Seth is one of my best buddies from Grad School and the two of us discuss lots of topics from basketball (his beloved Blazers vs. my Celtics) to politics. Like many in the US he is a fiscal conservative. I like to think I am as well but the two of us have drastically different opinions on the current situation and who is more/less responsible for it. Seth, and many on the American right claim that Obama has grown the federal government too fast on our national credit card and that changes must be made. So is he right? Has the current administration increased the size of government more than its predecessors? Gross debt is clearly higher now than at any other time in history. Debt/GDP is also up substantially. My favorite Financial commentator recently tackled this issue head on by indexing government spending. The results are pretty interesting. Take a look at the following graph.
So what are the results after 9 quarters?
- Reagan — 100.9
- Bush Sr. — 115.6
- Clinton — 100.2
- Bush Jr. — 115.1
- Obama — 109.5
So Obama’s rate of spending is higher than Reagan and Clinton, but, clearly lower than both Bushes. The same index series was also done incorporating control of congress.
What to conclude from all of this? The lines above all look pretty similar don’t they? The Democrats are obviously not “fiscal conservative” but then again, they don’t claim to be. The Republicans do try to capture that narrative and they sure aren’t either.