Every time we publish anything critical of Pres. Trump’s profligate spending, we get angry replies and excuses from Trump supporters. They often come in the form of, “Obama did it!”  or  “Obama was worse!”

So, tell me, how does that excuse Trump?

My recent article on October’s budget deficit was no exception. I pointed out that the administration ran up another $100.5 billion deficit last month and is on track to eclipse $1 trillion in deficit spending in fiscal 2019.

Some Trump supporters replied with the delusional fantasy that we need not worry because economic growth will fix the budget problem. In fact, the levels of debt already burdening the economy make that highly unlikely. Debt retards growth.

But by far the most frequent refrain is “Obama was worse.” Here’s an example from the TAC Facebook page.

“The defect (sic) increased almost 10 trillion with the Obama administration, that  (sic) 1 1/4 trillion every year, where was the whining then. (sic)”

Here’s the real question: why isn’t this dude upset that “his guy” is doing the exact same thing that Barack Obama did? I thought these people hated Obama. It seems to me that the fact Trump is acting just like him would cause a little bit of concern.

As far as where I was in 2010, well, I was complaining about Obama’s spending. In fact, I was a product of the Tea Party movement. My concern about the growing federal government and all of the spending was a big reason why I got involved with the Tenth Amendment Center. The difference between me and our intrepid commenter is that I based my views on principles, not party loyalty or devotion to the red team.

And even though I wasn’t working for the TAC in the early days of the Obama administration, I know for a fact that it was vocally opposing the spending. Here’s just one example – an article published in January 2009 blasting the Obama economic stimulus package.

So to answer this dude’s question: we were right here.

Regardless, the notion that Obama’s horrible record on spending and running up debt somehow justifies Trump’s horrible record on spending and running up debt is patently absurd.

But let’s look a little deeper into this guy’s claim. Was Obama’s spending actually worse? Here are the deficits beginning with Obama’s first year in office. (Keep in mind, the spending in 2009 carried over from the Bush administration and the spending in 2017 carried over from Obama.) [Source: FRED Economic Data]

2009 – 1,412.7
2010 – 1,294.4
2011 – 1.299.6
2012 – 1,087.0
2013 – 679.5
2014 – 484.6
2015 – 438.5
2016 – 584.7
2017 – 665.8
2018 – 779.0

So, Obama gave us three years of $1 trillion-plus deficits — four if you want to count 2009, although, as I said, that was really spending approved during the last year of Bush.

What is significant about those years of huge deficits? They were the height of the Great Recession. One would normally expect deficits to increase during an economic downturn. Government revenue drops as the economy contracts. Add to that the Obama stimulus spending and you have a recipe for massive deficits.

Last year, the Trump administration gave us the largest deficit since 2012. In other words, the deficits and borrowing look like the economy is in the midst of a massive recession even though it’s supposedly booming right now.

Meanwhile, long-term U.S. debt sales have risen to a level not seen since the height of the Great Recession. To cover the Trump deficit, the Treasury Department has piled onto the national debt, During the July – September 2018 quarter (Q2), the Treasury borrowed $353 billion in privately-held net marketable debt. That came in about $56 billion higher than projected. According to Reuters, the borrowing for the third quarter ranked as the highest since the same period in 2010 – at the height of the Great Recession. It comes in as the fourth-largest level of borrowing on record for the July-September quarter. The Treasury plans to borrow another $425 billion in the final quarter of 2018, bringing total borrowing for the year to $1.34 trillion, according to a Treasury Department press release.

The Treasury Department plans to keep up the torrid borrowing pace in the first quarter of 2019. The department projects it will borrow another $356 billion.

So, in a nutshell, Trump = Obama when it comes to borrowing and spending, except Obama was running up deficits in response to a major economic crisis and Trump is doing it during a so-called economic boom.

This doesn’t justify Obama’s profligate spending. But it does serve to illustrate that saying “Obama did it,” doesn’t excuse Trump doing the same thing.

Mike Maharrey

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