Jamelle Bouie and Elias post this chart from the New York Times:


This is pretty deceptive for a number of reasons. Yes, a lot of these policies were indeed started by the Bush administration, but a lot of them were also started again by Obama. the “Bush tax cuts” for instance, were set to expire. Obama and the Democrats created new tax cuts, effectively extending the Bush tax rates – but these are still Obama’s tax cuts.

And the 2008 TARP and stimulus spending is something that the Democrats pushed hard for as well. So that’s $2809 billion that is spending agreed upon by Democrats and Republicans. If you add that to Obama’s spending you get a much closer pairing. If you add in the wars, which Obama has not only not ended but which he has complimented with a third war in Libya, you get even closer.

Tit-for-tat is stupid. Obama and Bush are both big spenders. Who cares? Bush was elected as a conservative who was theoretically supposed to limit government. He did a lousy job at that. Obama was elected as a liberal Democrat who was supposed to spend money during a recession. Yet here’s the New York Times lauding him as a tight-fisted fiscal conservative. It makes my head hurt.

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the editor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.


  1. Good fisk, EDK. Who controls Congress is significant: The Dems had the Senate 2001-2003, and took both houses from 2007 on. Bush only had both houses 2003-2007.

    As you note, many of these things were bi-partisan. As for the prescription drug benefit, Gore promised one too, so that was a political inevitability.

    Calling the wars “policy” is a little slippery; they were seen as emergencies, and they also got [Democratic] Senate approval.

    Yes, Bush and his 2006-07 GOP congress spent too much, and were booted for it. Bush gave up on domestic policy to see his foreign policy home, with his own porkmeisters, then with the 2007-2009 Dem congress.

    As for Obama’s spending, $152B seems awful low for his healthcare thingee, not to mention “additional entitlements.” I also think he’d have spent more with a more compliant congress, and certainly more had the GOP not taken the House in 2010.

    The point is WE have spent too much, under duly elected executives and legislatures. The point is that the job of president in 2011 is to get the deficit under control. Making the rounds right now is that Harry Reid had dialed in a compromise with the GOP but BHO has quashed it.

    Ooops, check that, BHO is on board as of 3:45 PM.

    He was always on board. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

    Seriously, I think I’m going to wait until the facts are in before blaming anybody. Hell, maybe all involved will do their damn job! Stranger things have happened…

  2. Missed this at first, ED. Good points, but if for no other reason than the Times’s integrity, I’ll share this:

    It’s based on data from the Congressional Budget Office and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Its significance is not partisan (who’s “to blame” for the deficit) but intellectual. It demonstrates the utter incoherence of being very concerned about a structural federal deficit but ruling out of consideration the policy that was largest single contributor to that deficit, namely the Bush-era tax cuts.
    An additional significance of the chart: it identifies policy changes, the things over which Congress and Administration have some control, as opposed to largely external shocks — like the repercussions of the 9/11 attacks or the deep worldwide recession following the 2008 financial crisis.

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