President Obama has made several appearances on comedy shows since his election to the nation’s highest office. So, last week, he tried a little stand up of his own. He claimed that during his Presidency federal spending has risen at the lowest rate since the Eisenhower Administration. The punch line is that Obama is, therefore, a fiscal conservative. Given our increasing national debt, the gag was not that funny, but the guy is, after all, a novice.
Not getting the joke, a lot of media outlets across the country tried debunking the claim. It doesn’t seem to be that hard to do. But now Obama is also taking himself seriously. He’s making the punch line an arrow in his re-election quiver. If he is believed, the joke is definitely on us.
Claiming that the year-to-year increase in spending is not that great is a great diversion if it works. It’s like bragging that you’ve slowed the Titanic’s sink rate after slamming into the iceberg, which is nothing to brag about at all. The boat is still on the seabed. Today, the question is not the rate of federal spending increase. It’s why, with ballooning debt and trillions in annual deficits, spending is increasing at all. Allowing Obama to keep people focused on the former is letting him off the hook for his lack of fiscal stewardship.
One of the most common metrics used to put annual federal spending in context is as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP). Federal spending in the last year of Eisenhower’s Presidency decreased as a percentage of GDP by almost 10% from the first year. It began at 20.4% and closed at 18.4%. By contrast, the federal spending rate in each year of Obama’s Presidency has exceeded 24%, the highest level since 1946 in the aftermath of WWII.
Another common federal spending metric is comparing the national debt to GDP. This year, the rising national debt surpassed the total value of all goods and services produced in the United States. The last time federal spending exceeded GDP was, no surprise, in 1946 when the debt was a demure $270 billion.
Currently, the federal debt is almost $15.75 trillion. When Obama took office, that figure was $10.626 trillion or a 48% increase in forty months. In fact, the debt increased more in Obama first thirty-eight months in office than it did during his predecessor’s eight-year presidency.
As the budget Obama sent to Congress earlier this year attests, the end is nowhere in sight. The President’s budget projects the debt at $16.3 trillion in 2012 and $17.5 trillion in 2013. If his projections hold, it will exceed $20 trillion in 2016, the final year of an Obama second term. That represents a total debt increase of 87% during eight years of an Obama presidency.
In comparison, the federal debt during the eight Eisenhower years grew by a paltry 6.5%. Put another way, the rate of national debt expansion under eight years of Obama would be almost 15 times greater than it was under Eisenhower.
One can only imagine what the spending level would be today without a Republican-controlled House. Or how much future federal expenditures like Obamacare will really add to the spending total.
So, Mr. President, it seems like the joke is on you. Too bad it’s not really a laughing matter.
See you on the left-side.