Obama’s latest campaign angle: I’ve been saving America from wild Republican debts

Doug Powers by Doug Powers on May 24th, 2012

This is article 365 of 523 in the topic Government Spending

The “Obama the Frugal” reinvention probably won’t go over successfully with anybody who has spent the last few years, you know, conscious — but he’s trying:

At a fundraiser for his re-election campaign in Denver tonight, President Obama set out to upend conventional Republican wisdom that his administration has been defined by excessive government spending.

“I’m running to pay down our debt in a way that’s balanced and responsible. After inheriting a $1 trillion deficit, I signed $2 trillion of spending cuts into law,” he told a crowd of donors at the Hyatt Regency. “My opponent won’t admit it, but it’s starting to appear in places, like real liberal outlets, like the Wall Street Journal: Since I’ve been president, federal spending has risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years. Think about that.”

Obama was referring to an analysis released this week by Rex Nutting, a reporter for CBS MarketWatch who is also affiliated with the Wall Street Journal. Nutting concluded that Obama has presided over the slowest growth in federal spending in decades.
[...]
The Romney campaign noted that more than $5 trillion has been added to the debt during Obama’s first term, though in 2008 Obama called the $4 trillion added under Bush ”unpatriotic.”

The Republican National Committee pointed out that while growth of spending and debt may have slowed, Obama has overseen the three largest deficits in U.S. history. (They also pass along fact-checker Politifact’s 2011 designation of Obama as the “undisputed debt king” of the last five presidents.)

Every White House suggestion I’ve seen to pay down the debt involves increasing the debt massively and then flinging it off the charts within a decade, along with the rest of the country. Somehow that saves money in the long run.

Political Math has a good tutorial about the Rex Nutting analysis to which Obama is now referencing as evidence of his administration’s spend-thrift nature. Click the graphic to give it a read:

nullAnd since we’re talking actual deficits, we have this from the USA Today: Applying accounting practices the government insists we use in the real world but won’t apply to themselves, last year’s federal deficit wasn’t $1.3 trillion, but rather… $5 trillion (h/t Ed Morrissey):

The typical American household would have paid nearly all of its income in taxes last year to balance the budget if the government used standard accounting rules to compute the deficit, a USA TODAY analysis finds.

Under those accounting practices, the government ran red ink last year equal to $42,054 per household — nearly four times the official number reported under unique rules set by Congress.

A U.S. household’s median income is $49,445, the Census reports.

The big difference between the official deficit and standard accounting: Congress exempts itself from including the cost of promised retirement benefits. Yet companies, states and local governments must include retirement commitments in financial statements, as required by federal law and private boards that set accounting rules.

The deficit was $5 trillion last year under those rules. The official number was $1.3 trillion. Liabilities for Social Security, Medicare and other retirement programs rose by $3.7 trillion in 2011, according to government actuaries, but the amount was not registered on the government’s books.

The White House, and much of Congress for that matter, should save any laughable braggadocio about frugality for “Inside the Beltway night” at the Improv.

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