Sunday, March 1, 2009

Making the Bad Much, Much Worse

Click on the image to enlarge the graph in a new window.

What you see plainly in the graph above is a government out of control. If George W. Bush was bad, and racked up in eight years the deficits shown to the left of the vertical line (which represents the changeover in administrations in January 2009),  President Obama will exceed that entire total shortly after he begins his second year of office. (I have left in place President Bush's budget projections for 2009-2013, made in 2008, so that you can see how radical was the shift between those projections and Obama's, after he and Congress authorized both the second half of the TARP money and the "Stimulus Bill" in the first few weeks of his administration.)  

You can see in the above graph the resulting difference in deficits by comparing the area between the zero axis and the green plot of the deficits to the left of the line with the area under that same axis to the right of the line, and above the purple line showing Obama's projected deficits. This graph of the cumulative deficits of Bush's eight years versus the projected deficits of Obama's next four years demonstrates the same fact even more directly:
(Again, click on the graph to enlarge it.)

A quick question, now: who has the reputation for being a Big Federal Spender? If your answer has just four letters, then you are a victim of brainwashing by the mainstream media. (Or call them, as does Rush Limbaugh, the "drive-by media": they are masters of getting people all stirred up over something they [the media] have all wrong, like the horrors in the Superdome at New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Then, having done their deed, they disown all responsibility for the ensuing mêlée.)

If I, as a private citizen, was able to construct the above graphs in about forty-five minutes by downloading the data from the Office of Management and Budget, then why couldn't any enterprising reporter in the mainstream media have done so? The President's announced budget (which bears the risible title A New Era of Responsibility / Renewing America's Promise) is available from that site, and has the tables at the end from which you can see the numbers going forward from 2008. Another link on the site takes you to a different page, from which you can download all of President Bush's and the last six of President Clinton's annual budget messages to Congress. In President Bush's last report you will find tables of historical budget data going all the way back to 1789. (It's fascinating to see, for instance, that the government operated at a surplus from 1789 to 1849, and then had a cumulative deficit of 991 million dollars from 1850 to 1900, during which time we fought two wars. [Of course, we fought two wars also between 1789 and 1849, but the costs of the Civil War dwarfed everything previous to it.] Remember the time when budgets were expressed in millions, rather than billions, or---as we now are forced to express them---in trillions? If you do, you show your age. Now, that is "change".)

But you will look in vain through the drive-by media for any comparison of Bush's deficits with those consciously planned by Obama. Newsworthy it may be, but it does not fit their script, since it shows their depiction of Bush the Big Spender as a ridiculous farce in comparison with Barack Obama. So what you read about instead are simply glowing reports about all the President is doing to get the country out of the "crisis" it is in, and how we are going to be not just Keynesians, but, yes---socialists!---in spending our way to recovery.

And doubtless you have seen the same reports I did about how President Obama promises to cut in half, by the end of his current term, the monstrous first-year deficit he and Congress have created. That is indeed what the graphs above reflect, or actually, even better: while the deficit for fiscal year 2009 will be $1.752 trillion, Obama projects it at "only" $581 billion for fiscal year 2012. 

(So what is he intending to tell us? That his published projection of $581 billion is out of date before the ink is dry, and that it will be closer to $875 billion? Come to think of it, look at the first graph again. Obama repeatedly tells us the country is in crisis, that it is experiencing a catastrophe, and that "it will get worse before it gets better. . .".  But starting in October of this year, he projects revenues to rise at a faster rate (steeper slope) than they did during the Bush heydays of FY 2004-2006. And he predicts the rise that starts in 2009 to continue at the same incredible rate for the next three years, and then to continue increasing at only a slightly slower rate for the foreseeable future, out to 2020 and beyond. In fact, the amazing pickup in revenues that will start in just eight months, according to Obama, will begin a boom that lasts longer than any boom in recent memory! Now that's really encouraging---at least, it must be to the rich people who are going to earn all that money for the nice government to tax. Does not that forecast just inspire confidence in the President's budget figures?) 

