as the year of inauguration, even though the first budget of any president is not in effect until October.

Ronald Reagan

  • 1981 +14.77%
  • 1982 +9.95%
  • 1983 +8.40%
  • 1984 +5.38%
  • 1985 +11.1%
  • 1986 +4.65%
  • 1987 +1.38%
  • 1988 +6.02%

Tax and Spend Democrat Jimmy Carter averaged $490.733 billion per year in federal spending. Saint Ronny the Gipper, aka conservative icon Ronald Reagan spent $886.164 billion per year. Morning in America indeed; and I thought we were talking about conservative restraint. Actually, we were talking about disastrous new benchmarks for federal spending. After all, you conservatives know what a disaster America was in Reagan’s second term…right?

George H.W. Bush

  • 1989 +7.45%
  • 1990 +9.55%
  • 1991 +5.68%
  • 1992 +4.33%

W.’s father was closer to the conservative ideal, apparently, than Mr. Reagan. He averaged $1.275 trillion per year for his term. Where Mr. Reagan spent just over 80% more per year than Mr. Carter…80% more friends, the elder Mr. Bush restrained himself to a modest 44% increase. Now we are turning into fiscal conservatives.

William Clinton

  • 1993 +2.02%
  • 1994 +3.72%
  • 1995 +3.69%
  • 1996 +2.95%
  • 1997 +2.60%
  • 1998 +3.20%
  • 1999 +2.99%
  • 2000 +5.12%

It took Bill Clinton 8 budgets and a Republican Congress before he spent like the Democrat of conservative fairy tails. Bubba’s $1.586 trillion per year represents an increase over H.W. Bush of 24% per year. Ask yourself, would Fox News report the increase without giving their viewers the benefit of Bush/Reagan context? Why yes, yes they would. And they would also miss the tax increase that balanced the budget (passed in the 1993 Budget Act by Democrats and before Newt’s Contract With America), at the very same time as the job market boomed at its highest rate since World War II.

George W. Bush

  • 2001 +4.13%
  • 2002 +7.95%
  • 2003 +7.41%
  • 2004 +6.15%
  • 2005 +7.81%
  • 2006 +7.41%
  • 2007 +2.77%
  • 2008 +9.30%

George W. managed to average a 7% increase in federal spending every year. And notice 2007…that was the year after the Democrats retook Congress, but its probably just a coincidence. Cheney’s co-President managed to spend 51% more per year than Bill Clinton, cashing out $2.395 trillion in annual federal outlays. And where Bill’s budgets paid down the deficit and built the job market, Bush missed both targets badly. But missing targets is something he did with regularity.

Barack Obama

  • 2009 +17.94%
  • 2010 -1.75%
  • 2011 +4.25%
  • 2012 +5.34%

Make no mistake, $3.593 trillion is a lot of cheddar, but President Obama has increased spending by less than President Bush did, posting an increase of 49%. That of course includes one major program of fiscal stimulus that isn’t scheduled to be repeated (even though it should be). We can and will go around and around on spending over the next several months, as we should. But the real numbers in the debate are what matters, not the Rovian bull-shit that seems to be the only argument conservative “thinkers” can muster these days.  Based on the evidence, why would going back to a Republican president be anything like fiscal conservatism?


The Rational Middle is listening…

5 thoughts on “You Can’t Beat The Math On Spending

  1. So Mr. Jan, can we take from your comments that Mr. Reagan is not responsible for the vast military build-up that his proponents claim was intentionally done to bankrupt the Soviet Union? Are you crediting the Democrats in the House for restoring American military greatness and delivering the coup de gras to international communism? Have you considered the consequences of your vapid and ham-handed rhetorical soup? This article refers to spending increases…not taxation. It is not about deficits. Reagan’s budgets (and they are his budgets given the level of political capital he enjoyed, and his willingness to use the veto pen) spent money hand over fist, and not on social programs. Under President Reagan, military spending formed the bulk of his spending surge. His first budget increased spending on defense by 17.55%, #2 by 17.65% over that, #3 by a further 13.27%. By the end of his term, America was spending 117% more on defense than we were in Carter’s last budget.

    No liberal lies here sir; just the facts that even someone like you could find here, in budget filings prepared by George W. Bush. But we will accept your point about Democrats being responsible for all that spending, if you accept the consequence of your point; that it was Democrats who made America stronger, and not Reagan. You can’t have it both ways. Are you willing to be honest and stick to your guns, or are you the intellectually limited coward that your disgraceful rant about liberals and their “moral compass” suggests? My article expressed the facts of the budget history of the last three decades, and were sourced from the origin. You attack the integrity of an entire political philosophy and its proponents without even attempting to counter the quantitative arguments made in the article. The Rational Middle welcomes all debates, but if all you have are lame ad hominem attacks, then perhaps you should stick to watching Fox and counting on your fingers.

  2. Let’s not forget that liberals, because they have absolutely NO moral compass, decided to do to Reagan what they’d done to other republican presidents more than once. In fact, I believe they tried it more than once with Reagan but he didn’t fall for it the second time. The left promised (in this case, the house- where the spending bills are born) Reagan that they would indeed cut spending IF Reagan (you can put other republican names here too.) raised taxes. Remember, he dropped the federal income tax brackets down, HUGE! The top tier came down from over 70% to around a bit less than 30%. The left then lied and told him that if he’d raise taxes, they’d go along with spending cuts. So when Reagan did raise some other taxes here and there (only a few but not the income tax), they went back on their word and decided to NOT ONLY continue to spend but upped spending it as well. Then they pointed their fingers at him, as they always do when they pull these shenanigans, and claimed that he 1. raised taxes AND spent more when it was the left that demanded BOTH. There is nothing to debate here. If democrats were honest, they’d admit to this but they aren’t and they never will be and so they’ll continue to spread their B.S! So it’s not as simple or as black and white as it seems. It never is when there is a liberal behind the scene.

  3. Lol..,must be why the GOP is against basic stuff like education and reading…can’t have the American people actual understanding the long history of GOP incompetence and inaccurate justifications

  4. Thanks for coming into the RM Hugh. While I appreciate subtle sarcasm, I can’t state your version of the obvious because it is false. Whether you use inflation-adjusted dollars or spending as a percentage of GDP, both Reagan and FDR spent more money than we didn’t have than Obama. Although, I suppose you could ignore both Economics 100 and Finance 101 and only use today’s dollars to make a comparison, in which case (and in that fantasy world), our current President would definitely take the cake. President Obama is not the \One\, or \Dear Leader\, or anything else of the sort, and The Rational Middle is not a site that cares very much for blind allegiances to either individuals or party. The numbers are the numbers, and they were presented without qualification as they exist.

  5. While i am impressed that you are intelligent enough to choose a data set that proves Obama is the One, you might want to add a disclaimer that simply states the obvious: Obama is spending more money that we don’t have than any other president in history.

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