Obama’s Budget Blame Game


Facing the brewing outrage about out of control spending, President Obama is doing what he usually does when he finds himself in trouble: He blames George Bush. He did this again in his State of the Union speech in which he repeatedly hinted that it is his predecessor who is responsible for the country’s fiscal plight. As to his own role, there was not much he could do, since he took office with “a government deeply in debt.” Our current deficits are thus largely Bush’s doing: “The problem is that’s what we did for eight years. That’s what helped us into this crisis. It’s what helped lead to these deficits.”

But let’s look at some facts. When Obama took office on January 20, 2009 the national debt was $10.6 trillion. By the time he delivered his State of the Union remarks last Wednesday, it stood at $12.3 trillion. As Ken Timmerman observes, this spectacular increase represents “the biggest expansion of government spending in U.S. history.”

To be fair, the expansion is partially attributable to Bush. This is largely due to the $700 billion TARP authorization which was passed toward the end of Bush’s presidency, and part of which was spent during Obama’s term.  But we must not forget that then-Senator Obama supported and voted for the measure. To now blame his predecessor for the cost of the policy he himself helped to implement is duplicitous at best.

There is every reason to believe that had Obama been in charge when the crisis erupted the national debt would have been even higher today. If anything, Obama thought the government was not spending enough. He sought to remedy this shortly after he took office with the $786 stimulus package. This was the largest spending measure in American history. The amount authorized in that single bill was more than one and a half amount the largest ever yearly deficit posted under Bush in 2008.

This is not to excuse Bush’s spendthrift ways, but only to show the extent of Obama’s disingenuousness. But apart from the cynicism of it, there is an even more fundamental question that needs be asked. Even if we accept the claim that our present over-spending is somehow Bush’s fault, why has the president done nothing to address this problem?

During the campaign Obama cast himself as someone who would boldly tackle the great problems that afflict this country. Why, then, has he not tried to introduce some sanity into federal finances and budgeting? A year should given him plenty of time to at least make a start in the right direction. And yet the president has done anything to stop the spending craze. Quite to the contrary, he has inflamed it further by ratcheting up spending to unprecedented levels. And now when a shell-shocked nation recoils at his excesses, he tries to blame another. This is not how great leaders act.

It is truly ironic that even as he tries to make the case against Bush, the president unwittingly condemns himself. For if Bush was an ignominious spender, then Obama must be triply so. The highest deficit posted under Bush was $457 billion in 2008. In a budget document released on Monday, the White House estimates that the deficit for fiscal 2010 – the first fiscal year in which Obama is charge for the full duration – will reach $1.6 trillion. In light of these figures, for Obama to charge his predecessor with fiscal profligacy is absurd. His behavior brings to mind the proverbial man who keeps pointing out a speck in his neighbor’s eye while failing to notice a plank in his own. This is by no means to suggest that Bush’s $457 billion deficit is a speck, but only that the president’s fiscal indignation is badly misplaced.

Even as he keeps blaming his predecessor, President Obama is creating a disastrous fiscal legacy for his successor. In a little publicized document released by the Office of Management and Budget in August of last year, the administration projected a rapid growth in spending during the rest of Obama’s term. So much so that the national debt will exceed the critical level of 100 percent GDP in fiscal 2011. This will be the highest level since 1945 and the highest ever in peace time.

When the next president assumes office, he will inherit financial disorder of catastrophic proportions. He will be handed a bankrupt government and an un-repayable national debt swollen by this president’s spending binge. But do not hold your breath waiting for President Obama to accept responsibility. After all, it’s all Bush’s fault.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bubba4 bubba4

    Another FPM liar here to distort reality. The President said it so clearly that even you morons should have understood. The budget for 2009 would have been 1.3 trillion no matter what. Bush used financial trickery to keep the war "off the books" but rest assured, we "paid" for it.

    With the economy collapsing and thus REVENUE DOWN there was the stimulus package. We are recovering money from the banks who were bailed out. As the economy recovers, revenue will go up. When Bush's tax cuts to the rich expire, revenue will go up. The struggle right now is he can't directly do anything to make the banks lend more money or start taking little risks. The 30 billions dollar proposal (taken from money recovered from banks) to help give loans to small businesses would be a good start.

    "This is not to excuse Bush’s spendthrift ways, but only to show the extent of Obama’s disingenuousness"

    Obama's disinenuous? Look who you write for Vasko…FPM is a house of disingenuousness….and guys that get paid to write ridiculous articles like this. No mention of Bush's war spending? A slight oversight Vasko?

