Charts of the Day

posted at 12:00 pm on July 26, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, The Atlantic’s James Fallows offered up a New York Times chart as the ur-graphic of all debt ceiling debates, purporting to show that the deficit problem belongs to George Bush and not Barack Obama.  Since then, it has made the rounds of the blogosphere and e-mail in an attempt to pin the lack of resolution to the debt-ceiling crisis on the GOP, an argument that is ultimately incoherent:

There are plenty of issues with this chart, but let’s start with the notion that the “Bush tax cuts” cost the static-analysis price listed here.  Absent those tax cuts, we would not have had the recovery from 2003-7, which generated a rather hefty increase in federal revenues; we’ll return to that in a moment.  The actual revenue listed in this chart was what static analysis of the recovery would have brought into federal coffers, which is one of the main problems with static analysis.  It also conflates tax cuts with federal spending, which only makes sense if one starts from the premise that the people owe their government all of their income less any that the government arbitrarily allows them to keep.

The chart then tries to claim that Obama’s spending increases over the next 8 years (projected) will amount to just $1.44 trillion — less than the annual deficit these days.  Oddly, it doesn’t mention that the last Republican annual budget passed in Congress (FY2007) only had a $160 billion deficit, which tends to interfere with the narrative Fallows and the Times wants to build here.

So who has been the big spender over the last decade?  Let’s take a look at charts that show actual federal outlays in time sequence, from Heritage.  I’ve used this one before, which shows inflation-adjusted spending and revenue over the last 50 years:

Note the slope of the increase from 2001-6, when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House.  The rate of spending increases goes up significantly in that period, which is one reason that fiscal conservatives largely abandoned the GOP in the 2006 midterm elections, allowing Democrats to take control again after 12 years.  However, look at the revenue from 2003 to 2007; the Bush tax cuts very obviously didn’t cut into Treasury revenue, but sparked economic growth that restored it to its highest level ever.

Now look at what happens after Democrats take control of Congress.  For the FY2008 budget, federal spending increased at a rate higher than that of the GOP budgets from FY2002-2007.  For FY2009, Democrats ended up playing keep-away from George Bush and passed continuing resolutions until Barack Obama took office and signed the omibus bill that increased spending at a mindblowing rate.

Some of this can be attributed to expansion of entitlement spending for an aging America, to be sure.  However, Democratic Congresses responded to that problem by boosting discretionary spending, both before and after Obama took office:

Again, the Republican Congresses under Bush certainly share blame here for their own rate of increase, but the Democrats took that increase and amped it up even further while entitlement spending climbed into the stratosphere.  The FY2011 budget compromise didn’t reverse that trend, either.  Clearly, Democrats have spent the last four years expanding federal spending, regulation, and deficits, while the New York Times and The Atlantic look for someone else to blame for the results.

Update: A few more points about the NYT chart come to mind. The war costs used by the Times appears to contain mainly costs that would have been incurred by the Department of Defense whether or not we went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq.  It also fails to note the bipartisan nature of the war in Afghanistan — and somehow fails to include the costs of both wars under Obama for the first two years.  Similarly, the chart correctly notes the first tranche of TARP under Bush, but skips the second tranche under Obama.  Also, the category of “2008 Stimulus and Other Changes” seems pretty suspect, since the 2008 stimulus was scored at $150 billion, or less than one-fifth of the $773 billion the Times claims.

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Paging bayam…

Del Dolemonte on July 26, 2011 at 12:05 PM

So many of us railed against Bush’s spending too. It’s not about Bush any more.

It’s about government growth, no matter who’s in charge. Right now, Obama’s sporting the pom poms for big government.

Our answer is still no.

beatcanvas on July 26, 2011 at 12:06 PM

All the news that’s fit to print even if we have to make it up and put in pretty charts!

SouthernGent on July 26, 2011 at 12:07 PM

The Won could have pulled out of the wars anytime he wanted to. He would have had a very happy base.

Cindy Munford on July 26, 2011 at 12:10 PM

I don’t think Bayam is going to like this post.

Vashta.Nerada on July 26, 2011 at 12:11 PM

If you turn the chart upside town it spells out “Dubya is Satan”.

