Despite Being Warned, Right-Wing Media Buy Into The "BS" Claims About Obama's Spending Record

››› ››› MARCUS FELDMAN

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters not to buy into the "BS" of GOP-driven tax and spending claims and pointed to a Wall Street Journal MarketWatch column that noted that government spending is rising at its slowest pace since the 1950s. Far from heeding that advice, right-wing media figures relied on misleading economic talking points to attack Carney.

WH Press Secretary Carney Warns Reporters Not To Buy Into "BS" Of GOP-Driven Spending Claims

Carney: "Do Not Buy Into The B.S. That You Hear About Spending And Fiscal Constraint With Regard To This Administration." From Carney's May 23 press gaggle:

I just wanted to read something that I read this morning that caught my attention. This is from Market Watch's Rex Nutting. He says, "Of all the falsehoods told about President Obama, the biggest whopper is the one about his reckless spending spree. Almost everyone believes that Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal spending, but it didn't happen. Although there was a big stimulus bill under President Obama, federal spending is rising at its slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s. Even hapless Herbert Hoover managed to increase spending more than Obama has."

That means that 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. That is a fact not often noted in the press and certainly never mentioned by the Republicans.

[...]

I simply make the point, as an editor might say, to check it out; do not buy into the BS that you hear about spending and fiscal constraint with regard to this administration. I think doing so is a sign of sloth and laziness. [Carney press gaggle, 5/23/12]

WSJ's MarketWatch: Federal Spending Under Obama Has Increased At The Lowest Rate Since The 1950s

WSJ's MarketWatch: Federal Spending Growth Is Lower Than It Was Under Reagan, Clinton, And Both Bushes. Carney pointed to a May 22 column in The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch headlined "Obama spending binge never happened." From a chart accompanying the column:

[MarketWatch, 5/22/12]

WSJ's MarketWatch: "Federal Spending Flattens Under Obama." From another chart accompanying the MarketWatch column:

[MarketWatch, 5/22/12]

WSJ's MarketWatch: "Under Obama, Federal Spending Is Rising At The Slowest Pace Since ... The 1950s."From the MarketWatch column:

Although there was a big stimulus bill under Obama, federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s.

[...]

In the 2009 fiscal year -- the last of George W. Bush's presidency -- federal spending rose by 17.9% from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. Check the official numbers at the Office of Management and Budget.

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.

Over Obama's four budget years, federal spending is on track to rise from $3.52 trillion to $3.58 trillion, an annualized increase of just 0.4%.

There has been no huge increase in spending under the current president, despite what you hear. [MarketWatch, 5/22/12]

PolitiFact: "Obama Has Indeed Presided Over The Slowest Growth In Spending Of Any President Using Raw Dollars." From a PolitiFact post rating the MarketWatch finding that Obama has the lowest spending record of any president as "Mostly True":

Obama has indeed presided over the slowest growth in spending of any president using raw dollars, and it was the second-slowest if you adjust for inflation. The math simultaneously backs up Nutting's calculations and demolishes Romney's contention. The only significant shortcoming of the graphic is that it fails to note that some of the restraint in spending was fueled by demands from congressional Republicans. On balance, we rate the claim Mostly True. [PolitiFact, 5/22/12]

Right-Wing Media Respond By Saying The Debt Dramatically Increased Under Obama

Fox's Varney: "Obama Has Run Up The Debt A Great Deal More Than President Bush Did In His Full 8 Years." From the May 23 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:

STUART VARNEY (guest host): [I]f you are going to argue that the president is not a big spender, it's very difficult to argue against the hard, solid numbers. I've got figures which show very clearly that President Obama has run up the debt a great deal more than President Bush did in his full 8 years: 4.9 trillion for President Bush in 8 years. 5 trillion and more for President Obama in just three-and-a-half years.

I've got other figures that show that as a percentage of the economy, spending has gone to all time record high levels in the 4 years -- 3 years of President Obama. It's very tough to argue against those hard numbers, Ed.

ED HENRY (Fox News chief White House correspondent): You're right. Those numbers you just cited are accurate. And the fact of the matter is, this president, President Obama, has added more to the national debt than his predecessor, President Bush.

