Early in his Administration, President Obama promised to cut the deficit in half. While he clearly did not keep that promise, he has gone on to assert that his budget achieves $4 trillion in deficit reduction, and recently he claimed, “Since I’ve been President, Federal spending has risen at the lowest pace in 60 years.” Many were left wondering how this could be possible with President Obama presiding over unprecedented trillion-dollar deficits for four consecutive years, adding over $5 trillion in new debt since his inauguration, and piling on a slew of new government initiatives including a near-trillion dollar stimulus and a massive new healthcare entitlement. Indeed, a closer look at the evidence shows the President’s claim of spending restraint does not hold up against the facts, and his overall fiscal record doesn’t fare any better.
The President and his allies have offered many excuses for why his fiscal record has been a disappointment. Some of the most prominent are “inheriting a trillion dollar deficit,” experiencing a “deeper recession than anyone anticipated,” and disagreement about who was responsible for actions taken in fiscal 2009 – a transition year when both Presidents Bush and Obama held office.
This paper examines the President’s fiscal record from various perspectives in comparison to his numerous assertions of fiscal responsibility. The analysis addresses both the President’s actual fiscal record and his budget proposals going forward. Additional context is provided by exploring the President’s fiscal record under unified Democratic control of government during 2009-2010 and what happened afterward under divided government with a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
As will be made clear throughout, the President’s fiscal record has been a failure regardless of the yardstick chosen to measure it. His assertions to the contrary are misleading at best, and his budget proposals for the future would perpetuate and aggravate an already dangerous fiscal situation.
• Spending surged 18% in 2009 reaching 25% of GDP – the highest since World War II
• Deficits exceeded $1 trillion in each of the four years of the President’s term
• Gross debt has increased over $5 trillion since the President was inaugurated
• Even adjusting for a weak economy and Bush-era policies, President Obama has signed legislation increasing deficits by $1.6 trillion over his term
• Republicans in the 112th Congress have stopped the spending spree and have forced the President to accept over $2.3 trillion in future deficit reduction
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