But now look at the first graph one more time, and compare the projected revenues with expenditures going all the way out to FY 2019 (as they are shown in Table S-1 of the President's Budget): The deficits also increase after 2012, climbing steadily to $712 billion in FY 2019. (The line on the graph goes down, ever deeper into negative territory. That is how you depict a deficit that is increasing.) So not only is the government receiving more and more in taxes during that period, but it is also managing to spend money even faster than it is receiving it! How is that for change? "Change" it may be, in the sense that it is different from what it was in 2012, but it is not change for the better; it is change for the worse. 

And in comparison to President Bush's record, it is much, much worse. 

If you are not yet convinced of the drive-by media's utter hypocrisy---a bias so slanted that it has rendered them useless to all but Obama yea-sayers---please head on over to the Powerline blog and take the time to read this post. John Hinderaker has done a marvellous job in sifting through the editorials of the New York Times during the Bush years, and contrasting what the Times said then with what it is not saying now. He quotes this paragraph from a May 22, 2003 editorial, for example, and then asks the questions quoted immediately under it:
This version of the president's ''growth'' plan will increase the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars across the next decade. [Ed.: Those were the good old days.] To help pay for it, the G.O.P. budget hawks of yore, born again now as deficit spenders of record proportions, will soon have to raise the national debt limit by almost a trillion dollars from the current $6.4 trillion. ... ''Deficits do matter,'' the Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, warned Congress, sounding like a Dickensian wraith ominously foreseeing a future of red-ink borrowing and rising interest rates. But the Republicans appear set to party on now and roll the tab over the far horizon.

So, do deficits "still matter?" And if so, with their grotesquely multiplied deficits, are today's Democrats "partying on now and rolling the tab over the far horizon?"
You won't hear that from the Times. But you read this if you picked up the paper on September 22, 2003 (the quote again is followed by Mr. Hinderaker's pointed queries):
The White House serenely brushed off a detailed caution from the Congressional Budget Office last week that the growth in the deficit is more likely to roar than retreat across the next decade, fed by the three Bush tax cuts and other debt-fattening indulgences. If that warning was not enough, how about the concern reported at the International Monetary Fund that the administration has no credible plan to restore budget balance? Yes, the I.M.F., which must lecture the profligates of the globe, is worried that a structural deficit will push up interest rates and restrain growth as America ceaselessly borrows to steer red ink from imbalanced budgets onto future taxpayers.

Now that his planned deficits are four times larger, does Obama's budget contain "debt-fattening indulgences?" Has the Times denounced them? Does the Obama administration have a "credible plan to restore budget balance?" Given that Obama's intended budgets--put aside how optimistic his numbers may be--far exceed the actual deficits during the Bush administration, is the Times still "worried that a structural deficit will push up interest rates and restrain growth as America ceaselessly borrows to steer red ink from imbalanced budgets onto future taxpayers?" If not, why not?
As Mr. Hinderaker points out later in his post, the Times did bring itself to speak recently about President Obama's budget. But before I give you the quote, I would ask that you do your homework in the graphs above. The picture I want to show you can be most easily seen in the second graph, which cumulates the yearly deficits for each President in a stacked bar. Thus President Obama's planned deficit for the first fiscal year in which he will be totally in control, the one beginning this next October 1, 2009, is the never-before-even-approached number of $1.752 trillion. It appears as the large orange slice at the top of Obama's bar. 

Now look at the bottom slice of Bush's bar (the bottom-most green one). That is the deficit he projected for the last fiscal year that he controlled (remember, we are talking about budgets, not actualities; President Bush gave the budget for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2008 to Congress the previous January). It represents the huge sum (at that time, mind you) of $459 billion, as President Obama acknowledges in the first column of his summary Table S-1.

With that little bit of homework out of the way, you are ready now for what the Times wrote on its editorial page this last Friday (I have added the bold to the lie, because it is a bold lie):
President Obama’s first budget recognizes what most of Washington has been too scared or ideologically blind to admit: to recover from George W. Bush’s reckless economic policies, taxes must go up. Mr. Obama’s blueprint, released on Thursday, commits to cutting by more than two-thirds, by 2013, the $1.75 trillion budget deficit that Mr. Bush dumped on the nation.
Excuse me, Gray Lady? The $1.75 trillion budget deficit that who "dumped" on the nation---for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2009?

