Saturday, February 27, 2010

FDR was Cautious Compared to Obama

Back when I worked for Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) in the 1980s, there was a saying among members of the Budget Committee he served on and the staff: "A million here and a million there, and eventually you are talking about serious money." Those now appear to be the "good old days" compared to the fiscal mayhem we see today.

Last week President Obama signed a law authorizing the United States Treasury to borrow an additional $1.9 trillion, during that time he did another one of his favorite paradoxical quips in a speech in which he discussed his commitment to frugality. Terrence P. Jeffrey of Human Events, suggests we all review the White House website and review the President's Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) own figures.

I love the title on the top of the OMB page: "A new era of responsibility." This from a budget that is adding to the deficit annually, what was the entire national debt for the first 180 plus years of this republic. The propagandists at the White House have nothing over the advocates of "newspeak" in Orwell's 1984.

Jeffrey observes that:

When calculated by the average annual percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) that Obama will spend during his presidency, he is on track to become the biggest-spending president since 1930, the first year reported on the OMB's historical chart of spending as a percentage of GDP.

When calculated by the average annual percentage of GDP that Obama will borrow during his presidency, he is on track to become the greatest spender and debtor since Franklin D. Roosevelt in terms of real spending.

Thought George Bush was bad? Obama will outspend and out-borrow the man that the Obama Administration routinely uses as a punching bag because of Bush's fiscal irresponsibility and who, when in office, was often seen by friends and foes alike as a "Big Government Republican."

Obama does not enjoy the excuses that FDR had for his dramatic expansion of government. After all, we do recall the Great Depression and World War II. In spite of this, Obama will even out spend this icon of big government.

Spending as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product is the gold standard for determining real spending. Under FDR (from 1933 to 1945), federal spending averaged 19.35 percent of the GDP. Under Obama, the estimates from the President's own Office of Management and Budget is 24.13 percent of the GDP. That is about 25 percent more than FDR's expenditure during the two greatest challenges of the 20th century -- worldwide war and global depression.

What may be most startling is the unique distinction that both Obama and FDR share. According to the OMB's calculations, they are the only two presidents since 1930 to have annual deficits that reached double figures as a percentage of GDP.

In the same vein, Obama will have a deficit this year of 10.6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product; the last time the deficit hit double digits as a percentage of GDP was 1945 -- at the end of World War II.

Jeffrey's most profound observation in the article was in regards to comparing our current challenges with those of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s in the latter's efforts to end the Cold War. Without firing a shot and without having a budget that exceed 6 percent of our GDP, Reagan put the Soviets into bankruptcy and ended the Cold War. Obama is going to have a difficult time explaining the fiscal mess he has created for us.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is also host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650). Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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