Bishop on July 26, 2011 at 12:11 PM

The Won could have pulled out of the wars anytime he wanted to. He would have had a very happy base.

Cindy Munford on July 26, 2011 at 12:10 PM

Yep. Instead he invaded Libya or something.

MeatHeadinCA on July 26, 2011 at 12:12 PM

Looks like on of those housing bubble charts… Starts about the same time… gets real ugly about the same time… It must be due to the nasty bankers and those predatory loans…/removes foil dunce hat
-

RalphyBoy on July 26, 2011 at 12:13 PM

Two thirds of the federal budget is on autopilot and not subject to congressional debate.

Anyone see a slight problem with this?

Vashta.Nerada on July 26, 2011 at 12:13 PM

If you turn the chart upside town it spells out “Dubya is Satan”.

Bishop on July 26, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Upside town?

Heh…sorry, I’m still giggling over your poker analogy on the 43% thread.

fossten on July 26, 2011 at 12:14 PM

Where the hell is the NYT getting those numbers for non-defense discretionary spending? Does anyone believe that Obama would spend less than a third on more general governent in 12 years than Bush did in 8 years? What about the 40% increase in EPA, Education, Justice, Energy Departments, etc? What about the takeover of student loans? The creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau?

That chart does not pass the laugh test.

rockmom on July 26, 2011 at 12:15 PM

Way Way off thread: Congressman Tigger (Wu) is resigning.

Cindy Munford on July 26, 2011 at 12:15 PM

OT: Wu is resigning according to John Scott…

OmahaConservative on July 26, 2011 at 12:15 PM

Cindy Munford on July 26, 2011 at 12:15 PM

Lolz…

OmahaConservative on July 26, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Any other questions or comments from the liberals?

capejasmine on July 26, 2011 at 12:16 PM

Vashta.Nerada on July 26, 2011 at 12:11 PM

He/She will be fine, I think he/she pretty much sees what he/she wants anyway.

Cindy Munford on July 26, 2011 at 12:17 PM

Once again, it should be pointed out to Democrats that people keeping their money (ie, tax relief) is not “government spending.”

Government spending is spending. The government does not own all money an doles out a percentage to the taxpayer.

Taxpayers pay a percentage of the money that belongs to them to the government.

Government not receiving the revenue it wants for something it enacted without having the money to pay for it is not the fault of the taxpayer.

Good Lt on July 26, 2011 at 12:18 PM

This must be the kind of math and logic the NYT has used to keep itself so financially successful.

SlaveDog on July 26, 2011 at 12:19 PM

I don’t think Bayam is going to like this post.

Vashta.Nerada on July 26, 2011 at 12:11 PM

That, or they’re desperately working on spin, and finding links from DK, and Huff po with which to fight back with. In vane I might add.

capejasmine on July 26, 2011 at 12:19 PM

fossten on July 26, 2011 at 12:14 PM

I’ll cut you for that.

Bishop on July 26, 2011 at 12:19 PM

A few quibbles with that POS chart:

- That “tax cut cost” appears to be the result of a very static analysis that establishes 18% of GDP as the floor for government revenues (in fact, I think it’s closer to assuming the 20% GDP rate of 2000 would continue). It more-correctly is correcting the “outlier” of 1997-2000 caused by…wait for it…wait for it…cuts in the capital gains tax rate. I’ll wipe that off the top to knock the Bush cost to $4.26 trillion.

- Obama voted for TARP and the major portions of the 2008 stimulus, so half those costs are on his head. That knocks the Bush total down to $3.76 trillion and Obama’s up to $1.94 trillion.

- The biggest part is the time frame – Bush ran up those deficits in 8 years, while Obama has had a bit over 2 from inauguration (which is a fair assessment since he was the one who ultimately signed off on the bulk of the FY2009 expenditures). So, in the course of a bit over a quarter of the time, Obama rang up over half the debt.

Steve Eggleston on July 26, 2011 at 12:19 PM

The Times grossly understates the Obama “Health Reform and Entitlement Changes” by a factor of 10-15 by ignoring the Obamacare monster.

