Congressional Republicans have been raked over the coals in the last two weeks for slamming through budget caps and inflating government spending and debt by another $300 billion. The criticisms are well deserved.
It’s a historical truism that Republicans are much more fiscally conscientious when they are in the minority, than when they run Congress. And Republicans tend to be much bigger fiscal hawks when there is a Democratic president than a Republican president — as we are now witnessing.
The only time in half a century that the budget has been balanced was in the late 1990s when Bill Clinton was president and the Republicans ran Congress. It was a good combination. We ran four straight budget surpluses from 1998-2001 and government spending dropped gloriously from about 20 to 17.6 percent of GDP. No wonder the economy boomed in those years. Government was less of a drag.
But now we are experiencing an historical revisionism about the fiscal record during the slow-growth Obama years that is based on fantasy, not fact. Amazingly, Barack Obama is being heralded as a deficit slayer, who helped get our fiscal house in order. What’s next? Richard Nixon was really a pussy cat?
Mr. Obama and his supporters are saying that he “cut the deficit by two-thirds” while president. The left-wing group Politifact, which is supposed to be a fact checker, even has rated Mr. Obama’s claim as “mostly true.” Last week, while I was talking about the fiscal outlook on CNN, the producers put a chart on the screen showing that the deficit dropped by 60 percent while Mr. Obama was president.
My jaw dropped — literally — when I saw the chart. This takes torturing data to new heights. The national debt sky-rocketed from $11 to nearly $20 trillion on Obama’ watch. Is a diet successful if you start by weighing 200 pounds and eight years later you weigh 400 pounds? I may be super-obese now, but at least I’m putting on the lbs. at a slower pace.
It is incontrovertible that the national debt nearly doubled in eight years, which makes Mr. Obama the runaway Olympic gold-medal winner of all presidents for fiscal incompetence. The figure below compares Mr. Obama’s record on red ink compared to every president since Eisenhower. Mr. Obama’s record is far and away the worst.
So where does this fantasy come from that Mr. Obama lowered the deficit by 60 percent? Here are the offical deficit numbers in George W. Bush’s last year in office, and Obama’s eight years in office:
Deficits in Billions of Dollars:
2008 $459 (George W. Bush’s last year in office)
2009 $1,413 (Barack Obama’s first year in office)
Now, here is some simple math for the Obama worshipers: $585 billion at the end of the Obama presidency is higher than $459 billion at the beginning of the Obama presidency.
So how did Mr. Obama lower the deficit by more than 60 percent? Here is the answer. The left starts counting Mr. Obama’s deficit meter in 2010, after he passed the $800 billion debt bomb fiscal stimulus bill.
So they assigned the gargantuan deficit in Mr. Obama’s first year to Mr. Bush. It is true that we were four months into fiscal year 2009 when Mr. Obama was sworn into office. And it is true that the deficit was going to be much higher no matter what Mr. Obama did in his first year because of the deep recession that ended in June 2009. So in fairness some of the bad number in 2009 was Bush’s fault.
But Mr. Obama made the deficit hundreds of billions of dollars worse with a stimulus plan that by the administration’s own admission didn’t create a single new job. (The number of jobs in 2009, 2010, and 2011 was lower than Mr. Obama’s economists predicted we would get if we had done nothing and not wasted $800 billion.
Mr. Obama’s failed presidency is being falsely lionized in other ways as well. The new spin from the left is that Mr. Obama saved the U.S. from a second great depression, when in fact he gave America the weakest recovery from a recession since the Great Depression. He also left Mr. Trump with an economy that was crawling at 1.6 percent— which is why many people thought we were headed to another recession.
No one thinks that today. If the latest Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta projections are right, we will have growth of 3.2 percent in the first quarter of this year — which means that the economy has now been growing at above 3 percent during Mr. Trump’s first year in office. That is twice the growth rate Mr. Trump inherited, and that number, ladies and gentlemen, is not fantasy, it is fact.
• Stephen Moore, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a consultant with Freedom Works, is an economics columnist at The Washington Times.