Barack Obama, Fiscal Conservative!

It might seem incredible that a president who has signed into law the largest federal spending in history, who has run up $5 trillion in new debt, who has submitted budgets that propose increasing the national debt to $22 trillion–budgets so extreme that not a single member of either the House or the Senate would vote for them, two years running–would somehow try to pass himself off as a fiscal conservative. But in politics, nothing, apparently, is impossible. This is the Obama campaign’s new theme: Obama as the green-eyeshade fiscal conservative.

It started with the ridiculous column by one Rex Nutting that I dismantled last night. Nutting claims that the “Obama spending binge never happened.” He says Obama has presided over the slowest growth in federal spending in modern history. Nutting achieves this counter-intuitive feat by simply omitting the first year of the Obama administration, FY 2009, when federal spending jumped $535 billion, a massive increase that has been sustained and built upon in the succeeding years. Nutting blithely attributes this FY 2009 spending to President Bush, even though 1) Obama was president for more than two-thirds of FY 2009; 2) the Democratic Congress never submitted a budget to President Bush for FY 2009, instead waiting until after Obama was inaugurated; 3) Obama signed the FY 2009 budget in March of that year; 4) Obama and the Democratic Congress spent more than $400 billion more in FY 2009 than Bush had requested in his budget proposal, which was submitted in early 2008; and 5) the stimulus bill, which ballooned FY 2009 spending, was, as we all know, enacted by the Democratic Congress and signed into law by President Obama. So for Nutting to use FY 2010 as the first year of the Obama administration for fiscal purposes was absurd. Moreover, it was largely because of the incredible explosion in federal spending in the first year of the Obama administration that the Tea Party movement sprang up, the GOP swept the 2010 elections, and federal spending has been relatively stable (although not declining, of course) since then.

Nutting’s article was the opening salvo. Next we had Jay Carney telling reporters aboard Air Force One that they shouldn’t fall for “Republican BS,” and suggesting that Obama is joining Jimmy Carter as one of the great fiscal conservatives of modern times:

And Obama himself claimed the mantle of fiscal conservative, telling a gullible audience that the Republicans left “wild debts” which he had to “clean up:”

You really can’t make this stuff up. Here are the federal budget deficits for the fiscal years 2005 through 2012 (2012 is estimated):

2005: 318,000,000,000
2006: 248,000,000,000
2007: 161,000,000,000

The Democrats took control of Congress in January 2007, one-third of the way through FY 2007.

2008: 459,000,000,000

Now we get to the Obama administration.

2009: 1,413,000,000,000
2010: 1,293,000,000,000
2011: 1,300,000,000,000
2012: 1,327,000,000,000

So Obama has presided over the four largest federal budget deficits in history, by an extremely wide margin. This is how he “cleaned up” the “wild debts” of his Republican predecessor. Of course, federal spending is not entirely, or even primarily, about the president: only Congress has the power to spend money. So this is one more fact that should not be forgotten: since the Democrats took control of Congress in 2007, federal spending has risen by more than $1 trillion, or 39%.

So the latest Obama campaign theme is nothing but a bad joke. Of course, that didn’t stop the reliable Democratic Party shills at PolitiFact from going aggressively to bat for it:

Obama has indeed presided over the slowest growth in spending of any president using raw dollars, and it was the second-slowest if you adjust for inflation. The math simultaneously backs up Nutting’s calculations and demolishes Romney’s contention.

PolitiFact arrived at this conclusion by swallowing the claim that President Bush is somehow responsible for the spending that Obama and the Democrats did in 2009 after he left office. This is doubly amusing because it contradicts the approach PolitiFact took when the shoe was on the other foot. In January 2010, PolitiFact purported to evaluate David Axelrod’s claim that “The day the Bush administration took over from President Bill Clinton in 2001, America enjoyed a $236 billion budget surplus….” PolitiFact found that claim to be true by referring to the FY 2000 budget:

When we asked for his sources, the White House pointed us to several documents. The first was a 2002 report from the Congressional Budget Office, an independent agency, that reported the 2000 federal budget ended with a $236 billion surplus. So Axelrod was right on that point.

So at that time, PolitiFact was clear: the Clinton administration’s responsibility ended in FY 2000, the year before President Bush took office. But, now that the partisan position is reversed, PolitiFact says the opposite. Obama isn’t responsible for anything until he had been in office for eight-plus months, even though, in that time, he had signed nine spending bills plus the stimulus. Poor George W. Bush! He is, according to PolitiFact, the only president in American history (other than FDR) to be responsible for nine fiscal years!

Of course, PolitiFact is a Democratic Party operation that doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. Nor does the Obama campaign’s latest effort to distract attention from Obama’s record of failure.

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