MarketWatch Column On Obama's Spending Restraint Stands Up To Attacks

In response to a MarketWatch column about federal spending slowing under President Obama, the right-wing media have tried to discredit the column with false or misleading attacks. But none of them contradict the central premise of the column: that there has been no boom in federal spending under Obama.

Nutting: “Obama Spending Binge Never Happened”

MarketWatch's Nutting: In Bush's Last Fiscal Year, Spending Rose By 17.9 Percent. From Rex Nutting's MarketWatch column, headlined “Obama spending binge never happened”:

Here are the facts, according to the official government statistics:

  • 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.

MarketWatch Chart: Under Obama, “Spending Growth Has Been Relatively Flat.” From Nutting's column:


[MarketWatch, 5/22/12]

CLAIM: Nutting Credited Stimulus Spending To Bush

Limbaugh: Nutting Claims “All The Spending In 2009, Which Would Include The Stimulus, Was Bush's.” From Rush Limbaugh's radio show:

LIMBAUGH: The way [Nutting] does it is to say all the spending in 2009, which would include the stimulus, was Bush's because the budget for 2009 was Bush's, done in September of 2008. So Obama's first year is actually Bush's last budget. But Bush didn't budget the porkulus. Bush didn't budget the second porkulus. It's a trillion dollars of spending that this guy Nutting lops onto Bush and doesn't give to Obama. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 5/24/12]

Coulter: Nutting Put Stimulus Bill In “Bush's Column.” From Ann Coulter's May 23 column:

It turns out Rex Nutting, author of the phony Marketwatch chart, attributes all spending during Obama's entire first year, up to Oct. 1, to President Bush.

That's not a joke.

That means, for example, the $825 billion stimulus bill, proposed, lobbied for, signed and spent by Obama, goes in ... Bush's column. (And if we attribute all of Bush's spending for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and No Child Left Behind to William Howard Taft, Bush didn't spend much either.) [, 5/23/12, emphasis in original]

REALITY: Entire Stimulus Wasn't Allocated In 2009; Nutting Accounted For It

CBO: Stimulus Spending Was $114 Billion In 2009. From a Congressional Budget Office report on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), also known as the stimulus:

Through September 2011, 78 percent of the expected total spending through 2019 has been recorded. As CBO expected, spending started relatively slowly in fiscal year 2009, with $114 billion in outlays stemming from ARRA that year. The peak effect of the legislation was in 2010, when outlays totaled $235 billion; about $145 billion was spent in 2011. [Congressional Budget Office, 1/5/12]

Nutting Attributed $140 Billion In 2009 To Obama Policies, Including Stimulus. From Nutting's MarketWatch column:

When Obama took the oath of office, the $789 billion bank bailout had already been approved. Federal spending on unemployment benefits, food stamps and Medicare was already surging to meet the dire unemployment crisis that was well underway. See the CBO's January 2009 budget outlook.

Obama is not responsible for that increase, though he is responsible (along with the Congress) for about $140 billion in extra spending in the 2009 fiscal year from the stimulus bill, from the expansion of the children's health-care program and from other appropriations bills passed in the spring of 2009. [MarketWatch, 5/22/12]

CLAIM: Bush Didn't Sign A Budget For FY 2009

Big Government: “Bush Left No Budget.” From a Big Government article by Vincent Giandurco:

Finally, the new President pushed through the Stimulus in Feb. 2009. This was $800+ Billion added to the regular budget, which in itself was increased by $425 Billion year-over-year by Reid, Pelosi, et al. Again, this being 2009, it falls to reason that this was Bush's spending, But as we saw, Bush left no budget and of course had no hand in the Stimulus. [Big Government, 5/24/12]

Limbaugh: “Bush Didn't Sign The 2009 Budget.” From Limbaugh's radio show:

LIMBAUGH: I just got a note reminding me that Bush did not even sign the 2009 budget. Bush didn't sign the 2009 budget, and the Democrats held it over for Obama to sign, and then Obama refused a photo op because it was filled with earmarks. The 2009 budget, a lot of earmarks. Bush didn't sign it, Obama didn't sign it, but still it was there. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 5/24/12]

REALITY: Bush Approved Or Planned To Spend Trillions Of Dollars In 2009

Fiscal Year 2009 Was More Than One-Fourth Over Before Obama Even Took Office. The federal government's fiscal year begins on October 1, ends on September 30, and is designated by the year in which it ends. Therefore, the 2009 fiscal year began on October 1, 2008, more than three months before Obama's inauguration on January 20, 2009. [U.S. Senate, accessed 5/25/12]

Bush Signed A Fiscal Year 2009 Appropriations Bill That Included More Than $600 Billion In Spending. In September 2008, Bush signed H.R. 2638, a bill that consolidated three of the 12 annual appropriations bills and provided more than $600 billion in spending, including $487.7 billion for the Defense Department, $40 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, and $72.9 billion for military construction and Veterans Affairs. [H.R. 2638, 9/30/08]

Bush Signed Appropriations For The Rest Of The Government That Covered Almost Half Of The 2009 Fiscal Year. H.R. 2638 included appropriations for the rest of the federal government from October 1, 2008, through March 6, 2009, more than five months of the 2009 fiscal year. [H.R. 2638, 9/30/08]

Without Counting TARP, Other Bailouts, And Other Emergency Spending, Bush Had Proposed To Spend $3.1 Trillion In 2009. From the Ludwig von Mises Institute:

The federal fiscal year lasts from October 1 to September 30 (It ended on June 30 prior to 1976). So, the 2009 fiscal year ended in September of 2009, eight months after Bush left office. When Obama was sworn into office, Bush had already submitted his 3.1 trillion dollar 2009 budget almost a year earlier. He then signed the stack of resulting appropriations bills submitted to him by Congress throughout 2008 which authorized the federal spending that would take place once the 2009 FY actually began in October. Then, in the fall of 2008, Bush supported and signed additional spending bills providing for various bailouts and stimulus programs that marked the end of his presidency, and which would show up as spending in 2009. Needless to say, the already-enormous 2009 budget that Bush had submitted in early 2008 was not totally reflective of the full impact of the huge spending increases that would eventually be authorized by Bush. Bush's original budget was $3.1 trillion, but once one adds in all the bailouts and stimulus spending also supported by Bush, the number is actually much larger, and this is the number that shows up in the spending figures now being attributed to Obama for FY2009. [Ludwig von Mises Institute, 3/21/11]

  • Bush's FY 2009 Budget Also Did Not Include Funding For the Afghanistan And Iraq Wars. Bush's budget requested only $70 billion for “activities related to the Global War on Terror.” Rather than include a number for Afghanistan and Iraq, the budget stated: “The Administration will request additional funding once the specific needs of our troops are better known.” [White House FY 2009 Department of Defense budget, 2/4/08]

Based On Policies Enacted Before Obama Came Into Office, CBO Had Already Projected A $1.2 Trillion Deficit For 2009. In a budget report released on January 7, 2009, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) stated, “The ongoing turmoil in the housing and financial markets has taken a major toll on the federal budget. CBO currently projects that the deficit this year will total $1.2 trillion, or 8.3 percent of GDP.” CBO further stated, “A drop in tax revenues and increased federal spending (much of it related to the government's actions to address the crisis in the housing and financial markets) both contribute to the robust growth in this year's deficit. Compared with receipts last year, collections from corporate income taxes are anticipated to decline by 27 percent and individual income taxes by 8 percent; in normal economic conditions, they would both grow by several percentage points. In addition, the estimated deficit includes outlays of more than $180 billion to reflect the cost of transactions of the TARP.” [Congressional Budget Office, 1/7/09]