An ad from Americans for Prosperity features a flurry of TV news clips about rising debt in the past few years and connects them to President Obama’s statement in February 2009 that “If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.” However, recent deficits have been fueled by Bush policies and the recession, and the ad takes the president’s words completely out of context. In fact, Obama was talking about whether efforts to rescue the economy would lead to economic progress. Since that interview, massive monthly job losses have turned into steady private-sector growth, including 4.5 million new private-sector jobs in the last 29 months.
Bush Policies And Recession Fueled Rising Debt
Prior To President Obama’s Inauguration, President Bush Had Already Created A Projected $1.2 Trillion Deficit For Fiscal Year 2009. From the Washington Times: “The Congressional Budget Office announced a projected fiscal 2009 deficit of $1.2 trillion even if Congress doesn’t enact any new programs. […] About the only person who was silent on the deficit projection was Mr. Bush, who took office facing a surplus but who saw spending balloon and the country notch the highest deficits on record.” [Washington Times, 1/8/09]
NYT: President Bush’s Policy Changes Created Much More Debt Than President Obama’s. The New York Times published the following chart comparing the fiscal impact of policies enacted under the Bush and Obama administrations:
[New York Times, 7/24/11]
Recession Added Hundreds Of Billions In Deficits By Increasing Spending On Safety Net While Shrinking Tax Revenue. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) explains: “When unemployment rises and incomes stagnate in a recession, the federal budget responds automatically: tax collections shrink, and spending goes up for programs like unemployment insurance, Social Security, and Food Stamps.” According to CBPP: “The recession battered the budget, driving down tax revenues and swelling outlays for unemployment insurance, food stamps, and other safety-net programs. Using CBO’s August 2008 projections as a benchmark, we calculate that the changed economic outlook alone accounts for over $400 billion of the deficit each year in 2009 through 2011 and slightly smaller amounts in subsequent years. Those effects persist; even in 2018, the deterioration in the economy since the summer of 2008 will account for over $300 billion in added deficits, much of it in the form of additional debt-service costs.” [CBPP.org, 11/18/10; CBPP.org, 5/10/11, citations removed]
Over The Coming Decade, The Bush Tax Cuts Are The Primary Cause Of Federal Budget Deficits. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities prepared a chart showing the deficit impact of the Bush tax cuts (orange), the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the recession itself, and spending to rescue the economy:
CBPP: Bush Tax Cuts And Wars Are Driving The Debt. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:
The complementary chart, below, shows that the Bush-era tax cuts and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — including their associated interest costs — account for almost half of the projected public debt in 2019 (measured as a share of the economy) if we continue current policies.
[Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 5/20/11]
Spending Growth Under Obama Is Low
January 2009 (Pre-Obama): Federal Spending Projected To Spike To $3.5 Trillion Without Any Policy Changes. In January 2009, the Congressional Budget Office projected: “Without changes in current laws and policies, CBO estimates, outlays will rise from $3.0 trillion in 2008 to $3.5 trillion in 2009.” [Congressional Budget Office, “The Budget and Economic Outlook: Fiscal Years 2009 to 2019,” January 2009]
Accounting For Inflation And President Obama’s Impact On FY 2009, Spending Will Have Grown By Just 1.7 Percent From 2009 To 2012. According to Michael Linden, Director of Tax and Budget Policy at the Center for American Progress:
[I]n January 2009, before President Obama had even taken office, the Congressional Budget Office projected that federal spending would exceed $3.5 trillion for fiscal year 2009, half a trillion more than the government spent in 2008. Again, that was BEFORE President Obama event took office. It’s reasonable to use that number as our best guess at what spending would have been in FY2009 under ANY president. […]
Of course, the CBO’s projections aren’t perfect. They change as the economy changes and as laws change. Fortunately, CBO also tells us in subsequent reports how and why its previous estimates have changed. We can use that to understand how much of the total federal spending in fiscal year 2009 was attributable to legislative changes that occurred AFTER President Obama took office.
The answer is that out of a total of $3.5 trillion actually spent in FY09, only $165 billion, less than 5 percent, was the result of policy changes signed into law by President Obama.
In other words, probably the best baseline against which to judge spending under Obama is $3.5 trillion (the amount actually spent in 2009) minus $165 billion (the added amount Obama himself actually approved): $3.35 trillion. This year, the CBO expects that the federal government will spend $3.6 trillion. After accounting for inflation, that’s a growth rate of just 1.7 percent. By comparison, and using the exact same methodology, spending in President Bush’s first term was up nearly 15 percent. [ThinkProgress.org, 5/25/12]
PolitiFact: Spending Growth Under Obama Is “Second-Slowest” In Recent History. According to PolitiFact: “Obama has indeed presided over the slowest growth in spending of any president [in recent history] using raw dollars, and the growth on his watch was the second-slowest if you adjust for inflation.” [PolitiFact.com, 5/23/12]
“One-Term” Quote Referred To Making Economic Progress…
The ad quotes President Obama saying, “If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.” That statement was made in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer that aired on February 2, 2009.
President Obama Made “One-Term” Statement In Response To Question Regarding TARP. According to ABC News:
Obama was responding to specific questions about the Troubled Asset Relief Program and whether its economic benefits would merit the costs, then estimated at $700 billion.
