The Truth About Who’s Responsible For The Explosion In Government Spending

Henry Blodget | Sep. 2, 2012, 7:09 AM
Source: Business Insider

The economy is the biggest issue in this year’s election.

And when you mention anything about the growth in federal government spending that has led to the US’s huge debt, deficit, and debt-ceiling problem, fans of both political teams immediately begin shouting at each other.

Republicans howl that the whole problem is the fault of President Obama, the “community organizer” who exploded federal government spending the moment he took office.

Democrats, meanwhile, blame massive increase in federal government spending during the “MBA president” Bush years and the triumphant assertions by Republicans during those years that “deficits don’t matter.”

So, what’s the truth?

They’re both right. And wrong.

Federal government spending has risen under President Obama, mostly because of the $800 billion stimulus designed to offset the massive recession he inherited from President Bush. But the increase in federal spending under Obama so far is dwarfed by the colossal increase under President Bush.

Don’t believe it?

Let’s go to the chart.

Here’s Federal Expenditures from 2000-2012 from the St. Louis Fed:

As you can see, from 2000 to 2008, under President Bush, Federal spending rose by $1.3 trillion, from ~$1.9 trillion a year to $3.2 trillion a year.

From 2009 to 2012, meanwhile, under President Obama, federal spending has risen by $600 billion, from $3.2 trillion a year to $3.8 trillion a year.

In other words, federal government spending under President Bush increased 2X as much as it has under President Obama.

Now, Republicans will correctly point out that Obama has been in office less than half as long as Bush. If Obama stayed in office for another four years, and the rate of spending growth continued on exactly the same pace, the increase in federal spending under Obama would come close to the increase under Bush. It would still be smaller, however.

Also, as a glance at the chart shows, the rate of spending increases under Obama has flattened, which never happened under Bush.

Of course, it’s also worth noting that Congress has a lot to do with this. And so do our huge entitlement programs, which grow and grow and grow no matter what Congress and the President do.

Also, there’s no use crying over spilt milk.

What matters now is what happens next. And the key is to strike the right balance between maintaining or growing spending now, while the rest of the economy is week, and trimming the growth later, to get the deficit under control.

Now Read: The Truth About Who’s Responsible For Our Massive Budget Deficit

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