How much of our deficit is "Obama's deficit"?

I originally posted most of this in an IMHO thread, specifically in response to Shodan’s post.

[quote=“Shodan, post:3, topic:534546”]

Well, let’s see -
[li]he added $787 billion to the deficit his first year[/li][li]he is currently proposing a deficit of $1.56 trillion[/li][li]IOW, he wants to increase the national debt by more than every other President in history combined[/ol][/li][/quote]

My response wasn’t really appropriate to IMHO, so I’m reposting it here.

I’ve more or less seen right wingers blame all of the current deficit on Obama and then declare him to be the most fiscally insane president ever. But this is, at best, dishonest or ignorant.

As I said there:

Is this meaningfully true? You say “He added $787b to the deficit this year” - is new spending and/or tax cuts that he approved, or revenue downturn that he caused, responsible for this?

The major components of deficits are revenue and expenditures. Now - we’re in the biggest economic downturn we’ve seen in possibly decades, which cannot reasonably be blamed on Obama, and so right off the bat revenues are going to be very far down. The deficit will increase based on that reduced revenue even with no additional spending. There’s no rational way that Obama can be blamed for this part of the deficit, and yet I’m sure you’re blaming this on him as part of the $878B, right?

Moving on, a lot of the new spending of the last few years reflected in this deficit was on TARP and related expenses. Even though these were in full effect before Obama took office, is he to blame for these, also?

Now, the stimulus can rightfully be attributed to Obama, but that’s roughly 12% of the new deficit this year. Additionally, about half the deficit from the stimulus actually comes from the tax cuts. Am I to assume that you’re against these tax cuts because of the deficits they’ve created, and that Obama should be criticized and blamed for them?

The other issue is ticking time bomb expenditures. The wars were funded off-budget on special appropriations bills under Bush as a bit of accounting trickery so that they didn’t appear on the yearly deficits. Obama is being more honest about the whole thing, and so the current spending on the wars that were certainly not his fault now counts as part of “his” new deficit. Is this fair in any way? Additionally, Medicare Part D, a republican initiative, was designed to begin paying out benefits immediately but only start being paid for in 2009, when Republicans knew they’d probably be out of power. Can this be blamed on Obama also?

So, it’s scary to throw around those numbers, and yet of the big items, only the stimulus can be reasonably attributed to Obama, and even then, I doubt you oppose the tax cut half of it. So we’re talking about 6% of the new deficit being Obama’s fault, more or less, right?

This NYT article details where the current deficit comes from. It’s out of date, having come out last summer, but it does cover most of the components of our current deficit. If anyone has more recent data, I’d welcome it. Make sure you click on the accompanying graph.

So, how much of this is “Obama’s deficit”? I suppose you could argue that revenues would be up if he wasn’t such an economy-stomping socialist who’s keeping us down, but I don’t think the facts play this out. The Dow has nearly doubled under his watch and the economy is slowing coming back. He was given the shittiest of shit sandwiches coming into office, and barring a magic wand, things have gone about as well as they could’ve.

You could argue that he could’ve pulled out of Afghanistan and Iraq on day one of his presidency and saved some money there - but considering you probably would’ve called him a cut and run coward for it, that’s not a very honest argument.

He could’ve refrained from cutting taxes on 95% of people - and I actually think this is probably the most viable option here, where you could make a real argument against it since it was essentially elective and not an obligation and definitely had a deficit effect. So let’s hear it Republicans - let’s hear about how Obama’s tax cuts are fiscally irresponsible.

The stimulus is generally regarded by economists to have worked and at least encouraged some economic recovery - so it at least partially pays for itself in greater revenue. The stimulus was by no means perfect, so I’m perfectly willing to chalk some of the debt up to him, but the positive economic effects it has had shouldn’t be entirely discounted in this equation.

Since the HCR issue hasn’t played into the deficit at all yet, and if you believe the CBO numbers, will reduce the deficit, it’s more or less irrelevant to the current discussion. I’ve been hearing claims of “Obama’s deficit” long before HCR passed anyway. Here’s your chance: back up your claims that our currently huge deficit is Obama’s deficit.

The entire story can be summed up in one chart. Answer: It’s W who’s primarily responsible. By an overwhelming margin, in fact, even including Obama’s stimulus.

Of course, as the link also shows, our real long term problem is health care.

Can’t wait to see Sam’s take on this.

Last time I looked at the Constitution, it was the Congress (specifically the House with the Senate’s approval) that spent money.Congress approved the spending on the war even though the Dems threatened to cut the appropriations. Read about the War Powers Act to see how Congress can retain their power to be the sole body to declare war. Ditto tax cuts. It is Congress that needs to pass those laws. There’s a gentleman’s agreement that the Dems get their social programs and Reps get their defense and everything gets blamed on the President who at best can veto the bills but typically goes along. The last president to try to reign in spending unilaterally was Nixon and we all know what SCOTUS said about that.

It is no more Bush’s deficit than it is Obama’s. It’s Congress’.

Sure, but the President sets the national agenda, and in that sense has some control over what Congress is legislating and appropriating. Witness the battle over health care - the bill (especially the one which ultimately passed) was not Obama’s in any real sense, but he was behind it and he will be credited (or blamed) for it.

None whatsoever, obviously. I was completely wrong.

All $1.56 trillion of the budget deficit that Obama has proposed, while his party controls the House and Senate, is solely and entirely Bush’s fault. Bush is sending magic mind control rays that force Obama to increase the deficit.

