Category Archives: twisting math

Spending – A Sensible Approach vs. Medieval Bleeding

Republicans are always telling us how much Obama is spending. They tell us daily that he is driving America into bankruptcy or, in the newest image, off a cliff. As far as I can ascertain no bills are being passed by Congress except bills to keep government functioning exactly as it has been functioning. So, I think we can assume that the only money being spent is the money already budgeted, and that a new federal budget has not been passed since Obama took office. Obama is spending as any other President has spent. Budget items get paid, travel items get paid, payments are made as usual on all budget line items. So what Republicans are telling us is not how much Obama is spending, but how much America is spending.

The GOP is still trying to whip up anger over the stimulus and the TARP payments and still doing a pretty good job of it too. But this is really old news, done, over, cannot be undone. And indications are that this money saved our butts from what could have been an actual depression. Republicans will never forgive Obama for finding a way to pass the Affordable Health Care Act over their heads or on an edgy technicality. They may be including how expensive they feel this health care plan will be when they complain about the reckless spending of the Obama administration, but most of this money has not yet been spent. Then there is Solyndra; we will hear about Solyndra forever. I’m sure other Presidents have thrown money at projects they thought were important that did not turn out to be successful. The President was trying to do something quickly that will take time and innovation. He was impatient and he lost money in a tough economy, but he did not steal money or finance illegal operations. Of course, you can’t afford to make a wrong move when the country is stuck in this toxic political rut. Still, I would guess the fact-checker would have to give the GOP a rating of “pants on fire” for constantly claiming that Obama is a big spender.
 As it turns out, while exploring the amazing internet I came across a good deal of discussion about this very issue. Apparently math is not the perfect proof we always believed it to be. Math can be bent to prove a specific political point of view. When math fails us how will we ever know what to think? The Democrats have used the numbers to “prove” that Obama has not been the “big spender” he is being accused of being. The Republicans object to the way the numbers were used. They have their own math.  Apparently it all centers around how you use the numbers from 2009. Here is one numerical odyssey from each side:
May 22, 2012, 12:00 a.m. EDT
Obama spending binge never happened
Commentary: Government outlays rising at slowest pace since 1950s
By Rex Nutting, MarketWatch
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — Of all the falsehoods told about President Barack Obama, the biggest whopper is the one about his reckless spending spree.
As would-be president Mitt Romney tells it: “I will lead us out of this debt and spending inferno.”
Almost everyone believes that Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending, an “inferno” of spending that threatens our jobs, our businesses and our children’s future. Even Democrats seem to think it’s true.
Government spending under Obama, including his signature stimulus bill, is rising at a 1.4% annualized pace — slower than at any time in nearly 60 years.
But it didn’t happen. Although there was a big stimulus bill under Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s.
Even hapless Herbert Hoover managed to increase spending more than Obama has.
Here are the facts, according to the official government statistics:
In the 2009 fiscal year — the last of George W. Bush’s presidency — federal spending rose by 17.9% from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. Check the official numbers at the Office of Management and Budget.
In fiscal 2010 — the first budget under Obama — spending fell 1.8% to $3.46 trillion.
In fiscal 2011, spending rose 4.3% to $3.60 trillion.
In fiscal 2012, spending is set to rise 0.7% to $3.63 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate of the budget that was agreed to last August.
Finally in fiscal 2013 — the final budget of Obama’s term — spending is scheduled to fall 1.3% to $3.58 trillion. Read the CBO’s latest budget outlook.
The big surge in federal spending happened in fiscal 2009, before Obama took office. Since then, spending growth has been relatively flat.
Over Obama’s four budget years, federal spending is on track to rise from $3.52 trillion to $3.58 trillion, an annualized increase of just 0.4%. (there’s more – follow the link)
Here the Republican side doing the math again and they’re shouting:
Here is the rating for Rex Nutting original math from Politifact:
When we encounter a compound claim such as this one, we consider the accuracy of each part separately. During our internal discussions, we give a preliminary rating to each half of a claim, then average them to produce our final, published rating.
Our extensive consultations with budget analysts since our item was published convinces us that there’s no single “correct” way to divvy up fiscal 2009 spending, only a variety of plausible calculations. So the second portion of the Facebook claim — that Obama’s spending has risen “slower than at any time in nearly 60 years” — strikes us as Half True.
Meanwhile, we would’ve given a True rating to the Facebook claim that Romney is wrong to say that spending under Obama has “accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history.” Even using the higher of the alternative measurements, at seven presidents had a higher average annual increases in spending. That balances out to our final rating of Mostly True.

Finally, yesterday I found an article published in the NYT by economist Paul Krugman which basically says that Obama might have been a big spender but the Repulicans put the kibosh on that. He was not allowed to spend and therefore has not been a big spender.

Op-Ed Columnist
This Republican Economy
Published: June 3, 2012

What should be done about the economy? Republicans claim to have the answer: slash spending and cut taxes. What they hope voters won’t notice is that that’s precisely the policy we’ve been following the past couple of years. Never mind the Democrat in the White House; for all practical purposes, this is already the economic policy of Republican dreams.

Rescued by Paul Krugman just in a knick of time. Seriously, I know none of this will end the argument about spending. Sadly, the Republicans will continue to tout their math and the Democrats will continue to feel their math is correct. It is still my strong belief that we did not get to find out if Obama’s economics would have worked because Republicans prevented it. If we elect Republicans we will never, ever know if stimulus, budget cuts, and raised taxes could have done the trick. And I believe Mr. Krugman is correct. We have already learned that the Republican approach will not work because we have been living it. The only thing that will happen if we elect a Republican is their approach will get even more extreme. The cure they suggest is like the old bleeding cures in Medieval medicine. The cure is worse than the disease.