President Obama’s defenders insist that the charge that he increased deficits is some sort of right-wing myth. But it’s hard to argue with the data. All you have to do is go back and look at what the Congressional Budget Office was projecting deficits would be when Obama took office, and compare it to what they have actually been, based on updated data from a report released this morning.
Those who try to defend Obama’s deficit record believe that the 2009 budget year, which began on Oct. 1, 2008, should count toward President Bush’s record. This even though Obama was in charge for the last eight months of the fiscal year which extended to Sept. 30, 2009 and even though he signed off on spending bills. The 2009 fiscal year also includes the early stages of Obama’s stimulus. But just for the sake of argument, let’s take 2009 out of the equation and only consider fiscal years 2010 through 2012, a period in which Obama has been president the whole time.
On January 7, 2009 — about two weeks before Obama’s was sworn into office — the CBO projected that deficits would total $1.47 trillion from 2010 through 2012. With two years in the books and about a month to go in the 2012 fiscal year, the actual number is $3.72 trillion, or about two and a half times the original estimates. Specifically, deficits for 2010, 2011 and 2012 were originally projected to be $703 billion, $498 billion and $264 billion, respectively. Instead, they ended up being $1.3 trillion in both 2010 and 2011, and are expected to be $1.1 trillion in 2012.
Liberals would no doubt blame the deficits on the Bush tax cuts being extended at the end of 2010 and the deteriorating economic outlook. But Obama could have repealed all of the Bush tax rates when Democrats controlled Congress or simply allowed them to expire. Instead, he signed an extension of all of them into law, and even his preferred policy was to keep 80 percent of them (or $3 trillion of the $3.7 trillion). The worsening deficit figures also reflect the fact that the stimulus bill cost about $800 billion and didn’t improve the economy as much as promised.
Here’s a chart illustrating the difference between CBO deficit projections for 2010 through 2012 when Obama took office, and what they have actually been. For an earlier post along these lines, check out my colleague Conn Carroll.