“At some point will you say, ‘Wait a minute, we’ve spent this amount of money. We’re not seeing the results. We’ve got to change course dramatically?’” Lauer asked Obama.
“Look, I’m at the start of my administration. One nice thing about the situation I find myself in is that I will be held accountable. You know, I’ve got four years. And, you know, a year from now I think people are going to see that we’re starting to make some progress,” Obama said. “But there’s still going to be some pain out there. If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.” [ABC News, 2/2/12]
- TARP Helped Avert A Worse Financial Collapse And Cost Far Less Than Congress Originally Allocated. According to ABC News: TARP, which began under President George W. Bush in late 2008, provided infusions of capital to struggling banks, boosted Federal Reserve lending and launched a public-private effort to soften the blow of failed assets weighing on banks’ books. It is widely credited with averting the collapse of several major U.S. banks and stabilizing the financial sector, while ultimately costing taxpayers significantly less than originally thought. The lifetime cost of TARP is projected to be $70 billion – one tenth of the amount first allocated by Congress – according to the Government Accountability Office. The program also included financing for the U.S. auto industry, which has since experienced a resurgence that has led to more jobs and new profitability.” [ABC News, 2/2/12]
…Like 4.5 Million Private-Sector Jobs Over 29 Consecutive Months Of Growth
Recession Officially Ran From December 2007 To June 2009, Making It The Longest Since World War II. From the National Bureau of Economic Research: “The Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National Bureau of Economic Research met yesterday by conference call. At its meeting, the committee determined that a trough in business activity occurred in the U.S. economy in June 2009. The trough marks the end of the recession that began in December 2007 and the beginning of an expansion. The recession lasted 18 months, which makes it the longest of any recession since World War II. Previously the longest postwar recessions were those of 1973-75 and 1981-82, both of which lasted 16 months. In determining that a trough occurred in June 2009, the committee did not conclude that economic conditions since that month have been favorable or that the economy has returned to operating at normal capacity. Rather, the committee determined only that the recession ended and a recovery began in that month.” [NBER.org, 9/20/10]
Bush Recession Was So Severe That Economy Was Still Shedding Over Three-Quarters Of A Million Jobs Per Month Through First Few Months Of President Obama’s Term. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the economy shed 839,000 jobs in January 2009, 725,000 in February 2009, 787,000 in March 2009, and 802,000 in April 2009, for a four-month average of 788,250 lost jobs per month. [BLS.gov, accessed 5/3/12]
Since The Recession Ended In June 2009, The Private Sector Has Added 3.3 Million Jobs While Public-Sector Employment Has Fallen By Over 640,000. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 107,933,000 private-sector jobs in June 2009, and 111,317,000 private-sector jobs in July 2012, an increase of 3,384,000 jobs. The BLS also reports that there were 22,570,000 Americans working in the public sector in June 2009, and 21,928,000 working in the public sector in July 2012, a decrease of 642,000 jobs. The private-sector gains and public-sector losses add up to a total increase of 2,742,000 jobs.
The following chart shows the cumulative private-sector job gains and public-sector job losses since the recession officially ended in June 2009:
- Conservative AEI: The Public Sector Is Shrinking, But Private-Sector Growth Is Above Average. From American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark J. Perry: “In the second quarter of 2012, ‘public sector GDP’ decreased -1.44%, and that was the eighth straight quarter of negative growth for total government spending, averaging -2.88% per quarter over the last two years. In contrast, there have been 12 consecutive quarters of positive growth for private sector GDP averaging 3.07% per quarter in the three years since the recession ended, which is slightly higher than the 2.8% average growth rate in private real GDP over the last 25 years.” [AEI-Ideas.org, 7/31/12]
- GOP-Favored “Government Downsizing” Has Been “A Drag” On Job Growth. From the Associated Press: “Conservative Republicans have long clamored for government downsizing. They’re starting to get it — by default. Crippled by plunging tax revenues, state and local governments have shed over a half million jobs since the recession began in December 2007. And, after adding jobs early in the downturn, the federal government is now cutting them as well. States cut 49,000 jobs over the past year and localities 210,000, according to an analysis of Labor Department statistics. There are 30,000 fewer federal workers now than a year ago — including 5,300 Postal Service jobs canceled last month. By contrast, private-sector jobs have increased by 1.6 million over the past 12 months. But the state, local and federal job losses have become a drag on efforts to nudge the nation’s unemployment rate down from its painfully high 9.1 percent.” [Associated Press, 10/25/11]
The Private Sector Has Added 4.5 Million Jobs Over 29 Consecutive Months Of Private-Sector Growth. The following chart shows the monthly change in private-sector jobs dating back to January 2008.
[NARRATOR:] In 2009, Barack Obama said… [PRESIDENT OBAMA CLIP:] “I’m pledging to cut the deficit by half by the end of my first term in office.” [SERIES OF OVERLAPPING AUDIO CLIPS:] “Under President Obama” “Five trillion dollars in debt that have been added under this administration” “Over roughly three years” “Government spending” “Over fifteen trillion dollars in debt” “The nation’s exploding debt that is now more than 15 trillion” “Trillions in unfunded debt” “Fifteen trillion” “Fifteen trillion dollars” [OBAMA CLIP:] “I will be held accountable. If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition. I will be held accountable.” [Americans For Prosperity via YouTube, 8/7/12]