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How Statistics Can Be Used to Deceive and Mislead

Obama Increases Spending 16% Over 4 Years

In May, 2012, Rex Nutting of MarketWatch used statistics from the White House Office of Management and Budget to show that President Obama wasn’t a big spender. But to do it, he had to switch from the projected spending for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 by the OMB to the lower figures of the Congressional Budget Office. Ah, a great deceptive use of numbers: The bait and switch.

So Obama’s first fiscal year of spending was only $3.46 trillion (not counting all the spending he asked for, budgeted, and spent in his first real year in office in 2009, including a stimulus bill, cash for clunkers, and more).

As Rex noted, the president only begins to shape the budget in his second year. It takes time to develop a budget and steer it through Congress — especially in these days of congressional gridlock. Of course, in reality, that wasn’t true, because Obama was responsible for a ton of spending in fiscal year 2009 (which Nutting conveniently assigns completely to Bush).

So Bush was responsible, according to Nutting, for all $3.52 trillion in spending in fiscal year 2009. That number compared to Obama’s fiscal year 2010 spending of $3.46 trillion actually results in Obama spending less than Bush, and over a 4-year period only increasing spending to $3.58 trillion (which is the number Nutting comes up with in fiscal 2013 by using CBO numbers rather than the OMB numbers of $3.80 trillion for fiscal year 2013).

Now, let’s look at Bush’s last four years of spending compared to Obama’s projected spending (using Nutting’s distorted projections):

In the last four fiscal years of Bush’s term (we’ll use Nutting’s fiscal years of 2006 to 2009), Bush spent $11.89 trillion dollars.

During Obama’s first term (using Nutting’s altered fiscal years of 2010 to 2013), Obama will spend $13.77 trillion dollars. That’s a projected 16% rise in spending by Obama compared to Bush’s last four years.

Uninformed Democrats have been passing around a deceptive graphic showing that Obama has only increased spending by 1.4 percent, or as Nutting put it: Federal spending is rising at the slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower brought the Korean War to an end in the 1950s.

But now you know the truth. Even using Nutting’s distortions, spending will rise by 16% during Obama’s four years (as compared to Bush’s last four years). Smart, informed Americans have known that spending has increased. An added $6 trillion to the deficit sort of leaked the truth to people who pay attention.


Addendum 1: Note that Nutting completely ignored that there hasn’t been a budget passed in any of the last 3+ years (because the Democratic Senate and Obama have not pushed for a real budget), so the whole idea that it takes time to develop a budget is really another deliberately deceptive statement.

Addendum 2: You might have noticed that the charting function in Microsoft Word that I used distorted the graphic to make the difference between Bush and Obama look bigger than it really is. Word defaulted to starting the graph at 10.5 trillion, so the differences between the two is deceptively larger.

Addendum 3: Note that Bush’s spending increase in 2001 happened 8.3 months into his first term, immediately after the 9/11 terrorist act. That act led to the U.S. gearing up to fight 2 wars in Asia. That’s why the incredible increase in spending for his first four fiscal years.

Addendum 4: The decision to assign the first 8.3 months of spending in a new president’s term to the previous president was not an arbitrary decision made by Nutting. He knew that this would deliberately distort the spending records of Democratic presidents who are noted for trying to outdo each other with new programs and spending in the first 100 days of their new administrations. Nutting actually assigns this new Democratic spending from the first 250 days (not just the first 100 days) to the previous Republican president, thus conveniently minimizing the real spending records of the new Democratic presidents.

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