How Much Did Obama Add?
But it’s also true that Obama signed a number of appropriations bills, plus other legislation and executive orders, that raised spending for the remainder of fiscal 2009 even above the path set by Bush. By our calculations, Obama can be fairly assigned responsibility for a maximum of $203 billion in additional spending for that year.
It can be argued that the total should be lower. Economist Daniel J. Mitchell of the libertarian CATO Institute — who once served on the Republican staff of the Senate Finance Committee — has put the figure at $140 billion.
Ordinarily, an incoming president has little or no influence over spending that was approved under his predecessor. So in normal circumstances, all spending for fiscal year 2009 would have been rightly tied to Bush, and fiscal 2010 would be the first year for which Obama would have prepared a budget and signed the major spending bills. And for the most part, big spending programs that require no yearly appropriations, including Social Security and Medicare, did indeed continue to operate during fiscal 2009 under the policies in effect under Bush.
But in Obama’s case, he quickly pushed through Congress and signed a large economic stimulus measure containing a combination of tax cuts and new spending in fiscal 2009. And while Bush had signed full-year appropriations for the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security and veterans programs, he had left the remainder of government agencies that need annual appropriations funded only through March 2009.
Here’s how we arrived at our $203 billion total: We combed through all the appropriations bills signed by Obama for 2009, plus other legislation that CBO said also resulted in increased spending. We also examined the budget effects of Obama’s decision to bail out General Motors and Chrysler using funds previously appropriated under TARP. And here’s what we found:
$2 billion for children’s health insurance. On Feb. 4, Obama signed a bill expanding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, covering millions of additional children (a Democratic bill Bush had vetoed in the previous Congress). “CBO estimates that the act will increase mandatory outlays by $2 billion in 2009,” CBO later stated (page 5).
$114 billion in stimulus spending. Obama signed the stimulus bill Feb. 17. While headlines proclaimed a $787 billion price tag, about 27 percent of the total was actually for tax cuts, not spending. And most of the spending didn’t take place until after fiscal 2009. CBO initially put the total spent in fiscal 2009 at $107.8 billion, but the following year it revised the figure upward to $114 billion, in a report issued in August 2010 (page 13).
$32 billion of the “omnibus” spending bill Obama signed on March 11, 2009, to keep the agencies that Bush had not fully funded running through the remainder of the fiscal year. The $410 billion measure included $32 billion more than had been spent the previous year, according to a floor statement by Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, the top-ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee. (See page H2790 in the Congressional Record.) “An 8 percent—or a $32 billion—increase in 1 year on top of the stimulus package is simply unnecessary and unsustainable,” he declared.
A case can be made that Obama shouldn’t be held responsible for the entire $32 billion increase. The $410 billion was only $20 billion more than Bush had requested, according to Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the appropriations chairman. (See page H2800.) And CBO later figured the increase amounted to only $9 billion over what it was projecting on the assumption that the levels Bush approved for the first part of the year would be extended for the entire year (page 5).
But it was Obama who signed the bill, so we assign responsibility for the full annual increase to him, not Bush.
$2 billion for deposit insurance. The “Helping Families Save Their Homes Act” that Obama signed May 20 had among its many provisions some changes to the federal program that insures bank deposits. CBO later estimated that would increase fiscal 2009 outlays by $2 billion (page 54).
$31 billion in “supplemental” spending for the military and other purposes. Obama pushed for and signed on June 24 another spending measure. The press dubbed it a “war funding” bill, but it actually contained $26 billion for non-defense measures (including funding for flu vaccine against the H1N1 virus, and for the International Monetary Fund) in addition to $80 billion for the military.
Only a portion of the total $106 billion it authorized would actually be spent during the remaining three months of fiscal 2009, however. Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, stated on June 18: “ The conference report includes $105.9 billion in discretionary budget authority for fiscal year 2009, which will result in outlays in 2009 of $30.5 billion.” (See page S6776.)
Here again, a case can be made that Obama isn’t responsible for the entire $31 billion. Economist Mitchell argues that $25 billion in military spending should be assigned to Bush, because “Bush surely would have asked for at least that much extra spending.” But he didn’t. So rather than speculate, we’ll assign it all to Obama, who asked for it.
$2 billion in additional “Cash for Clunkers” funding. Obama signed this measure Aug. 7, providing “emergency supplemental” funding for a stimulus program that offered $3,500 to $4,500 to car owners who traded in an old car for a new one with higher fuel economy. Nearly all was spent in fiscal 2009. (See page 959.)
$20 billion for GM and Chrysler bailouts. At one point the government had paid out nearly $80 billion to support the automakers. But some of this was Bush’s doing, and much has been repaid and will be in the future.
Here’s how we arrived at our $20 billion figure for Obama:
By the time Obama took office, Bush already had loaned nearly $21 billion to the two automakers from funds appropriated originally for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and had committed the government to lend $4 billion more. But Bush left decisions on further aid to Obama, who poured in additional billions.
By the end of the fiscal year, the Treasury had made approximately $76 billion in loans and equity investments to GM, Chrysler and their respective financing entities (some had already been repaid). But for budget accounting purposes, not all of this was counted as federal spending under the TARP law. That’s because the government stood to receive loan repayments with interest, and held nearly 61 percent of the stock of the reorganized General Motors. What was counted as spending was — in rough terms — the difference between the estimated future value of those assets to taxpayers and their initial cost.
Treasury put the net cost of the GM and Chrysler support during fiscal 2009 at $45 billion (see page 110, the “Total subsidy cost” line under the heading “AIFP,” for Automotive Industry Financing Program). That’s the amount officially booked as a federal outlay for fiscal 2009.
We assume — we think reasonably — that the $25 billion committed under Bush would have been lost had Obama done nothing. So we subtract the full amount of Bush’s commitment from the net total of $45 billion that Treasury initially estimated for fiscal 2009.
For the record, the ultimate total cost of the auto bailout is now estimated to be lower than initially expected. It is put at $21 billion by the Treasury Department (see page 5) and and only $19 billion by CBO (see Table 3). But those lowered estimates don’t affect what was booked as spending in fiscal 2009.
Other big domestic programs that don’t require yearly appropriations, including Social Security and Medicare, continued to operate as they had under Bush. One big fiscal 2009 spending increase resulted from an unusually large 5.8 percent cost of living increase that took effect just before Obama took office. That was an anomaly, as we explained in “Social Security COLA,” posted Sept. 23, 2009, and there would be no COLA at all for the next two years. The same 5.8 percent COLA also was given in 2009 to millions of federal retirees, military retirees and disabled veterans and their survivors.
So by our calculations, Obama can fairly be assigned responsibility for — at most — 5.8 percent of the $3.5 trillion that the federal government actually spent in fiscal 2009, which was 17.9 percent higher than fiscal 2008.http://www.factcheck.org/2012/06/obamas ... no-or-not/