WaPo Busts White House for Citing Bogus Report Claiming 'Obama Spending Binge Never Happened'

As NewsBusters reported Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney during the previous day's press gaggle cited a bogus MarketWatch report hysterically claiming "Obama Spending Binge Never Happened."

Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler looked at Carney's comments as well as Rex Nutting's article Friday and gave their assertions three Pinocchios:

First of all, there are a few methodological problems with Nutting’s analysis — especially the beginning and the end point.

Nutting basically takes much of 2009 out of Obama’s column, saying it was the “the last [year] of George W. Bush’s presidency.” Of course, with the recession crashing down, that’s when federal spending ramped up. [...]

On the other end of his calculations, Nutting says that Obama plans to spend $3.58 trillion in 2013, citing the Congressional Budget Office budget outlook. But this figure is CBO’s baseline budget, which assumes no laws are changed, so this figure gives Obama credit for automatic spending cuts that he wants to halt.

The correct figure to use is the CBO’s analysis of the president’s 2013 budget, which clocks in at $3.72 trillion. [...]

Under these figures, and using this calculator, with 2008 as the base year and ending with 2012, the compound annual growth rate for Obama’s spending starting in 2009 is 5.2 percent.

Nutting using his liberal calculus actually came up with 1.4 percent.

On the other hand, I still prefer using numbers from the Office of Management and Budget because they reflect what the White House WANTED to spend before Congress got involved.

Kessler somewhat addressed this:

So in every case, the president wanted to spend more money than he ended up getting. Nutting suggests that federal spending flattened under Obama, but another way to look at it is that it flattened at a much higher, post-emergency level — thanks in part to the efforts of lawmakers, not Obama.

Indeed.

Kessler then made a fabulous point no one else has about this issue:

Even 5.5 percent growth would put Obama between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in terms of spending growth, but that does not take into account either inflation or the relative size of the U.S. economy. At 5.2 percent growth, Obama’s increase in spending would be nearly three times the rate of inflation. Meanwhile, Nutting pegs Ronald Reagan with 8.7 percent growth in his first term — we get 12.5 percent CAGR — but inflation then was running at 6.5 percent. [...]

In the post-war era, federal spending as a percentage of the U.S. economy has hovered around 20 percent, give or take a couple of percentage points. Under Obama, it has hit highs not seen since the end of World War II — completely the opposite of the point asserted by Carney.


Kessler concluded:

Carney suggested the media were guilty of “sloth and laziness,” but he might do better next time than cite an article he plucked off the Web, no matter how much it might advance his political interests. The data in the article are flawed, and the analysis lacks context — context that could easily could be found in the budget documents released by the White House.

The White House might have a case that some of the rhetoric concerning Obama’s spending patterns has been overblown, but the spokesman should do a better job of checking his facts before accusing reporters of failing to do so. The picture is not as rosy as he portrayed it when accurate numbers, taken in context, are used.

Indeed.

Sadly, Kessler didn't address all the MSNBC shills jumping on this bogus report, nor did he mention Politifact finding it "Mostly True."

But unlike other media outlets falling for Nutting's nonsense hook, line and sinker, it is tremendously encouraging to see the Post not only not amongst them, but also willing to call out the White House for citing something so clearly deficient.

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.