UPDATE 22-MAR-12 – Updated chart labels and added graphs using OMB data at the end
There was a recent post at Economists View that noted how Clinton and Obama were very austere Presidents in recent history with regard to Federal spending. The conclusions and graph (showing increased spending per capita) are shown below:
“To compare presidencies, I did the calculation two ways. One starts in the quarter before the president was elected (e.g., 2008Q4), the other starts in the first quarter of the presidency (e.g., 2009Q1). (The ARRA probably had some effect in Q1, but most of the change was simply economic conditions that the incoming president had nothing to do with, so I think I prefer the Q1 to Q1 method). Ranking since Johnson (starting in 1968), and using the first-quarter comparisons, and calculating growth under Obama through 2011Q4, Clinton is the most austere, followed by Obama. The most spendthrift are (1) Nixon-Ford, (2) Reagan, and (3) Bush II.”
From the post, it is not clear how the author calculated the percent growth but I’m assuming that he took the average of each year’s spending growth (versus the previous year) under their term as President. I believe the author also uses the calendar year (Jan-Dec) to calculate the FY for each president and this differs from the official US government fiscal year of October of the previous year to September of the year numbered.
I wanted to verify this myself and I used the following site to obtain my data and it should be noted that this data utilizes the actual US government FY (October to September) so this will not be an apples to apples comparison but should be close. This site included all Federal Government spending per capita and normalized it to 2005 dollars so this provides a fair comparison year to year for each President.
Here is a graph showing the total Federal government spending increase (or decrease) when compared to the previous year.
Here is a graph showing the average of each year’s spending growth during the term of each President starting with Nixon/Ford.
I then performed a calculation to show the average total spending for each year during each President’s term and compared that to the previous president’s average (Nixon/Ford was compared to Johnson).
Here is a graph showing average spending per capita (in constant 2005 dollars) during each President’s tenure.
It should be noted that using the US government FY, TARP is included in the 2009 budget and was passed under Bush II but Obama voted for this legislation so it is fair to attribute this spending to him. The ARRA (2009 Stimulus which amounted to $787 billion) was also a big component of the 2009 massive increase in spending and this is definitely associated with Obama.
I will agree with the post on Economists View that Clinton (with the aid of a Republican House/Senate) was the most austere but I disagree with Obama being a penny pincher. Instead, the Community-Organizer-in-Chief is more akin to a drunken sailor on leave (no offense to our fine men and women who serve in our Navy).
Full Disclosure – My raw data is available here–> us fed spending per president
ADDENDUM (22-MAR-12) – I saw some blowback on my twitter feed that the data at usgovernmentspending.com is suspect in how they calculate inflation. I have to data to either confirm or deny this but have been using this site for a while and find it very good but in fairness I don’t want to ignore other data so I decided to use the website for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
There was not much difference and in many ways the graphs are almost identical. They are provided below:
Full Disclosure – My raw data for the OMB calculations is available here. Copy of hist01z3