Mona Charen
One elementary law of politics that the Obama campaign does not seem to have internalized is this: Don't play against type. Last week White House spokesman Jay Carney brazenly asserted that President Obama's spending binge never happened. "The rate of spending -- federal spending -- increase is lower under President Obama than all of his predecessors since Dwight Eisenhower, including all of his Republican predecessors."

This was too much even for the usually worshipful press. The Associated Press issued a full-dress debunking, as did the Washington Post. Though Politifact, betraying its own unreliability, rated the administration's claim "mostly true." As the AP explained, the facially hilarious claim that Obama was the reincarnation of Calvin Coolidge arose from one columnist's creativity with numbers. Rex Nutting, of Marketwatch, employed the usual Washington legerdemain of counting reductions in the rate of increase as cuts. He then assigned all of the spending in fiscal year 2009 to former President Bush's account, the better to claim that Obama's increase in the rate of spending after 2009 wasn't all that huge.

But President Bush signed only 3 of the 12 appropriations bills for 2009. The Democratically-controlled House purposely delayed taking up the other spending bills, knowing they could really hit the accelerator after Obama's election. President Obama signed the remaining appropriations bills in March 2009.

As the AP noted, the administration/Nutting analysis is an exercise in galling sophistry. "The federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac," AP explained, "also makes Obama's record on spending look better than it was. The government spent $96 billion on the Fannie-Freddie takeovers in 2009 but only $40 billion on them in 2010. By the administration's reckoning, the $56 billion difference was a spending cut by Obama."

As the Washington Post, AP and most un-blinkered analysts agree, the Obama administration increased federal spending by 9.7 percent in 2009 and 7.8 percent in 2010. The rate of spending growth only began to slow significantly with the election of a Republican House in 2010. As a share of gross domestic product, federal spending under President Obama jumped from 20.8 percent (fiscal year 2008) -- a bit higher than the post-World War II average of 20 percent -- to 25.4 percent, the highest rate since the war. And unlike the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which passed during the Bush tenure as a one-time deal, much of the spending on Obama's watch on programs such as Head Start, Medicaid, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the Earned Income Tax Credit are intended to be permanent -- the new normal.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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