President Obama – the most Frugal Government Spender in 60 years? recently examined an extraordinary claim that President Obama has had the lowest spending record of any recent president.

Can that be right?

Politifact says that such a claim is ‘mostly true’.

I encourage you to read the Politifact numbers analysis for yourself: read it here.


The Politifact story is a good read for many reasons.

One good reason being that much of what people believe that they know is often without basis.

It is always good to have around a calculator and some real numbers. Politifact tries to provide the numbers and calculations for you.

Secondly, another good reason to read the article is that if you argue to replace something with something ‘better’ then better should be better. Better should have a metric that we can calculate.

I am not always so happy with President Obama but as compared with whom? Certainly not I know how to create jobs Romney, whose state dropped from #37 in jobs growth to #47 during his term as governor.

If you wish to argue that Romney had to deal with a Democratic legislature then so be it. However, please accept that since 2010 President Obama has had to work with a Republican House; yes, Democrats demurred from proposing their own budget so that the Republican budgets could be judged on its own merits (and also true that Democrat are not so hot at using calculators either so it saved them a lot of time and effort.)

Thirdly, the last good reason to read the Politifact article is that we have many tough choices ahead and not a lot of folks want to do critical thinking.

2013 will be a very tough year. The CBO has effectively said that whatever course we take we will cause us to fall back into official recession during 2013. The CBO analysis says that 2013 represents a fiscal cliff that we are about to run off.

For those that say we need austerity and no new increase in the debt limit, you can’t get there from here. You certainly cannot get to there (balanced budgets, decreased national debt, and economic growth) by protecting current levels of defense spending or increasing it.

Just to maintain current spending levels will require an increase in our national debt level. Soon. Even if you were to cancel out almost all social spending you still could not cover defense spending without borrowing more money. Quixotic to me that that the ‘more defense spending’ crowd is quite often the same choir as the ‘no new debt’ crowd and the ‘no new taxes’ crowd. Those same folks recently proposed in the House draft budget an 8% increase in defense spending.

For those that want to pay down the national debt, there appears to be three groups with a view and a following.

—- Group #1 wants to let all tax cuts expire (except for folks that vote for them). The CBO says that letting the tax cuts expire would indeed dramatically decrease our national debt … and do so in as little as the first 12 months. BUT that would also suck so much money out of the economy that it would probably dry up consumer spending and … great ungood would happen.  As for those that would let the tax cuts expire, except for those that vote for them — grab a calculator. How is that a balanced plan. Some, primarily Democrats, are arguing to protect tax cuts for the first $1 million of income and to protect the social security pay day tax cut.

—– Group #2: Keep the tax cuts, create more tax cuts or breaks + increase defense spending. This will supposedly cause the economy to grow. This is a revisit of rhetorical Reaganomics: just ain’t happening. Buy a calculator. Hire a consulting firm. Your numbers are on drugs. I am a fan of President Reagan (no one is perfect) but his administration didn’t grow the economy so much from tax breaks as growing the economy from a  massive infusion of government cash that left massive debt in its spending wake.

—– Group #3: Target ALL government programs for decreased spending over time (mandate an agency-neutral percentage-based budget cut each year for 10 years), pay as you go congressional budget spending — even if that requires some tax increase (but sunset the tax increase), flatten taxes and remove most exceptions, limit the dollar or percentage value of exemptions, don’t rob from the rich but don’t penalize the working poor either.

So about this article, it offers some good points for thought and debate. One interpretation can also be that much of the fiscal rancor against Obama is hot air. Yes, President Obama has failed to use the leadership power of his office to describe and to outline a path towards fiscal stablity for our country. Yet neither has President Obama been the tax and spend ogre that many have made him out to be.


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