I realize that nothing unites Republicans, especially ego-maniacal blowhards like Joe Scarborough at MSNBC, (who spent the first 30 minutes of his show bellowing about “this President’s spending on” [insert your favorite Republican Talking Point here]) quite like the unshakable belief that Barack Obama has been unable to stop himself from squandering “ridiculous” sums of money on “frivolous” things. But the truth is, Obama has slashed one tax dollar for every dollar he’s spent on government programs.
When railing against Obama’s supposed fiscal haste, Republicans never mention how much money he has actually spent, and what exactly he’s spent it on.
This isn’t the total of all government expenditures; that number would include spending on mandatory entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, which no president can control, as well as spending on income-support programs such as food stamps and Medicaid, which automatically increases as citizens get poorer (i.e., during a recession). Instead, let’s focus on what President Obama actually spent that wouldn’t have been spent but for the Great Recession…caused by Republican de-regulations as I’ve shown in previous articles (GOP Myths On The Economy, Must The GOP Always Use Fuzzy Math?, The Cure for the Republican Economic Bird Flu, Why Is the GOP Deliberately Leading U.S. Into Great Depression 2.0?, etc.)
Economic analyst Loren Adler at the Bipartisan Policy Center, a think tank founded in 2007 by Republicans Howard Baker and Bob Dole and Democrats Tom Daschle and George Mitchell, found what may surprise people; even the aforementioned blowhard Joe Scarborough. But since he doesn’t have the ability to shout ME down like he does anyone on his show who dares to disagree with him, I’ll proceed to show he and all his Republican buddies are partisan liars.
Republicans Are Either Habitual Liars or Just Stupid
Over the last two years, the president has decided to “spend” $21 billion more on tax cuts, the GOP’s preferred policy response to, well, everything but their own budget.
The math isn’t complicated, even for Republicans. The Obama administration has pushed for six major, immediate spending increases that aren’t offset elsewhere in the budget.
Actual Increases in Spending
- The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (aka “ the stimulus package”), which had a 2009-10 price tag of $340 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office
- The GM/Chrysler bailout and other portions of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which have largely been paid back ($25 billion)
- Unemployment-insurance extensions ($67 billion)
- COBRA extensions ($9 billion)
- Cash for Clunkers ($3 billion) and
- Loans to automakers for energy-efficiency improvements ($8 billion)
That comes to $452 billion.
Factor in $296 billion in stimulus funds that have yet to be spent and $136 billion in refundable tax credits that passed in December as part of Congress’ bipartisan tax compromise, and you wind up with $884 billion on the spending side of the equation.
Granted, that’s a lot of money. But Obama’s tax cuts have been bigger.
Actual DECREASES in Spending
- $238 billion in cuts for taxpayers and businesses as part of the stimulus package.
- $721 billion worth in December as part of Congress’ bipartisan tax compromise.
- Subtract $54 billion in forthcoming stimulus-related tax hikes
A grand total of $905 billion in tax cuts. In other words, Obama has slashed one tax dollar for every dollar he’s spent on government programs.
Worth noting in this context is President Obama’s new health-reform law. In March 2010, the CBO estimated that “Obamacare” would produce a 10-year spending increase of approximately $250 billion and a tax increase of slightly more than $400 billion.
Those totals will tilt the equilibrium between Obama’s spending and tax cutting toward the former in future years. But the CBO also estimated that the new law will reduce the deficit by $118 billion over the same period.
Regardless of reality, Republicans have a strong incentive to keep characterizing the president’s spending as an “unmanageable,” “unparalleled”, “binge” that “threatens our children’s future.” During a recession, especially a Great Recession like the one from which we’re only just beginning to emerge, individuals, families, and small businesses tend to react by spending less and saving more. Normally that’s a good thing. But when EVERYBODY does it at one time, that leaves government as the only “demand” producer – or businesses fail. It’s really that simple.
But you will never hear that truth as long as a Democrat, especially a black Democrat, is in office. And it will get swept under the rug, but done anyway despite any protestations to the contrary that little Grover Norquist or big, fat, blowhard Joe Scarborough spews out of their pie-holes.
Accusing Obama of wasting money is just an easy way to score political points with voters who’ve been forced to make many sacrifices since Bush’s Crash in 2008 caused by regulations repealed by Republicans.
Real Numbers Are Always a GOP Anathema
On the rare occasion Republicans do allude to real stats, they tend to shout about the growing short-term deficit, a problem that has a lot more to do with declining recession-era tax revenues and increasing safety-net outlays than anything Obama has done, or not done. They can say it’s too much, and that a thriftier approach would’ve been better for the country. It’s an unprovable statement and therefore perfect for the GOP dog whistlers.
Democrats should reply that rescuing the U.S. economy from a second Great Depression for less than the price of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was a bargain. But both sides should honestly debate the good judgment of cutting more than $900 billion in taxes while spending is going up.
At least they’ll be quarreling about facts.