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Obama the frugal

Published July 23. 2012 4:00AM

If you want a president who can work with Congress to control spending, then re-elect President Barack Obama.

Yes, you heard right. In an assessment that received little attention, back in May The Wall Street Journal online business forum Marketwatch assessed the spending that took place under all presidents in modern history. They found you would have to go all the way back to the second term of Republican Dwight Eisenhower to find a president as frugal as President Obama.

President Ronald Reagan may have cut taxes, but he didn't cut spending, which rose 8.7 percent during his first term and 4.9 percent the second. That created deficits that his one-term successor, George H.W. Bush, addressed in part by reneging on his "read my lips, no new taxes" pledge. Yet federal spending continued to grow during his watch, up 5.4 percent.

It took a Democrat, President Bill Clinton, and the Republican Congress he inherited two years into his first term, to curb the rate of spending growth, which increased only 3.2 percent in his first term and 3.9 percent the second, reported Marketwatch.

Then came the budget buster President George W. Bush, who considered it a good idea to sign the biggest tax cut in the nation's history, create a new agency, Homeland Security, and fight two wars without doing anything to pay for them. Federal spending shot up 7.3 percent in Bush's first term, 8.1 percent in the second.

And indeed spending did escalate during President Obama's first year in office, from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion, a nearly 18 percent jump. But that was the result of the final budget approved by Presidnet Bush and the Democratic Congress he worked with.

In his first two years working with fellow Democrats controlling the House and Senate, federal spending under President Obama increased 1.8 percent, then 4.3 percent; with Republicans taking control of the House, spending rose only 0.7 percent this fiscal year and is projected to fall 1.3 percent in fiscal year 2013.

Bottom line - federal spending will go up only 1.4 percent during the Obama term.

But deficits continue to rise, and sharply, because the Bush tax cuts remain in place and President Obama has signed into law additional tax cuts.

Will any of this change the rhetoric about President Obama spending the country into ruin? Probably not, because when have the facts ever gotten in the way of an effective political attack?

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