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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: Clinton, Bush and Obama and Budgets

Friday, February 19, 2010

Clinton, Bush and Obama and Budgets

Our political process often highlights the difference between presidential administrations rather than their similarities. I wandered into Bankrupting America, through Cafe Hayek and found a couple of posts on the federal budget that are of interest.  The first, "The Odd Couple: 5 unfortunate similarities between Bush and Obama," gives a backward countdown of the similarities.
5. They love to spend. Bush passed a $3 trillion budget for 2009.  Obama posted a $3.5 trillion budget in 2010.  Bush doubled the debt to almost $6 trillion and Obama’s plans would leave us with an IOU of an additional $8.5 trillion by 2020.

4. They shop at the same stores. Contrary to popular belief, defense and homeland security spending only made up about 40 percent of Bush’s new spending.  He increased spending across most non-defense categories – like education, Medicare, Medicaid, income security and regional development – by four to six times the rate of inflation.  In Obama’s first half year in office, as he demanded a departure from the “investment deficit” years under Bush, these budgets rose another 70 percent or 40 times the rate of inflation.

3. They dabble with stimulants. In 2001 and 2008, Bush spent billions on rebates to stimulate consumer spending.  In 2009, Obama upped the ante with his $862 billion stimulus package.

2. They give sweetheart deals to failing corporations. Obama carried out Bush’s unpopular $700 billion bailout for failing corporations.  Together, the presidents have bailed out over 600 businesses since Spring 2008.

1. They enjoy regulating in their free time. Once again contrary to popular belief, President Bush was the biggest regulator since Richard Nixon.  Under his leadership in 2007, the number of pages of regulation added to the Federal Register reached an all-time high of 78,090  – a 21 percent increase from Bush’s first year.  And spending on regulatory activities rose to $42 billion in 2009 – a 62 percent increase.  Since taking office, Obama has proposed a large and sweeping increase in regulation that many worry could lead to another financial crisis in the future.
The second post, "A quick ode to the relative fiscal restraint of the Clinton years," correctly notes that President Clinton is the odd man out in spending and wishes the former president a speedy recovery from hearth surgery.  I concur. 

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