The Myth of Obama the Socialist, Part III
Summarizing the two previous articles, it is clear that federal spending, taxes and the deficit are all lower than what they were on the day President Obama took office:
Secondly, “the vast bulk of the debt is the result of policies enacted during the Bush administration coupled with automatic increases in federal spending and decreases in tax revenue triggered by the economic downturn.”
Thirdly, President Obama has seen a decrease in nondefense state and local spending since taking office:
However, there are still certain issues that need to be addressed, starting with the 2009 federal budget.
The 2009 Federal Budget
The 2009 federal budget is perhaps one of the most contentious issues when it comes to the myth of Obama as a socialist. Obama, allegedly, tripled the budget deficit, from $450 billion in 2008, to roughly $1.4 trillion in 2009. However, The CBO “released a projection in January 2009 that the deficit would reach $1.2 trillion in 2009, before the costs for any new economic stimulus plans or new legislation were factored in.”. This, of course, was before Obama became President. This is because the Federal fiscal year lasts from October 1 to September 30, and “when Obama was sworn into office, Bush had already submitted his 3.1 trillion dollar 2009 budget almost a year earlier”.
Some Republicans might counter, and ask what about the so-called stimulus, they will ask, with its $787 billion price tag? Or the omnibus fiscal-year 2009 appropriations bill? And how about Cash for Clunkers and Obama’s expansion of the children’s health insurance program? Didn’t these all boost spending in 2009?
The answer, as you would expect, is yes, it did add to the 2009 federal budget. By roughly four percent.
As the Ludwig von Mises Institute rightly points out, how exactly is Obama responsible for deficits that existed on the day he took office?
The 2009 federal budget does not belong to President Obama, he did not triple the deficit and what little he did add was a minuscule four percent.
Comparing Bush with Obama on Spending and the public sector
If we were to agree that President Obama is a stealth socialist, then President Bush was nothing short of an out-and-out Stalinist. If we examine the growth in federal outlays by various Presidents it is clear that the first year of the Obama administration did not increase spending - the opposite in fact.
Figures for the 2010 - 2013 budgets show that although President Obama has overseen an annual growth in federal spending by 1.4 percent over the course of his four years “no administration has reduced aggregate government spending as a precentage of GDP as much as Obama’s in forty years”.
To quote Rex Nutting, the Obama spending binge never happened.
An unsurprising result of this, is that public sector employment has fallen under President Obama. Under Bush, it grew. If “over the past 40 months, public sector employment had grown at the same pace as it did in President Bush’s first term, there would be 1.4 million additional people at work right now. That’d be enough to bring the unemployment rate down by nearly a full percentage point.”
In the same graph, we can see that private sector growth was better during the first forty months of President Obama than President Bush. Considering the economic turmoil he inherited, it is quite remarkable.
The Size of Government
Due to the above mentioned facts, it is unsurprising to find that the number of government employees has fallen since Obama took office. Yet the scope of the downsizing might surprise many.
As a ratio of government officials to the population, there are now fewer government employees than in 1984 - “compared to our population, it hasn’t been this size since 1968.”
Romney is not the messiah
Reagan never claimed that “government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” Rather, he argued, as the video above shows, that “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.”
What Reagan was arguing against was, to quote Andrew Sullivan, “the culmination of years of liberal over-reach”. The problems the United States today face are not that of government over-reach, America remains the fifth most competitive country in the world and the most competitive of major countries. I have to agree with Andrew Sullivan when he writes that “the problem is weak government when it came to regulating the financial sector; insolvent government because of a refusal to raise taxes even as spending has soared and revenues have collapsed; and hubristic government that tried to being freedom to every person on the planet through military occupation. And the answer is not doubling down on theology, but restoring limited but effective government in areas where only government can work”.
Yes, we can disagree on the role and nature of government, but this election is to a large extent about how to make sure the fragile recovery continues. Yes, the current recovery is slow, and unemployment high.
But the Romney tax plan would “provide large tax cuts to high-income households, and increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers”.
In fact, it is even worse, “because Romney’s plan is being measured here against a “current policy” baseline (in which the Bush tax cuts are extended). If it were measured against a “current law” baseline, it would look even more regressive—and it would also fail to be revenue neutral”.
That does not sound like a sound model for recovery, but rather an ideological move without basis grounded in experience, as if the Bush years never happened; It’s a plan that “would make poor families poorer, and more exposed to the risks of medical or financial calamity”.
To quote Bill Clinton: this matters to me.
It should matter to you as well.