With a Straight Face, Matthews Spins: It's a 'Fact' That Obama Is Not a 'Reckless Spender'

Chris Matthews managed to keep a straight face, Wednesday, when he seriously repeated the "fact" that Barack Obama is "not" a "reckless spender." Highlighting a seriously flawed analysis by MarketWatch, Matthews marveled, "Every once and a while I come across a fact that just blows me away."

The Hardball anchor insisted that "federal spending is rising at the slowest rate" in 60 years. Embracing this new talking point, Matthews continued, " For four years, from fiscal year '09 through fiscal year '13, we are heading into, no change." Except, of course, this isn't true. As James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute points out, the chart only works if you blame George W. Bush.

Pethokoukis debunked the chart by MarketWatch's Rex Nutting:

As the chart indicates, Nutting arrives at that 1.4% number by assigning 2009—when spending surged nearly 20%—to George W. Bush: “The 2009 fiscal year, which Republicans count as part of Obama’s legacy, began four months before Obama moved into the White House. The major spending decisions in the 2009 fiscal year were made by George W. Bush and the previous Congress. Like a relief pitcher who comes into the game with the bases loaded, Obama came in with a budget in place that called for spending to increase by hundreds of billions of dollars in response to the worst economic and financial calamity in generations.”

Let me complete the metaphor for Nutting: “Then as those runners scored, Obama kept putting more on base.”

Obama chose not to reverse that elevated level of spending; thus he, along with congressional Democrats, are responsible for it. Only by establishing 2009 as the new baseline, something Republican budget hawks like Paul Ryan feared would happen, does Obama come off looking like a tightwad. Obama has turned a one-off surge in spending due to the Great Recession into his permanent New Normal through 2016 and beyond.

Pethokoukis quipped, "It’s as if one of my teenagers crashed our family minivan, and I had to buy a new one. And then, since I liked that new car smell so much, I decided to buy a new van every year for the rest of my life. I would indeed be a reckless spender."

Matthews, of course, didn't care about the actual facts. He simply parroted, "It is incredibly flat, government spending, federal spending."

A partial transcript of Matthews May 23 comments can be found below:


5:15

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Every once and a while I come across a fact that just blows me away.           
...

MITT ROMNEY: Rather than putting out that spending fire, he's been feeding it. He has spent more, and borrowed more. The time has come for a president, a leader, who will lead. I will lead us out of this debt and spending inferno.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Not true. And the only problem with Republicans trying to paint President Obama as a reckless spender is it is not true at all. Market Watch point out that federal spending is rising at the slowest rate- In fact, look at it there since 1950. But take a look at that bar chart there. For four years, from fiscal year '09 through fiscal year '13, we are heading into, no change. It's been about $3.5 trillion right through. You know, Joan, every once in a while I'm amazed because I have heard so much about how government federal spending has been spiking every year. And you look at the ad that Rove put out and you'd be lead to believe that every year it is ticking upward. It is incredibly flat, government spending, federal spending.

JOAN WALSH: It is. You know, I mean, this Market Watch piece got a lot of attention because it flies in the face of what a lot of people believe, even a lot of Democrats, Chris. And, you know, I've been trying to think about it, what is the biggest lie they told so far? I mean, birtherism many is vile but a crack pot fringe. This might be the biggest lie of all. You take utter mendacity-

MATTHEWS: Trump is still pushing it.

WALSH: And Joe Arpaio, the crack pot fringe. But this one, you take sheer mendacity and you multiply it by the number of people who believe it. And this to me, that's the Joan Walsh formula for the biggest lie. This, to me, is the biggest lie and it's frankly devastating. When you look at numbers, I mean, actual per capita spending per American has dropped under President Obama. You know- It is partly-  the administration is pushing this and Jay Carney practically swore at today's briefing, telling people don't believe the Republican BS. But they've got to get better getting this stuff out. That chart is unbelievable.

MATTHEWS: Well, the phrase big lie- the phrase big lie is terrible, of course. But in this case there's an effective use of relentless not truth telling.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org