Nobody From Nowhere (@i8dc)

Occasional Common Sense

Has there been an “Obama spending binge”?

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Marketwatch’s Rex Nutting posted an article yesterday showing that government spending has grown at a lower rate under President Obama than it did under any President since at least Jimmy Carter. Here are Nutting’s charts, showing this in two ways:

There are a couple of problems here, both of which tend to artificially help the point Nutter’s arguing. First, he’s including FY2012 and FY2013 in his calculations for Obama, though they haven’t yet happened. If Obama’s numbers are calculated only through FY2011, spending growth under him is 3.3% per year (using as a baseline FY09 less $140B of stimulus spending), not 1.4%.  Secondly, the second graph above should be on a logarithmic scale, which would show spending growth during the Bush administration more realistically.

Incidentally, the graph above also rather conveniently starts with Reagan’s first term, during which spending growth increased faster than at any time since. But look what happens when prior administrations are included (annualized data:

Nominal spending growth under Reagan was actually much lower than under the prior two administrations. But inflation was very high through much of the 1970s, so these numbers don’t accurately reflect spending increases.  Here are the real increases per year, using the GDP deflator to account for inflation.

There. Now the only thing missing is GDP or population growth. Government spending should be expected to increase as the population increases. Removing variations in population growth per year:

Now we have comparable numbers, having normalized for population growth and inflation. So, has there been an “Obama spending binge”?

Not at all. Real spending growth under Obama is lower than it was under any president in the last 50 years, except Bill Clinton.

Source: 2012 Economic Report of the President.

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Written by David Clayton

May 23, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Posted in Debunkery, Punditry

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