The Times editorial board gets a quintuple "FFFFF" for that howler---not just for failing abysmally to report the truth, but for falsehood, fantasy and flippant farrago, to say nothing of folderol and flim-flam along the way.

You can read the rest of the editorial, if you want to have some fun laughing and catching your breath at the Times's expense. Here are a few more belly-slapping pot-boilers by the editorial board:
A credible pledge to reduce the deficit is imperative.
"Credible", you say? There's certainly nothing to take credence in about a budget projection that shows an ever-widening gap between revenues and spending out to 2019. But then, I forget---this is none other than the New York Times talking about "credibility." Just as it gave credence to the Tawana Brawley affair.
Without it, foreign lenders — who financed the Bush-era deficits and are now paying for the stimulus and bailouts — could lose faith in the nation’s ability or willingness to repay in anything other than rapidly depreciating dollars. That would send interest rates up and the economy down, the worst-case scenario. . . .

My, my. If the foreign lenders were spooked by deficits totalling a little over $1.8 trillion in the eight years under President Bush, what do you imagine they will say about the $8.7 trillion in deficits projected by President Obama? "President Obama? He's a Democrat. Oh, well, that's all right, then."
The collapse of the Bush-era economy is ample and awful evidence of the folly of unconstrained debt-fueled growth. The Obama administration has acknowledged the need for deficit spending to stimulate the economy but has vowed that unpaid-for government will not become the norm. Judging from the blueprint, Mr. Obama is not just talking the talk.

No, indeed he is not just "talking the talk." He has a plan---to spend and spend and spend till the printing presses break, and till we are all pushing around wheelbarrows full of bills just to go buy a loaf of bread and a quart of milk. That is certainly something more than just "talking the talk."

Ah, well, there's always the crossword puzzle.


  1. A quibble with your first graph. It took me a little bit to figure out what you had done. The curves representing "Bush deficit" and "Obama deficit" are really the Bush and Obama budgetary shortfalls. The Bush budgetary shortfall is eliminated some time in 2011 whereas the Obama one continues ad infinitum (or ad electionum proximum (that was heinous crime against Latin)). The deficit, on the other hand, would continue to grow in Obama's plan.

    In mathematical terms, the deficit is the integral of the spendings minus the revenue with respect to time. Or in other words, the budget deficit is the integral of the budgetary deficit or shortfall. (And, hence, the first derivative of the budget deficit is the budgetary deficit or shortfall.)

  2. "Excuse me, Gray Lady? The $1.75 trillion budget deficit that who 'dumped' on the nation---for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2009?"

    Standard operating procedure after any reorganization (in government or corporations) is to:
    1. First, blame the previous administrator.
    2. Second, say the solution is in next year's budget.
    3. Third, create a box of problems for the next administrator.

    The rush to pass the spending bill is a political move to lay the blame on the previous administration. The "people" have not yet associated the Obama administration with the economy. That linkage will take 2-4 years during which time the Bush administration will continue to bear the brunt of the blame from the MSM. Congress hopes the "people" will forget the spending bill by the time the next election cycle rolls around at which time we will hear of their heroic efforts to reduce the deficit.

  3. Fair enough, Bobby Mac, and thank you for that comment. If you define "shortfall" as the yearly difference between revenues and spending, then that is what the lowest two lines plot---the blue-green one for Bush, the blue-gray one for Obama. As I stated in the post, the area between those lines and the zero axis (the "integral" of which you speak) is the cumulative budgetary deficit, not just the deficit for any given year.

    Also, keep in mind that the figures for 2000 to 2008 are actual figures (so strictly speaking, they are no longer the "budget", or what the government plans to do, but represent its actual performance). The rest are budgetary projections, and so represent its plans---which, as Robert Burns reminds us, "gang aft agley."

  4. Elections have consequences. 52% of us bought his bilge and now we all own the consequences. God help us.