However, what the White House is trying to argue is that you have to look beyond just that surface number and look at the fact of what caused that increase. They believe inside the White House the reason why the debt has shot up so much is that the recession of 2008, which obviously started before President Obama took office, led to a sharp decrease, as I think you would acknowledge, in government revenue coming in. [Fox News, Your World with Neil Cavuto, 5/23/12, via Media Matters]

Sean Hannity: "The 5 Trillion In New Obama Debt? C'mon, Carney, Help Me Out. Tell Me Why That's BS." From the May 23 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: Anyway, Jay Carney's out there today. He's the White House chief propagandist. He said it's "BS" that Obama has spent too much. I'm like huh? Borrowing 40 cents of every dollar is not spending too much? That's what he said about criticism about spending under Obama. "BS."

And he also said that reporting on the GOP criticism without exploring the counter-argument -- you know, it's laziness on their part during an exchange with reporters on Air Force One. Don't buy into the BS you hear. No? The 5 trillion in new Obama debt? C'mon Carney help me out. Tell me why that's BS. Tell me how that's good. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 5/23/12, via Media Matters]

Lou Dobbs: "President Obama Will Add ... $5 Trillion" To The Debt, Compared To President Bush's $4.9 Trillion. From the May 23 edition of Fox News' Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: In all, President Obama will add a mere $5 trillion, trillion dollars -- I love this -- $5 trillion to the national debt, in one term. By comparison, President Bush added, ahh, this is -- this is good, $4.9 trillion. Four and eight -- there's quite a difference there. [Fox News, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 5/23/12, via Media Matters]

But The Debt Increase Under Obama Is Largely A Result Of Bush-Era Policies

Wash. Post's Klein: Bush Policies Responsible For Vast Majority Of Debt Increase Under Obama Administration. In a January 31 Washington Post column, Ezra Klein estimated that Obama's policies are responsible for $983 billion of the nearly $5 trillion increase in public debt over the course of his administration, while the remainder of the debt increase is attributable to Bush-era policies. From The Washington Post:

[I]f you're a deficit-obsessed voter, the clock doesn't answer the key question: How much has Obama added to the debt, anyway?

There are two answers: more than $4 trillion, or about $983 billion. The first answer is simple and wrong. The second answer is more complicated but a lot closer to being right.

When Obama took office, the national debt was about $10.5 trillion. Today, it's about $15.2 trillion. Simple subtraction gets you the answer preferred by most of Obama's opponents: $4.7 trillion.

But ask yourself: Which of Obama's policies added $4.7 trillion to the debt? The stimulus? That was just a bit more than $800 billion. TARP? That passed under George W. Bush, and most of it has been repaid.

There is a way to tally the effects Obama has had on the deficit. Look at every piece of legislation he has signed into law. Every time Congress passes a bill, either the Congressional Budget Office or the Joint Committee on Taxation estimates the effect it will have on the budget over the next 10 years. And then they continue to estimate changes to those bills. If you know how to read their numbers, you can come up with an estimate that zeros in on the laws Obama has had a hand in.

A chart accompanying the column made in conjunction with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) illustrated the debt impact of Bush's policies versus Obama's:

[The Washington Post, 1/31/12; The Washington Post, 1/31/12]

CBPP: "[V]irtually The Entire Deficit Over The Next Ten Years" Due To Bush Policies, Economic Downturn." CBPP published an analysis of federal deficits in December 2009, which was most recently updated on June 28, 2010, titled, "Critics Still Wrong on What's Driving Deficits in Coming Years: Economic Downturn, Financial Rescues, and Bush-Era Policies Drive the Numbers." The report noted:

Some critics continue to assert that President George W. Bush's policies bear little responsibility for the deficits the nation faces over the coming decade -- that, instead, the new policies of President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress are to blame. Most recently, a Heritage Foundation paper downplayed the role of Bush-era policies (for more on that paper, see p. 4). Nevertheless, the fact remains: Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years.

The report also graphed the effects of Bush's policies and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the deficit. From the report:

[CBPP, updated 6/28/10, emphasis in original]

For more on the impact that Bush's policies have had on the federal debt, click here.

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