Obama has reduced the deficit. Period.

We often hear (and will continue to hear) an incorrect assertion that President Obama has increased the deficit.  Mitt Romney’s own campaign website states, “Since President Obama assumed office three years ago, federal spending has accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history.”

This is a lie and based largely on counting Bush spending as Obama spending.  It has been fact checked thoroughly, but Romney and other Republican critics of Obama continue to use repeat this lie including in the first Presidential debate.  In fact, the deficit is lower in 2012 than it was when Obama took office, and once adjusted for inflation, Obama has actually reduced government spending at a rate faster than Presidents Kennedy, Carter, Nixon, Clinton, both George Bush’s, and even Ronald Reagan (see table below).

Here are the numbers from the CBO:

Oct 2008 to Oct 2009 – $1.2 trillion deficit (On Jan 2009, 2 weeks before Obama took office the CBO correctly projected this deficit.  On other words, this was estimated before Obama had implemented ANY policies)
Oct 2009 to Oct 2010 – $1.4 trillion deficit (this number still has much of Bush’s policies, including the TARP but also  includes much of Obama’s policies battling the  financial crisis hit the budget)
Oct 2010 to Oct 2011 – $1.3 trillion deficit
Oct 2011 to Oct 2012 – $1.1 trillion

The fact is that Obama has presided over historic reduction in spending compared to his predecessors.  Here’s a table using inflation-adjusted figures that tells that story (ranked from most increases in spending to least):


Fiscal year baseline

Last fiscal year

Average percentage increase per year

Johnson 1964 1969 6.3
George W. Bush 2001 2009 5.9
Kennedy 1961 1964 4.7
Carter 1977 1981 4.2
Nixon 1969 1975 3.0
Reagan 1981 1989 2.7
George H.W. Bush 1989 1993 1.8
Clinton 1993 2001 1.5
Obama 2009 2013 -0.1
Eisenhower 1953 1961 -0.5

So when Mitt Romney states that spending under Obama has “accelerated at a pace without precedent in recent history,” what he should be saying is that spending under Obama has actually risen “slower than at any time in nearly 60 years.”




About Cyrus

Cyrus Tashakkori is Vice President at Pioneer Green Energy, a wind and solar power developer based in Austin, TX. He has an MBA and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Texas in Austin and a Bachelor's in Science & Economics from the University of North Carolina, Asheville.
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