Peter Ferrara
On May 24, 2012, Rick Ungar told the readers at Forbes.com that President Barack Obama "is the smallest government spender since Eisenhower." "[O]ur president has actually been tighter with a buck than any United States president since Dwight D. Eisenhower," Ungar insisted.

But Ungar actually reveals the error in the underlying analysis, saying, "The first year of any incoming president term is saddled - for better of for worse - with the budget set by the president whom immediately precedes the new occupant in the White House. Indeed, not only was the 2009 budget the property of George W. Bush - and passed by the 2008 Congress - it was in effect four months before Barack Obama took the oath of office."

This is factually incorrect.

The previous president proposes a budget, in February of the prior year. But the previous Congress approves, enacts and implements the budget. And what Congress approves, enacts, and implements can be radically different from what the President proposes.

President Bush did not have a good record on spending. From the start of his first term, he and the Republican Congress began a spending spree that increased government spending by one seventh as a percent of GDP, virtually exactly erasing the gains achieved by the Congress led by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, in conjunction with President Bill Clinton.

But for fiscal year 2009, President Bush in February, 2008 proposed a budget with just a 3% spending increase over the prior year. Recall, however, that in 2008 Congress was controlled by Democrat majorities, with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, and the restless Senator Obama in his fourth year in the Senate. As Hans Bader reported on May 26 for the Washington Examiner, the budget approved, enacted and implemented by Pelosi, Obama and the rest of the Congressional Democrat majorities provided for a 17.9 percent increase in spending for fiscal 2009!

Actually, President Obama and the Democrats were even more deeply involved in the fiscal 2009 spending explosion than that. As Bader also reports, "The Democrat Congress [in 2008], confident Obama was going to win in 2008, passed only three of fiscal 2009's 12 appropriations bills (Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security). The Democrat Congress passed the rest of them [in 2009], and [President] Obama signed them." So Obama played a very direct role in the runaway fiscal 2009 spending explosion.

Peter Ferrara

Peter Ferrara is General Counsel for the American Civil Rights Union, a Senior Fellow at the Carleson Center for Public Policy and a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis.