It's been breaking news all over MSNBC, liberal blogs, newspapers and even The Wall Street Journal: "Federal spending under Obama at historic lows ... It's clear that Obama has been the most fiscally moderate president we've had in 60 years." There's even a chart!
I'll pause here to give you a moment to mop up the coffee on your keyboard. Good? OK, moving on.
This shocker led to around-the-clock smirk fests on MSNBC. As with all bogus social science from the left, liberals hide the numbers and proclaim: It's "science"! This is black and white, inarguable, and why do Republicans refuse to believe facts?
Ed Schultz claimed the chart exposed "the big myth" about Obama's spending: "This chart -- the truth -- very clearly shows the truth undoubtedly." And the truth was, the "growth in spending under President Obama is the slowest out of the last five presidents."
Note that Schultz also said that the "part of the chart representing President Obama's term includes a stimulus package, too." As we shall see, that is a big, fat lie.
Schultz's guest, Reuters columnist David Cay Johnston confirmed: "And clearly, Obama has been incredibly tight-fisted as a president."
Everybody's keyboard OK?
On her show, Rachel Maddow proclaimed: "Factually speaking, spending has leveled off under President Obama. Spending is not skyrocketing under President Obama. Spending is flattening out under President Obama."
In response, three writers from "The Daily Show" said, "We'll never top that line," and quit.
Inasmuch as this is obviously preposterous, I checked with John Lott, one of the nation's premier economists and author of the magnificent new book with Grover Norquist: "Debacle: Obama's War on Jobs and Growth and What We Can Do Now to Regain Our Future." (I'm reviewing it soon, but you should start without me.)
It turns out Rex Nutting, author of the phony Marketwatch chart, attributes all spending during Obama's entire first year, up to Oct. 1, to President Bush.
That's not a joke.
That means, for example, the $825 billion stimulus bill, proposed, lobbied for, signed and spent by Obama, goes in ... Bush's column. (And if we attribute all of Bush's spending for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and No Child Left Behind to William Howard Taft, Bush didn't spend much either.)
Nutting's "analysis" is so dishonest, even The New York Times has ignored it. He includes only the $140 billion of stimulus money spent after Oct. 1, 2009, as Obama's spending. And he's testy about that, grudgingly admitting that Obama "is responsible (along with the Congress) for about $140 billion in extra spending in the 2009 fiscal year from the stimulus bill."
Nutting acts as if it's the height of magnanimity to "attribute that $140 billion in stimulus to Obama and not to Bush ..."
On what possible theory would that be Bush's spending? Hey -- we just found out that Obamacare's going to cost triple the estimate. Let's blame it on Calvin Coolidge!
Nutting's "and not to Bush" line is just a sleight of hand. He's hoping you won't notice that he said "$140 billion" and not "$825 billion," and will be fooled into thinking that he's counting the entire stimulus bill as Obama's spending. (He fooled Ed Schultz!)
The theory is that a new president is stuck with the budget of his predecessor, so the entire 2009 fiscal year should be attributed to Bush.
But Obama didn't come in and live with the budget Bush had approved. He immediately signed off on enormous spending programs that had been specifically rejected by Bush. This included a $410 billion spending bill that Bush had refused to sign before he left office. Obama signed it on March 10, 2009. Bush had been chopping brush in Texas for two months at that point. Marketwatch's Nutting says that's Bush's spending.
Obama also spent the second half of the Troubled Asset Relief Fund (TARP). These were discretionary funds meant to prevent a market meltdown after Lehman Brothers collapsed. By the end of 2008, it was clear the panic had passed, and Bush announced that he wouldn't need to spend the second half of the TARP money.
But on Jan. 12, 2009, Obama asked Bush to release the remaining TARP funds for Obama to spend as soon as he took office. By Oct. 1, Obama had spent another $200 billion in TARP money. That, too, gets credited to Bush, according to the creative accounting of Rex Nutting.
There are other spending bills that Obama signed in the first quarter of his presidency, bills that would be considered massive under any other president -- such as the $40 billion child health care bill, which extended coverage to immigrants as well as millions of additional Americans. These, too, are called Bush's spending.
Frustrated that he can't shift all of Obama's spending to Bush, Nutting also lowballs the spending estimates during the later Obama years. For example, although he claims to be using the White House's numbers, the White House's estimate for 2012 spending is $3.795 trillion. Nutting helpfully knocks that down to $3.63 trillion.
But all those errors pale in comparison to Nutting's counting Obama's nine-month spending binge as Bush's spending.
If liberals will attribute Obama's trillion-dollar stimulus bill to Bush, what won't they do?