There is no point in reading the Times any further.

landlines on July 26, 2011 at 12:20 PM

I’d be interested in seeing a chart that shows the Bush years broken down to republican controlled congress v. democratic controlled congress. The same for Obama, then combine the two. That will be interesting.. IMHO

theblacksheepwasright on July 26, 2011 at 12:20 PM

So many of us railed against Bush’s spending too. It’s not about Bush any more.

It’s about government growth, no matter who’s in charge. Right now, Obama’s sporting the pom poms for big government.

Our answer is still no.

beatcanvas on July 26, 2011 at 12:06 PM

If I already awarded the Comment of the Day™, I was mistaken when I did so.

Steve Eggleston on July 26, 2011 at 12:20 PM

I don’t think Bayam is going to like this post.

Vashta.Nerada on July 26, 2011 at 12:11 PM

That, or they’re desperately working on spin, and finding links from DK, and Huff po with which to fight back with. In vane I might add.

capejasmine on July 26, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Nah, she’s flailing around right now on the CNN thread.

Del Dolemonte on July 26, 2011 at 12:21 PM

That chart does not pass the laugh test.

rockmom on July 26, 2011 at 12:15 PM

It also laughably puts the cost of socialized medicine at $152 billion, off by a factor of at least 20.

Vashta.Nerada on July 26, 2011 at 12:21 PM

Any chart that lists tax cuts as a spending item is bunk (with the exception of some of Obama’s tax credits, which are in fact redistributionist spending and not actually tax cuts at all)

There’s revenue on one side and spending on the other. If they want to show tax cuts as a reduction in revenue, that would be an improvement, but then there’s the static analysis trap.

forest on July 26, 2011 at 12:24 PM

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

/MSM, Liberals, Democrats, and Obama himself.

crazy_legs on July 26, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Dems aren’t good at charts either.

faraway on July 26, 2011 at 12:32 PM

Hey, those wars sure look expensive on Bush’s side of the chart. Good thing Obama ended them like he said he would and hasn’t gotten us involved in any new conflicts.

O-bah-ma! O-bah-ma! O-bah-ma!

forest on July 26, 2011 at 12:33 PM

Odd, the NYT doesn’t compare revenues or employment figures.

Speakup on July 26, 2011 at 12:36 PM

It also conflates tax cuts with federal spending, which only makes sense if one starts from the premise that the people owe their government all of their income less any that the government arbitrarily allows them to keep.

Liberal mindset to a T.

gwelf on July 26, 2011 at 12:37 PM

Does it make anyone else sick to their stomach to see that Poseur, that Soros puppet in the White House? Can not wait until he’s gone!

The democrats and their media arm, the LSM, lie lie lie. No one except those who want to, believe a word they print or say.

CCRWM on July 26, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Odd, the NYT doesn’t compare revenues or employment figures.

Speakup on July 26, 2011 at 12:36 PM

Don’t they usually insist that the deficit is mostly a revenue problem? Very odd indeed that they would overlook those stats.

forest on July 26, 2011 at 12:44 PM

Obama has spent more in 18 months than Bush did in 8yrs

He came in right away and spent nearly $1 Trillion on the Stimilus, another Trillion on Obamacare

jp on July 26, 2011 at 12:45 PM

Its amazing the NY Times can get away with that chart, which is being blasted all over the internet today

jp on July 26, 2011 at 12:48 PM

W was a go along to get along guy and he wanted the funding for the wars to continue. He was not a conservative.

tim c on July 26, 2011 at 12:48 PM

There are plenty of issues with this chart

Yes, the most obvious issue is figures don’t lie but liars do figure.

rukiddingme on July 26, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Outstanding post. Thanks.

MTF on July 26, 2011 at 12:55 PM

CCRWM on July 26, 2011 at 12:43 PM

Speaking of Soros

http://news.yahoo.com/soros-return-outsiders-hedge-fund-money-report-115741662.html

Cindy Munford on July 26, 2011 at 12:57 PM

The wars are a small fraction of spending, and acting like that spending wasn’t necessary is more Static Analysis…of the dangerous variety.

