Looking Back at Recent Federal Spending, AP's Andrew Taylor Only Counts 'Two Years of Big Increases'

February 14th, 2011 8:39 PM

It's going to be a long year for those of us who review Associated Press reports Uncle Sam's finances for evidence of bias and ignorance. Sometimes it seems that it would be easier to highlight the rare examples of fairness and balance.

Take the first sentence of Andrew Taylor's report on President Obama's 2012 budget (please; that goes for his report and the budget). It, in combination with the oh-so-predictable headline, makes you want to stop reading on in disgust (for the purposes of this post, I did endure the whole thing; bold is mine):

Obama budget: Some cuts, not the slashes GOP asks


Putting on the brakes after two years of big spending increases, President Barack Obama unveiled a $3.7 trillion budget plan Monday that would freeze or reduce some safety-net programs for the nation's poor but turn aside Republican demands for more drastic cuts to shrink the government to where it was before he took office.

It's pretty bad when you can't get past the opening clause without detecting an obvious howler.

"Two years" of big spending increases? We wish (sources: 2011-2013; White House Budget Summary Tables; 2007-2010; Sept. 2008 and Sept. 2010 Monthly Treasury Statements):


I count three out of four, which would turn into four out of four if the administration hadn't played accounting games in 2009 and 2010:

  • 2007 to 2008, the first budget year where Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House and Harry Reid was Majority Leader of the Senate (with Barack Obama and Joe Biden as members): +9.2%
  • 2008 to 2009: +18.2%
  • 2009 to 2010: -1.8%
  • 2010 to 2011, the last budget year where Pelosi and Reid were in theory supposed to pass a budget, but never did: +10.5%

But if the non-cash accounting entry games described here are incorporated into the numbers, fiscal 2009 spending would have been (i.e., should have been) $115 billion lower, and fiscal 2010 spending would have been $115 higher. Reflecting those adjustments, the spending increases, in order, would be 9.1%, 14.4%, 4.8%, and 6.9%. All of these qualify as "big," when one considers that inflation during the respective 12-month periods ending in September was 4.9% in 2008, -1.4% in 2009, 1.1% in 2010, and after one quarter is on track to be about 1.4% in 2011.

The administration's projected fiscal 2011 spending represents a 40% increase over fiscal 2007, and 28% over fiscal 2008. Its fiscal 2012 spending proposal of $3.73 trillion is a 37% increase over fiscal 2008, and 25% over fiscal 2012.

Would someone please tell Andrew Taylor that all of these numbers are, like, really big?

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.