Who Are You Going To Believe
by James Glaser
September 4, 2012
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I'm sure you have seen them, the photo page on Facebook purporting to show that President Barack Obama was either the biggest or smallest spender as President in the last 60 years or as one claims, "In World History." I saw them, and then read what the articles actually said.

It's sad to say but so many Americans today base their opinion of one political figure or the other on one or maybe two articles written by somebody they don't even know. It seems that they will read something that agrees with what they thought was true, or what they want to be true, and that ends their search for the truth.

Here are the titles from two opinion articles published by Forbes magazine. The first was published 5/24/12 and was written by Rick Ungar. The second was published 6/14/12 and was written by Peter Ferrara.

Who Is The Smallest Government Spender Since Eisenhower? Would You Believe It's Barack Obama?

President Obama: The Biggest Government Spender In World History

Pretty hard to find two articles more divergent than these two isn't it. Now I would have to say that both of these articles cannot be true, but both could be false.

If you read Rick Ungar's opinion piece you will see that he bases his thought of Obama's low government spending on what he calls "the "actual Obama annual budgets," and then relies on figures published by Marketwatch. Unger also wants us to deduct Obama's 2009 spending from his total, claiming that year's spending was actually George Bush's spending.

All the figures he gives seem to prove his point, but I have to question the fact that the Obama administration has not had a budget for at least two years.

The Hill reports Barack Obama's attempts to pass a budget like this:

A budget resolution based on President Obama's 2013 budget failed to get any votes in the Senate on Wednesday. In a 99-0 vote, all of the senators present rejected the president's blueprint. It's the second year in a row the Senate has voted down Obama's budget.

Ed Krayewski reporting for reason.com puts it this way:

The last time the Senate passed a budget was, indeed, in April of 2009. That budget was described as a "spending blueprint" for the then newly-inaugurated president, who said the budget "builds on the steps we've taken over the last one hundred days to move this economy from recession to recovery and ultimately to prosperity." That budget passed on a largely party line vote. In May of 2011, the president's budget failed 97-0 in the Senate. The president has a 2013 budget plan, but Senate Democrats hope to be able to avoid having to vote on it, for obvious reasons.

So, it would seem that if the only budget Barack Obama got passed was his first in 2009, Rick Unger's use of "actual Obama annual budgets" cannot be true. And anything he takes from budgets that never existed makes his whole premise that Obama was "The Smallest Government Spender since Eisenhower" very suspect to say the least.

One thing is true and not debatable by even the staunchest Obama supporter, and that is that President Obama has had an over one trillion dollar spending deficit every year he has been in office, and that has translated to an over 5 trillion dollar rise in our National Debt

That being said, let's look at if Barack Obama is really the "Biggest Government Spender In World History" as Peter Ferrara claims.

Now, to be fair, Rick Ungar's opinion piece was actually only two pages long with a graph. Peter Ferrara's piece is a full seven pages long, and I have no idea how Ferrara can claim Obama is a biggest government spender in world history, because he gives no examples of other big spenders down through the ages.

Democrats will tell you that we should not count Barack Obama's spending in his first year, because in 2009 our government was working with a proposed George Bush budget.

"What people forget (or never knew) is that the first year of every presidential term starts with a budget approved by the previous administration and Congress."

That rings true, but Ferrara explains it like this:

Not exactly. The previous administration, or President, proposes a budget. The previous Congress approves a budget. And what Congress approves can be radically different from what the President proposes.

If we think back to 2008, George Bush did propose a budget, but the Democrats held majorities in both Houses of Congress, and Senator Barack Obama was voting in the Senate and Nancy Pelosi was running the House. Ferrara explains what happened in 2009's spending budget:

As Hans Bader reported on May 26 for the Washington Examiner, the budget approved 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.

I believe this explanation of the 2009 budget dispels the Democratic claim that newly elected Barack Obama was harnessed with a Budget proposed by George Bush and passed by Congress in 2008.

As far as Ferrara's claim that Obama was the "Biggest Spender" it goes like this. Barack Obama started spending large in 2009 and continued that spending trend:

After just one year of the Obama spending binge, federal spending had already rocketed to 25.2% of GDP, the highest in American history except for World War II. That compares to 20.8% in 2008, and an average of 19.6% during Bush's two terms. The average during President Clinton's two terms was 19.8%, and during the 60-plus years from World War II until 2008 — 19.7%. Obama's own fiscal 2013 budget released in February projects the average during the entire 4 years of the Obama Administration to come in at 24.4% in just a few months. That budget shows federal spending increasing from $2.983 trillion in 2008 to an all time record $3.796 trillion in 2012, an increase of 27.3%.

So, with Peter Ferrara using Barack Obama's own numbers, it appears that he would be able to say that Barack Obama has been this country's biggest deficit spender in actual dollars spent:

Moreover, before Obama there had never been a deficit anywhere near $1 trillion. The highest previously was $458 billion, or less than half a trillion, in 2008. The federal deficit for the last budget adopted by a Republican controlled Congress was $161 billion for fiscal year 2007. But the budget deficits for Obama's four years were reported in Obama's own 2013 budget as $1.413 trillion for 2009, $1.293 trillion for 2010, $1.3 trillion for 2011, and $1.327 trillion for 2012, four years in a row of deficits of $1.3 trillion or more, the highest in world history.

Now I don't know how Mr. Ferrara can make his claim that Barack Obama is the biggest spender in the history of the world. Nowhere in his article does he even bring up historical foreign spenders and by excluding our spending during WWII he is admitting that there was higher spending during those war years.

After reading these two claims about President Obama's spending habits, I have to say that neither author proved his claim. For sure it was not proven that Barack Obama was not the "Smallest Government Spender since Eisenhower," because the budgets claimed as proof were never passed into law by Congress, and Peter Ferrara's Claim of Obama being "The Biggest Government Spender In World History" was not proven because there were exceptions made for spending during World War II and there were no facts given of historical spending in foreign countries.

It is telling however that both articles have come out during a tightly contested Presidential election. Additionally, both prove to us that we cannot trust the headlines without reading and thinking about what is written in the body of the article. And even then we should check sources given, and read other reports on the same subject, because who knows if what was written was not done to help a candidate rather than inform the public.

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