Bush did not spend an extra 1.5 Trillion on “Wars and Defense” during his 8yrs. NYT is including 8yrs worth of total Defense spending, most of it was in place as regular part of budget in 2000.

jp on July 26, 2011 at 12:58 PM

A quick trip to usgovernmentspending.com and usgovernmentrevenue.com confirmed the following illustration of the USG spending and revenue mess. At present total tax revenue of $2.2 trillion exactly equals what the Bureau of Economic Analysis calls personal current transfer receipts (read entitlements) of $2.2 trillion. This means that – ignoring the fungibility issue – 100% of other government spending, including national defense, discretionary spending and even interest payments on existing debt, must be obtained from the issuance of NEW U.S. Treasury debt.

And surveys indicate that the U.S. public wants USG spending reduced… but is not prepared to accept “reforms” in the consequential entitlement programs. Square that circle, please. There is no other conclusion than that things will have to get a whole lot worse before dawn will break. Oh, and from here on out any reductions in the total government spending (taxes + new debt) will, since G in C+I+G+(net trade)=GDP, will cause a short-term fall in GDP. Can the public absorb the need for entitlement “reform” AND short-term GDP decline to clear unproductive debt and malinvestment for long term growth at the same time? Sit back and enjoy the decline!

boqueronman on July 26, 2011 at 12:58 PM

Good Lt on July 26, 2011 at 12:18 PM

Well, reducing marginal tax rates definitely isn’t government spending, but tax credits and deductions are really a way that government spends money to get you to do something before the money is even counted as revenue.

Count to 10 on July 26, 2011 at 1:01 PM

Looking at that chart, what numbers are they using for the first category, wars and defense? The total increase over an eight year period? After Clinton famously depleted the military? And, are they also including the Democrat’s stimulus spending in the last category?

Count to 10 on July 26, 2011 at 1:06 PM

Looking at that chart, what numbers are they using for the first category, wars and defense? The total increase over an eight year period? After Clinton famously depleted the military? And, are they also including the Democrat’s stimulus spending in the last category?

Count to 10 on July 26, 2011 at 1:06 PM

They are probably doing what Ron Paul does on this same issue, lie and spin the numbers and make the include all Defense spending, including salaries and benefits for everyone already in the military.

example: http://www.factcheck.org/2008/02/wrong-paul/

Paul says that the U.S. spends $1 trillion per year to maintain a foreign empire and suggests that we could save that amount by cutting foreign spending. Paul gets that figure by including a lot of domestic programs that he isn’t planning to cut, like the U.S. Border Patrol and interest payments on the debt.

more at the link

jp on July 26, 2011 at 1:12 PM

CCRWM on July 26, 2011 at 12:43 PM
Speaking of Soros
http://news.yahoo.com/soros-return-outsiders-hedge-fund-money-report-115741662.html

Cindy Munford on July 26, 2011 at 12:57 PM

So now Soros is returning money so that he can dump patriotic investors so that they dont object to his plan to short the dollar? Could this guy be any more evil! Now that we know what he is planning to do to the dollar, essentially what he did to the pound, can we not stop him? Don’t look to the gov’t …he owns it.

CCRWM on July 26, 2011 at 1:12 PM

What about the “Cost” of all the “Green” related Tax Deductions?

jp on July 26, 2011 at 1:13 PM

Why doesn’t the Earned Income Tax Credit show up on the President George W. Bush chart under spending? How about the giveaway to greedy unions whereby union dues are deductible from income? Where’s that mortgage interest deduction?

slickwillie2001 on July 26, 2011 at 1:14 PM

Speaking of Soros

http://news.yahoo.com/soros-return-outsiders-hedge-fund-money-report-115741662.html

Cindy Munford on July 26, 2011 at 12:57 PM

I noticed this morning that there was a terrible stink blowing down from the Northeast. This explains it.

slickwillie2001 on July 26, 2011 at 1:17 PM

Wow, we haven’t spent a penny on Iraq or Afghanistan since 2008.

I also love how tax cuts cost us money, as if they’re being nice enough to let us keep money we’ve earned.

John Deaux on July 26, 2011 at 1:19 PM

Absolutely intriguing that the chart credits Bush with spending $224 billion of TARP, yet somehow fails to credit Obama with spending the remaining $450+ billion of it (and nearly half of that on political/corporatist adventures that had nothing to do with toxic asset relief at all). Hmm.

