Blame Obama for Reckless Spending, but not for the FY2009 Deficit

From the diaries by Erick

In a recent post on Cato-at-Liberty, I suggested that advocates of limited government should not attack Obama for the record FY2009 deficit. My argument was based on two points. First, the real problem is government spending, so that is where we should focus on energies. Fixating on deficits can be helpful, to be sure, but it also can unwittingly aid the other side since it enables them to offer a “solution” in the form of higher taxes. My second point was that Obama is largely not responsible for the FY2009 budget, which began on October 1, 2008.

This second point has led to some spirited – and conflicting – responses, with Bruce Bartlett attacking me from the left and Mustango attacking me from the right.

Let’s deal with Mustango’s criticisms. He argues that budgets are passed by Congress, presumably implying that Nancy Pelosi, et al, should be blamed. The Speaker of the House is a complete statist, so I’m a big fan of anybody who points out her flaws, but since President Bush supported all of the wasteful spending adopted in the last year (as well as the first seven years) of his presidency, he also must bear responsibility for the results.

The second criticism is that I was letting Obama off the hook for his pork-filled stimulus. That’s definitely not the case. My blog post specifically noted that Obama bears part of the responsibility for the FY2009 deficit, but since less than $200 billion of so-called stimulus was allocated in FY2009, that is rather trivial compared to a budget deficit of more than $1.4 trillion. And even if the extra spending from the omnibus spending bill is added to Obama’s tab, his total is still less than $250 billion.

Bruce Bartlett’s disagreements are harder to address, largely because I have a hard time believing anybody could read my post and conclude that I was being – as he wrote – a shill for the GOP. Bruce seems to think I was blaming Obama for all post-2009 deficits, even though I never made such a claim. What I did say, and completely stand by, is that Obama “is continuing the wasteful and profligate policies of his big-spending predecessor.”

I don’t care if somebody has an “R” after their name of a “D” after their name. If they increase the burden of government spending, they should be criticized.

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