Spending: The choice of measurement — % of GDP – is highly instructive. Between 2008 and 2009, according to OMB, spending as a percentage of GDP shot from 20.8 to 25.2. That was all recession and cyclical spending. That was pre-2009 stimulus, pre-2009 appropriations – in other words, pre-all of the big spending increases that the President presided over during his first two years. We know those spending increases happened. The President can’t hide from them. And the undeniable fact that they happened is why spending has not returned to its historical average of around 20 percent, but instead remains highly elevated from a historical point of view. The President cannot hide the fact that he is trying to establish a “new normal” of 23-24 percent of GDP as far as government spending is concerned.
Taxes: The decision to draw attention to lower revenue as a % of GDP is odd – revenue growth as a % of GDP is not correlated with marginal tax rates, which the President raised in his health care law, but it is highly correlated with GDP growth, which has been sluggish under this President. If revenue as a % of GDP had shot up under this President, is there any doubt that Think Progress would be crowing about the economic growth that drove the number?
Deficits: Look at that microscopic decrease in the deficit. I thought the President promised to cut the deficit in half! Taking deficits from a world-historical $1.4T to a just-as-insanely-high $1.3T is some sort of accomplishment? Even the White House isn’t bragging about this one.
Final take: This is no different than that other chart Democrats love – the one that shows job losses turning into job gains as Obama takes office. It is more a measure of economic progress than a tool for evaluating the President’s policies. Yes, the economic free fall ended around the time the President took office, and the economy started sluggishly growing and sluggishly adding jobs – but as those charts show, the progress on these fronts over the last three and a half years has been miserably insufficient and way too slow. I think people intuitively understand that, which is why the economy and jobs remain their number one concern. We are nowhere near where we should be, judging by previous recoveries. We still remain in a deep hole, and the President’s policies have only served to slow our climb out of it.