WaPo Confirms: WH’s Favorite Report is ‘BS’

• May 25, 2012 1:52 pm


President Obama referenced a dubious statistical report at a campaign event on Thursday, claiming: "Since I’ve been president, federal spending has actually risen at the lowest pace in nearly 60 years."

The claim was drawn from a MarketWatch post by Rex Nutting titled "Obama spending binge never happened," which has been resoundingly debunked and discredited by a number of experts.

White House press secretary Jay Carney cited the same report on Wednesday when he told reporters that Obama "has demonstrated significant fiscal restraint" and urged members of the media not to "buy into the BS that you hear about spending and fiscal constraint with regard to this administration."

Carney said any reporting to the contrary could only be the result of "sloth and laziness."

Glenn Kessler, the Washington Post’s in-house fact checker, joined the list of critics calling "BS" on Carney’s comments, in a Friday post titled "The facts about the growth of spending under Obama."

"First of all, there are a few methodological problems with Nutting’s analysis," Kessler writes. "Especially the beginning and the end point."

Using more accurate data from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, Kessler calculates that the actual growth rate of federal spending under Obama (5.2 percent) is nearly four times larger than Nutting’s estimate (1.4 percent). And that’s based on the amount the federal government actually spent since 2009, not what Obama proposed to spend.

[I]n every case, the president wanted to spend more money than he ended up getting. Nutting suggests that federal spending flattened under Obama, but another way to look at it is that it flattened at a much higher, post-emergency level — thanks in part to the efforts of lawmakers, not Obama.

Like a host of others who have criticized Nutting’s post, Kessler points out that Obama has presided over some of the highest federal spending levels in history:

In the post-war era, federal spending as a percentage of the U.S. economy has hovered around 20 percent, give or take a couple of percentage points. Under Obama, it has hit highs not seen since the end of World War II — completely the opposite of the point asserted by Carney. Part of this, of course, is a consequence of the recession, but it is also the result of a sustained higher level of spending. …

Carney suggested the media were guilty of ‘sloth and laziness,’ but he might do better next time than cite an article he plucked off the Web, no matter how much it might advance his political interests. The data in the article are flawed, and the analysis lacks context — context that could easily could be found in the budget documents released by the White House.