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One common argument we’ve heard this election cycle is that people are angry at Republicans because of the GOP’s fecklessness and unwillingness to reign in the Obama Administration. But based on this data, that anger may have been misplaced:
A president’s budget proposal tends to be a curious document that acts as part wishful thinking and part a projection of hope into the future. For example, Bush’s last budget proposal showed a federal government that was on track to produce a balanced budget within a few years. Obama’s budget, on the other hand, anticipated a massive spending increase in the first year (due to stimulus spending) followed by pretty typical increases of about 6 percent per year. That “6 percent” is important because in 2009 it was the rate at which federal spending had grown year over year for almost 30 years. So that is the number the Obama team used as their standard for how quickly spending should keep growing. But after Republicans took control of Congress in 2011, despite what you may have heard, they really did put a brake on federal spending. A really good brake. In fact, since 2011, federal spending has increased at only 1.3 percent per year … the slowest rate since the aftermath of World War II.
That looks pretty good to me, and it translates into some serious money:
The projected federal spending number in this chart is the initial spending projection for those years taken from Obama’s budgets. It represents how the Obama team anticipated to spend given a standard 6 percent yearly increase in spending. The orange bar is what the federal government actually spent.
In 2009, Obama promised to cut federal spending by $100 million, which sounds big but is actually hilariously small in terms of federal spending. By contrast, by 2012 (the first fiscal year the majority GOP could even influence), the Republicans had slashed Obama’s budget expectations by $217 billion … more than 2,000 times that amount.
And that was just the beginning.
The difference between Obama’s 2015 spending projection and what was actually spent was an astounding $697 billion dollars. That’s more money than we spent on Medicaid.
Let that sink in.
In five years, the Republicans managed to hold back Obama’s spending increases by more money than if they actually got rid of Medicaid. And so far 2016 looks like it will hold to that trend.
If you took the difference between Obama’s projected spending and the actual spending appropriated by Congress for all five years, it’s a jaw-dropping difference of $2.5 trillion.
That’s some real walking around money in Federal Budget Terms.
There is an extremely long way to go and plenty of reason for frustration, but this is more than a decent start on the spending front. That they managed this with a hostile president is even more remarkable.
Not bad for the party that never fights.