WaPo: Three Pinocchios to WH over their defense of Obama spending

The obvious question that arises from Glenn Kessler’s fact check of the White House defense of spending under Barack Obama is … only three?  Political Math posted a delicious takedown of the claim that Obama has had the lowest rate of increase in spending since World War II that rated at least four Pinocchios for the Obama administration.  We can quibble on the extent of the lie, but Kessler provides a telling rebuke to the Obama spin:

Under these figures, and using this calculator, with 2008 as the base year and ending with 2012, the compound annual growth rate for Obama’s spending starting in 2009 is 5.2 percent.  Starting in 2010 — Nutting’s first year — and ending with 2013, the annual growth rate is 3.3 percent. (Nutting had calculated the result as 1.4 percent.)

Of course, it takes two to tangle — a president and a Congress. Obama’s numbers get even higher if you look at what he proposed to spend, using CBO’s estimates of his budgets:

2012: $3.71 trillion (versus $3.65 trillion enacted)

2011: $3.80 trillion (versus $3.60 trillion enacted)

2010: $3.67 trillion (versus $3.46 trillion enacted)

So in every case, the president wanted to spend more money than he ended up getting. Nutting suggests that federal spending flattened under Obama, but another way to look at it is that it flattened at a much higher, post-emergency level — thanks in part to the efforts of lawmakers, not Obama.

Furthermore, Kessler notes, the problem with comparing nominal rate increases is that it doesn’t take into account inflation and recessions.  The better way to compare spending is as a percentage of GDP.  In this case, too, the data shows that the Obama administration vastly expanded spending, starting in FY2009, the budget that Democrats kept away from George Bush and which Obama approved in March 2009.  In FY2008, federal spending equaled 20.8% of GDP.  In FY2009, it jumped to 25.4% — an increase of 22% in the rate of spending.  Where did Kessler come up with this data?  From the White House, where Jay Carney presumably has just as much access to it.

Kessler rips Carney and the White House for their spin:

In the post-war era, federal spending as a percentage of the U.S. economy has hovered around 20 percent, give or take a couple of percentage points. Under Obama, it has hit highs not seen since the end of World War II — completely the opposite of the point asserted by Carney.

No, but it’s exactly the point raised by Mitt Romney and Republicans in this election.

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