White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday lectured journalists to
not believe the "BS" that Barack Obama is a reckless spender. Rather
than investigate Carney's assertions, or the sketchy basis for them,
reporters have either embraced the talking points or allowed them to go
Chris Matthews on Wednesday repeated the "fact" that federal spending "is rising at the slowest rate" in 60 years. The network evening and morning shows have failed to investigate this highly questionable assertion from MarketWatch's Rex Nutting. The Washington Post, however, gave this claim "three Pinocchios" and chided Carney, "The data in the article are flawed, and the analysis lacks context."
Fact checker Glenn Kessler instructed Carney to "do a better job of
checking his facts before accusing reporters of failing to do so. The
picture is not as rosy as he portrayed it when accurate numbers, taken
in context, are used."
Nutting basically takes much of 2009 out of Obama’s column, saying it was the “the last [year] of George W. Bush’s presidency.” Of course, with the recession crashing down, that’s when federal spending ramped up. The federal fiscal year starts on Oct. 1, so the 2009 fiscal year accounts for about four months of Bush’s presidency and eight of Obama’s.
In theory, one could claim that the budget was already locked in when Obama took office, but that’s not really the case. Most of the appropriations bills had not been passed, and certainly the stimulus bill was only signed into law after Obama took office.
Of course, it takes two to tangle — a president and a Congress. Obama’s numbers get even higher if you look at what he proposed to spend, using CBO’s estimates of his budgets:
2012: $3.71 trillion (versus $3.65 trillion enacted)
2011: $3.80 trillion (versus $3.60 trillion enacted)
2010: $3.67 trillion (versus $3.46 trillion enacted)
So in every case, the president wanted to spend more money than he ended up getting. Nutting suggests that federal spending flattened under Obama, but another way to look at it is that it flattened at a much higher, post-emergency level — thanks in part to the efforts of lawmakers, not Obama.