Actions Speak Louder Than Words

A Record of Fiscal Recklessness Undermines Rhetoric of Fiscal Responsibility

While President Obama has recently professed a newfound – and vague – desire to cut government spending, it’s useful to recall what the President has actually done since taking office in 2009. The President signed into law a massive spending spree that plunged us deeper into debt, and failed to deliver on its promise to create jobs. 

  • 24% Increase in Base Spending. Non-defense discretionary spending grew by 24% for the first two years of the Obama Administration, adding $734 billion in spending over the next 10 years.

  • Record Government Spending. The Federal government will spend $3.6 trillion this year, 24% of gross domestic product (GDP) and the highest burden on the economy since World War II. Spending has historically averaged a little over 20% of GDP.

  • President’s Budget Makes Matter Worse. According to CBO, the President’s budget never spends less than 23% of GDP and by the end of the decade rises to 24% of GDP.  His budget’s failure to address the drivers of our debt threatens the health and retirement security of America’s seniors, and the economic security of all Americans.  The President’s budget seeks to spend $46 trillion in government spending over the next decade, and has subsequently fought against House Republican efforts to restrain his spending appetite down to $43.5 trillion.

  • Lip Service Provided When Leadership is Needed. Embarrassed by the fundamental unseriousness of his budget, the President responded to the fiscal leadership demonstrated by House Republicans with a partisan speech describing a “Framework” for reducing the deficit.  Despite repeated requests for details, his rhetoric has still not been backed up with substance that would allow independent analysis of his claims. In fact, CBO Director Doug Elmendorf testified, “We don’t estimate speeches. We need much more specificity than was provided in that speech for us to do our analysis.”

During the daily deficit talks the President has been hosting at the White House, the President has yet to offer any real spending reductions that would result in meaningful changes to our nation’s fiscal path.  Until the President publicly offers a detailed spending reduction plan, all we can judge him on is his record.  And that record is disappointing.


Table 1 details both defense and non-defense discretionary spending, excluding emergencies. The table breaks spending into base budget increases and stimulus spending on top. Democrats’ appropriation bills increased non-defense discretionary spending by nearly 25 percent – an 84 percent increase when you include the stimulus.  The Republican House took the lead in bringing an end to this out-of-control spending and reduced non-defense discretionary spending by 7 percent.

Table 1


As House Republicans seek to make a serious down payment to avert our spending-driven debt crisis, the President remains committed to protecting the borrowing binge he has signed into law.  The President has refused to put on the table the trillions of dollars in new spending from his health care law.  The President has refused to revisit his high-speed rail boondoggles or the array of special interest “green energy” spending projects.  After adding trillions of dollars in new spending since he first took office, the President’s only specific policy demand is to raise taxes on American families to pay for Washington’s profligacy.

The onslaught of new spending has primarily focused on special-interest spending for domestic government agencies.  For example, the Administration promised more than $200 billion for clean energy investments with a campaign promise of 5 million “green collar” workers and energy independence. Campaigning is one thing – governance is another.  Three years and billions of dollars later, monthly Labor Department employment reports continue to say nothing about this promised new energy workforce.  Moreover, gasoline prices have more than doubled since the President took office, and the Administration’s de facto moratorium on energy development in the Gulf increases our dependence on foreign energy supplies.

Table 2 details the massive increase in both the base budgets for major government agencies, as well as the added funding provided to each in the failed stimulus. Among the many egregious examples: The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget increased by 36 percent in just two years. When the $7 billion the agency received in stimulus funding is included, the EPA enjoyed a two-year increase of 131 percent.

Table 2