In 1992, Bill Clinton was running for President of the United States against George H.W. Bush. Mr. Clinton had a tendency to go off topic when answering questions in debates and interviews. He battled a reputation as a policy wonk, and (like many Democratic candidates of recent vintage) this reputation allowed Republicans to paint him as the second coming of one-term President Jimmy Carter. As the United States had recently been in a recession under the leadership of Mr. Bush, Clinton’s strategist James Carville used the phrase as a gentle reminder that if Clinton was to win he would only do so by attacking Mr. Bush’s failed economic policies. If you’re just emerging from the rock you live under, President Clinton later became the 42nd President of the United States.
Let me advise any opponent to the current President of the United States: “It’s the spending, stupid!”
Bush the 41st vs. Obama the 44th
In a parallel to President Bush (the elder, that is…), President Barack Obama has very strong foreign policy credentials. While Bush had the Cold War and the Persian Gulf war to thank, Obama merely has to point to the covert mission to take the life of Osama Bin Laden as his main success. Does his success mean Mr. Obama is unassailable? No, but similar to Bush, any attack on the performance of President Obama has to come from an economic standpoint. Let me highlight one such story which concentrates on the fiscal health of the country.
The Presidents and Congress
As anyone who has completed a civics or social studies class will tell you, it takes more than a President to enact laws, it also requires a willing Congress. Presidents have been unfairly punished or lauded for economic activity on their watch, when sometimes success or failure was merely the result of fortuitous or perilous timing. Remember, victory has many fathers and defeat is an orphan. Also remember (especially when you hear any politician take sole credit for something) that it takes 9 months to produce a baby no matter how many doctors you assign to the task. Caveats aside, here are the five worst and five best years of recent vintage listed along with party control of the House and Senate.
What do you know? You can’t trust either party!
To spoil the party again, remember that in some cases decreases may have come after increases, in effect ‘locking’ the budget in… that is illustrated in the recent period 2009-2011, all three in the chart above. For example, if new spending in 2009 had been split into two years, 2009 and 2010 would have both been in the highest increases since Mr. Carter’s presidency. Also note that, in many cases, spending levels are set before a new session of Congress begins (new bills passed under a previous Congress).
Back to the Spending!
I suppose now I’ll have to make an article about total spending over the term of a Presidency, or perhaps I can do something like I did when ranking Fed Chairmen. Either way, I hope I have proven that spending increases are off the chart under President Obama. To Mr. Obama’s opponent? It’s the spending, stupid!
What do you think? Did I find a winning slogan for November? If someone is a budget hawk, which party should they vote for?