Blacklake on July 26, 2011 at 1:27 PM

Also, is a mere $152 billion attributed to Obama for 2009-2017 for “Health Reform and Entitlement Changes” some kind of joke people other than Paul Krugman have grouble getting?

Blacklake on July 26, 2011 at 1:31 PM

Ed,

No one in his right mind will trust NYT when it comes to numbers, especially if it involves addition or subtration.

That NYT Chart is grossly erroneous!

TheAlamos

TheAlamos on July 26, 2011 at 1:35 PM

You do not need a balanced budget amendment to balance the budget. Besides it will take years to approve the amendment.

Therefore, I have wondered why no one talks of a balanced budget for the upcoming fiscal year. They only talk of long term savings over 10 year periods. Looking at the CBO numbers for 2010 I understand why, large cuts would be required to both mandatory and discretionary spending to balance the budget.

2010 Revenues was $2,162 billion. Discretionary spending was $1,349 billion. Mandatory spending was $2,094, which is almost as much as the revenues.

We need serious politicians to balance the budget now, not political theater.

bigtallgoo on July 26, 2011 at 1:40 PM

No one in his right mind will trust NYT when it comes to numbers, especially if it involves addition or subtration.

That NYT Chart is grossly erroneous!

TheAlamos

TheAlamos on July 26, 2011 at 1:35 PM

Sad to say, as Ed noted this “chart” has gone viral on the blogosphere and in e-mails, especially on the Left.

Heck, a longtime Leftist friend of mine just proudly posted a link to it on his Facebook page.

And he has multiple university degrees.

Plenty of people are believing it. Scary, isn’t it?

Del Dolemonte on July 26, 2011 at 1:47 PM

No. THIS is the chart that needs to go viral:

http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/obama-deficit-2011.jpg

So, send it around!

UnderstandingisPower on July 26, 2011 at 1:58 PM

Plenty of people are believing it. Scary, isn’t it?

Del Dolemonte on July 26, 2011 at 1:47 PM

Yes it sure is.

dogsoldier on July 26, 2011 at 1:58 PM

Also, I note that apparently Obama spent nothing on Iraq or Afghanistan. Nor did he go to war in Libya.

How is that?

UnderstandingisPower on July 26, 2011 at 1:59 PM

I have to disagree with your analysis of the revenue curve. You can see a huge drop in revenue immediately after the tax cuts. It’s the biggest drop on the entire graph, including bad recessions in the 70′s and early 80′s. Part of that is the preceeding .com bubble, but it is still a big drop.

It recovers about 2007 at the height of the housing bubble, and then crashes again. It’s very difficult to argue that the lower tax levels are not contributing to he deficit, especially given how weak the 2003-2007 recovery was.

You’re also blaming Obama for FY 2009 spike, which was a Bush fiscal year, not an Obama year.

Hal_10000 on July 26, 2011 at 2:02 PM

The bigger problems with the NYT graph is that it blames Bush entirely for policies Obama now owns — the war and he tax cuts. And it leaves off the biggest contributor to he deficit: the downturn in the economy.

Hal_10000 on July 26, 2011 at 2:06 PM

This chart would be hilarious if there weren’t scads of yahoos actually willing to believe it.

Even if you assume that tax cuts “cost” what the NYT says they do, notice that President Obama’s decision to extend all Bush tax rates for 2 years, and the vast majority of them for the rest of his term, “cost” him nothing. They’re “Bush policies” so they appear on GWB’s chart but not President Obama’s, regardless of any policy decisions the latter makes.

Hilarious.

Chuckles3 on July 26, 2011 at 2:14 PM

You’re also blaming Obama for FY 2009 spike, which was a Bush fiscal year, not an Obama year.

Hal_10000 on July 26, 2011 at 2:02 PM

Er, no. Budgets belong to Congresses, not Presidents, strictly speaking; FY2008 and FY2009 belong to Democratic Congresses. Bush signed the FY2008 budget but not, as I explained in my post, the FY2009 budget. The Democratic Congress refused to pass one until Obama had taken office, and then passed the omnibus spending bill in March that created the spending spike.

