When I first came into the political scene, it was through my interest in numbers. My first snarky comment was in the form of an absurd little internet video that made a light mockery of some of the empty promises to reign in spending from the Obama administration. Obama promised to find $100 million in cuts to make to a nearly $4 trillion budget. I found the paucity of that promise to reduce spending funny in light of the enormity of scope of the federal government.
I followed this up with a dive into Obama’s first budget. This first budget stunned me in that, while the Obama administration was predicting a rather stunning and rapid recovery from the Great Recession, he was also predicting enormous federal spending increases as far as the eye could see.
It seemed strange that the answer to fixing the recession was “more spending” and then, after the recession was fixed, the answer was still “more spending.”
Sounds like Labour in NZ. They:
- Called for even more spending during the recession
- After the recession now call for even more spending
- Criticise National for having run deficits!
Obama’s budget, on the other hand, anticipated a massive spending increase in the first year (due to stimulus spending) followed by pretty typical increases of about 6 percent per year.
That “6 percent” is important because in 2009 it was the rate at which federal spending had grown year over year for almost 30 years. So that is the number the Obama team used as their standard for how quickly spending should keep growing.
And this is far too much. Spending should grow no faster (preferably slightly slower) than the economy as a whole. If it gros faster than the economy is growing, then the private sector shrinks.
But after Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2011, despite what you may have heard, they really did put a brake on federal spending. A really good brake. In fact, since 2011, federal spending has increased at only 1.3 percent per year … the slowest rate since the aftermath of World War II.
This means that spending is $697 billion lower than Obama wanted it. That’s huge.
The difference between Obama’s 2015 spending projection and what was actually spent was an astounding $697 billion dollars. That’s more money than we spent on Medicaid.
Let that sink in.
In five years, the Republicans managed to hold back Obama’s spending increases by more money than if they actually got rid of Medicaid. And so far 2016 looks like it will hold to that trend.
This suggests some of the anger at establishment Republicans is misplaced. The House has actually done a reasonable job of standing up for fiscal conservatism.
I think the anger is better directed at the Bush Presidency. He failed to control spending, and ran ever growing deficits. This led to the Tea Party, and has meant the Republican controlled House is now more focused on spending restraint.
If you took the difference between Obama’s projected spending and the actual spending appropriated by Congress for all five years, it’s a jaw-dropping difference of $2.5 trillion.
Obama held a press conference to announce his plan to reduce spending by $100 million. If the GOP Congress had held a press conference every time they actually reduced spending from Obama’s projections by $100 million, they could have held a press conference every two hours of every day since they took control of the House in 2011 until now.
Their success in corralling federal spending is a feat unparalleled in my lifetime. The GOP’s work to block Obama’s spending should be cause for major celebration from serious fiscal hawks. Unfortunately, conservatives don’t seem to even know that this has happened, much less how to celebrate these wins. The narrative of a feckless “Establishment” betraying the electorate is more potent than the facts on the ground.
Paul Ryan for President in 2020 I say. Make Clinton a one term President.