That’s How Budgeting Works

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One of the most memorable parts of the State of the Union was when the President had to remind certain jeering members of congress that taking budgetary steps this fiscal year that don’t take effect until next fiscal year is “how budgeting works.” It looks to me like Ed Lazaer could use a tutorial in this point:

Since 2008, the ratio of federal spending-to-GDP has risen by about 14%. From 2008 to 2009 we saw the greatest annual increase in spending in the last 30 years. In the name of stimulating job growth, the share of federal spending is now 24% of the economy, up from 21% in the last year of the Bush administration.

As Peter Orszag observes, the Obama administration wasn’t in power when most of the relevant decisions were made:

On January 7, 2009, the Congressional Budget Office issued its Economic and Budget Outlook for Fiscal Years 2009-2019. In that document, CBO projected that government spending would rise from 20.9 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2008 to 24.9 percent of GDP in fiscal year 2009. (Just for the record, that CBO projection was issued 2 weeks before the current Administration took office.)

This week, CBO issued its updated Economic and Budget Outlook for Fiscal Years 2010-2020. That document shows that government spending in fiscal year 2009 turned out to be 24.7 percent—roughly the same as what CBO had initially projected.

That’s how budgeting works! But what’s particularly weird is that Ed Lazaer was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors from 2006 up until Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. He knows perfectly well that the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Proposal was written by the Bush administration. You can even download the 2009 Economic Report of the President (PDF) and see that it has Lazaer’s signature on it and everything. It’s right there on page 11.

The Cato Institute’s Daniel Mitchell did a good piece on this flim-flam back in December. You have to ask yourself what it says about the tea party crowd that they didn’t seem even slightly bothered by federal spending or large deficits until Obama took office.