Also, the “huge drop in revenue” started in 2001 with the 2000-1 recession followed by the economic damage from the 9/11 attacks. That was why Bush pushed for the tax cuts, which didn’t even take effect on revenue until 2002.

Ed Morrissey on July 26, 2011 at 2:22 PM

the chart is very misleading.

We are now in 3 conflicts, but Obama shows a savings for defense?

Huge difference between Bush tax cut numbers and stimulus tax cut. Are not some of the Bush tax cuts still going on that would not be under the stimulus tax cuts. If not, then the stimulus tax cuts did not work very well.

bej on July 26, 2011 at 2:22 PM

You’re also blaming Obama for FY 2009 spike, which was a Bush fiscal year, not an Obama year.

Hal_10000 on July 26, 2011 at 2:02 PM

Shallow Hal, it’s time for an upgrade. The dems owned congress from 2007 on. Not that Bush was a conservative or anything. He just wasn’t the crazed marxist spendthrift Failbama Nero is and who put us in debt to the tune of 14T-rillion.

dogsoldier on July 26, 2011 at 2:25 PM

Er, no. Budgets belong to Congresses, not Presidents, strictly speaking; FY2008 and FY2009 belong to Democratic Congresses. Bush signed the FY2008 budget but not, as I explained in my post, the FY2009 budget. The Democratic Congress refused to pass one until Obama had taken office, and then passed the omnibus spending bill in March that created the spending spike.

I agree partially. But a large contributor of debt to FY 2009 was TARP, which Bush supported.

Hal_10000 on July 26, 2011 at 2:29 PM

The other big thing he graph leaves out is the economic downturn, which is THE driver of the deficit. Who you blame for that, I leave up to you. In my mind, there may be two or three people in Washington who are blameless.

Hal_10000 on July 26, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Didn’t Obama vote for the FY2009 budget? If so, was that Bush’s fault too?

drewwerd on July 26, 2011 at 3:57 PM

But a large contributor of debt to FY 2009 was TARP, which Bush supported.

Hal_10000 on July 26, 2011 at 2:29 PM

And which senator obama voted for. Do you really think he owns none of the responsibility?

runawayyyy on July 26, 2011 at 4:25 PM

But a large contributor of debt to FY 2009 was TARP, which Bush supported.

Hal_10000 on July 26, 2011 at 2:29 PM

And which senator obama voted for. Do you really think he owns none of the responsibility?

runawayyyy on July 26, 2011 at 4:25 PM

Hal_9999 was much funnier.

Del Dolemonte on July 26, 2011 at 4:38 PM

And which senator obama voted for. Do you really think he owns none of the responsibility?

Not at all. In fact, I think he graph is badly flawed by dividing it into “Bush” and “Obama” columns. Let’s punt on whether he taxes increased the deficit … Obama had two years to get rid of them and didn’t. He has also continued the wars. Why doesn’t that spending go into his column, too?

Put them into one graph and we can see which policies are driving the debt. But dividing it up this way is a bit arbitrary. Obama’s been President for 2.5 years, long enough to undo all of Bush’s spending if he’d really wanted to.

Hal_10000 on July 26, 2011 at 6:09 PM

Put them into one graph and we can see which policies are driving the debt.

I did … twice.

Ed Morrissey on July 26, 2011 at 7:29 PM

look at the revenue from 2003 to 2007; the Bush tax cuts very obviously didn’t cut into Treasury revenue, but sparked economic growth that restored it to its highest level ever.

Ed, did it ever occur to you that boosting federal spending by almost 40% without any matching new revenue pumped an incredible amount of debt-powered fuel into the economy for growth? Why are you so certain that tax cuts were even very consequential? It’s pure speculation that most economists wouldn’t find credible, esp. when you add in other variables, such as this country’s unprecedented financial services – asset bubble and its contribution to the economy. Even a mild recession would have proven that it was never sustainable. Debt-fueled growth can’t last forever.

It’s also worth noting that in 2008 the Congress was somewhat concerned with spending resolutions to prevent a full-blow depression. It wasn’t about funding the NEA.

bayam on July 27, 2011 at 12:02 AM