It isn’t, clearly - Obama is a helpless pawn in all of this. How can anyone possibly expect him to be responsible for his own budgets?

That’s crazy talk.


That was a complete, bald-faced copout. You lose.

Not at all - you’ve convinced me. Obama has no control over spending at all. He bears no responsibility for his own budgets.

There is nothing he can do - the deficit would be $1.56 trillion no matter who was elected, and no matter who controls Congress. Spending bills do not originate in the House of Representatives, the Senate has no role to play in budgets, and Obama cannot possibly veto any bill.

It’s not his fault, and it never will be. He did not spend $787 billion his first year in office, and he is not going to increase the deficit to $1.56 trillion his second.

He looks pretty, but he isn’t good for anything else - he is paralyzed by the overwhelming minority the Republicans hold.


This isn’t clever. Address the substance of my post. Break it down for us - which parts of our deficit are the results of Obama’s decisions? I asked specific questions in my OP - is the reduced revenue due to the economic meltdown his fault? Are his tax cuts irresponsible? Does putting Iraq on the budget instead of playing around with the accounting books really increase our deficit?

in other words, you have nothing but sarcasm.

**SenorBeef **made a post with substantive points. The OP is laid out clearly, and if you have anything to say that is at odds with his thesis that much of the deficit is due to decisions made before Obama took office… then say it.

Otherwise, your arguments are just an empty shell, rattling in the wind.

What’s weird is that a lot of what he’s saying is just true, so it’s not even sarcastic. It’s like he can’t rebut reality so he’s trying to be sarcastic and failing at even that.

I suppose one develops a vast array of tools for coping with cognitive dissonance.

I have already done that - none of it is Obama’s fault.

I’ve already said it - none of it. Obama is not responsible for his own budget.

No, of course not - the reductions in revenue due to the recession are not his fault, especially after the recession ends. Neither is the reduction in revenue due to his reduction in taxes on 95% of the people - these reductions are not his fault, since he had no choice.

Good heavens, no - tax cuts are a great idea, no matter who is President. If the economy goes into recession, you have to cut taxes - everybody knows that. Then, when you come out of the recession, you cannot cut spending because that would send the economy back into recession. A President has no choice - tax cuts may never be repealed, and spending must never be decreased.

Not in the slightest.

Look, I don’t see why you aren’t happy - I am agreeing with you. A President has no role to play in setting economic policy for the US - he is the helpless victim of whoever was President before him.

Obama has no choice - he is completely helpless and ineffectual. Spending is totally out of control, and there is nothing he can do about it. Nobody can reasonably expect a President to have any influence over spending, especially not if his party controls Congress.


You can’t bring that weak-ass shit up in this humpty dumpty.

Doesn’t it bug you that you were utterly wrong? Don’t you think you should admit that instead of this pathetic deflection you’re doing?

Why don’t you think it’s appropriate to address the actual issue?

“No, you can’t go to Bobby’s house, because it is a school night.”

“That’s fine, I can never go anywhere ever again. I’ll just stay in the house forever and never get to go ANYWHERE!”

I’m pretty sure the name of this forum is “Great Debates”, not “Great Childish Behavior”

Some more facts for us to consider, from the OMB :

On January 7, 2009 [before Obama took office], the Congressional Budget Office issued its Economic and Budget Outlook for Fiscal Years 2009-2019. In that document, CBO projected that government spending would rise from 20.9 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2008 to 24.9 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2009. (Just for the record, that CBO projection was issued 2 weeks before the current Administration took office.)

This week, CBO issued its updated Economic and Budget Outlook for Fiscal Years 2010-2020. That document shows that government spending in fiscal year 2009 turned out to be 24.7 percent—roughly the same as what CBO had initially projected. (The mix of spending was slightly different from what CBO had projected, with somewhat lower mandatory spending and somewhat higher discretionary spending as a share of the economy.)

It is thus correct that federal spending rose by roughly 4 percentage points of GDP between 2008 and 2009 – and it is also the case that the increase in spending has helped to stabilize the economy – but it is wrong to attribute that increase primarily to Administration actions since it took office. The increase was already on the books when we arrived.
The fiscal year 2009 proposal (the fiscal year 2009 beginning of course in October 2008), on which the CBO based it’s above predictions on, was actually written by the Bush administration. You can have a look here and see the names of the various Bush administration budget peeps at the bottom :
So the huge 2009 budget deficit was already baked in when Obama took office, and that’s according to numbers from the Bush administration, CBO, OMB etc. Obama’s situation is basically that of a relief pithcer entering a game where his team is losing 19-0 and him allowing another run to score.

This is pathetic, Shodan, and I think you can do better. The OP already acknowledged Obama was responsible for some of the deficit.

What is your response to the chart at The Economist and included in Hellestal’s post above? Do you dispute that two key GWB initiatives—the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Bush tax cuts—are the principal drivers of our current deficit (to the tune of comprising two-thirds to three-quarters of current deficit spending)?

Should we abandon our operations in Afghanistan and our misadventure in Iraq (which, at this point, I think we can all admit was a neoconservative thought-experiment tragically brought to life and advancing no vital American interest)?

Perhaps we ought to repeal the Bush tax cuts?

The evidence is pretty damning and flat denials aren’t getting you anywhere. Keep in mind that Senor Beef doesn’t usually critique from the left.

In the spirit of an actual debate, I would posit that, no, he cannot do any better than this. This is in fact as good as it gets.