    Also…you know what economists say about spending during recession. So your entire argument is disingenuous…you leave out facts and then make up the rest…anything to smear Obama. Nice job. Maybe FPM will give you some extra fishheads for this one.

    • jbtrevor

      Yes, Bush's budget deficit was 'higher' ONLY because the loan (TARP) should be included in the whole number at least until it's been repaid – since TARP has been repaid (mostly – all but around 200B) the 'real' deficit Obama inherited is around 800B. This means that in a only a few months, Obama as doubled the budget deficit to 1.6T

      What a guy!

      • USMCSniper

        This bubb4 guy is a fool's fool. Why is it when the Democrats the government's business so poorly that we the tax payer are forced to pay for it on both ends? Could it possibly be that they already have way too much money to spend in the first place? Shouldnt we view government as a corporation and we are all the shareholders ? Would you buy more stock of a company that was so inept and mismanaged? Why shouldnt government be forced to downsize and lay off employees and tighten its fiscal belt just like everyone else?

        Obama has raised the number of civil servants by 15% to 2.5 million, the largest in history.

    • boston

      So Bubba What do economists exactly say

    • donnamarie

      Well Bubba4, you seem to forget that the banks have paid back the money that they borrowed. As for Bush's tax cuts-they were for everyone not just the rich-oh yeah, just love that earned income tax credit (i.e. welfare).

      • Prudent Man, CFA

        Correct. $500+ billion was paid back yet, because it wasn't returned to the Treasury to offset the debt in accordance with the law that authorized TARP, Obama is not only treating it as part of Bush's deficit but as a continuing expense which it never was intended ot be. The bottom line is that Obama is outright lying when he overstates Bush's budget and resulting deficit.

        As no great admirer of G. W. Bush, when one looks at who he ran against how could you not vote for him?

        A reminder that the economic demise took place in 2007. Who controlled Congress the last two years of the Bush Administration.? Congress must approve all budgets which is why we need Congressional Term Limits. It is remarkable the the Republican in Congress and the useless RNC don't holler this from the roof tops.

        • http://intensedebate.com/people/bubba4 bubba4

          Yeah sure…Bush was a great President and he didn't turn surplus into 3 trillion of new debt and an almost complete economic collapse….

          If you want to think that Bush was a misunderstood and brilliant President that "history" will look kindly on…then whatever.

  • jimbo ellis

    bubba4 is clearly a marxist, beware the devil

  • http://cluesmarvincohen.com doverman

    Conservatives have called the Democrats the "tax and spend" party. At least Obama should admit that this is what he is about, instead of blaming George W. Bush. He is also about wealth distribution, government as santa claus, etc.

  • http://none K. Bond

    Obamma, Reid and Pelosi – the most vile figures to ever find a seat in Washington DC. They are the 3-Stooges of the Beltway. Obamma is a buffoon, like ALL politicians today. He is no different. Politicians just don’t give a dam. Fat cats never do.

    I say flush ‘em ALL down the terlet.

  • http://www.itecode.com eerie Steve

    Opportunity exists for conservatives to push their agenda. Now is the time to attack. If they make a mistake and wait for the end of the election, they will be stone walled by the administration in a DC pissing contest.

    I am a strong advocate of Mr. Bill Kristol's idea of eliminating the payroll tax for a year instead of government handouts. Obama mentioned it in the State of the Union. Lindsay Grahm and Mitch McConnel should play ball here. This is where they are strong, as the stimulus is already seen by a failure from those who vote.

  • BS1977

    You have income tax, state tax, property tax, sales tax, FICA social security taxes, special taxes, and regulatory fees, high gasoline taxes and energy taxes, phone taxes and tv taxes…..and this adminstration is now prepared to quadruple the budget deficit into the trillion dollar range. Our nation is going bankrupt…so watch as your taxes, capital gain taxes and sales taxes start climbing again….until the bubble bursts. The total Fed debt is now unpayable!! FIfteen trillion dollars. No one can comprehend that kind of money. Vote in sensible representatives in 2010. The present Administration is a wrecking crew.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ElroyJetson TraseroConservativo

    …and yet everybody keeps glossing over the home mortgage bubble that was no one's but the Democrats'. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are both Demmunist constructs. Bush tried three or four times to get Balmy Fwank and Maximiliana Waters to do something about it and they pretty much told him to have sex with himself and denied that there was a problem. Huge, economy-destroying problem.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bubba4 bubba4

    Sell all your stuff and move to the mountains….and please please don't get the internet out there….

    You're just another hysterical ninny….