Sunday, May 27, 2012

What Was That About Obama and Spending? Oh, It Was Nutting...

    Rex Nutting has gotten quite a bit of attention lately for his analysis of spending increases during President Obama's term in office so far.  Others, including James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal and John Hinderaker at Power Line, quickly debunked the claim, so I will not rehearse the inaccuracies and distortions here.  However, there are a few things worth noting.
    First, Rex Nutting was not quite as concerned back in 2009 that Obama not be tagged with the big spender reputation.  In a column just prior to the passage of the $787 billion "stimulus" package in 2009, Nutting bemoaned Obama's shortcomings in explaining his ideas to the American people:
 In a news conference and various town-hall appearances, [Obama's] directly addressed the major criticisms of his proposal to jolt the economy out of this recession with a massive tax cut and spending bill. In extreme detail, using facts and logic, he pretty much demolished all the opponents' arguments that it's wrong to try to fix the economy by cutting taxes and spending money.
A little further down, he writes:
And [Republicans have] had success with their bizarre claims that government jobs aren't jobs and that government spending doesn't stimulate the economy.
So in 2009, Nutting was cheering on Obama's desire for more government spending.  The day after Nutting's column, just a few weeks into his presidency (and only the fifth month of "Bush's" 2009 fiscal year,) his wish was partially fulfilled as Congress, absent any Republican votes, approved the $787 billion "stimulus."  And now in 2012, Nutting is attempting to relieve the pressure Obama is feeling for getting his wish.

    Second, Nutting wrote another column in 2009 citing the huge increase in deficit in the second quarter of the 2009 fiscal year.
Much of the increase in outlays in March came from extraordinary investments by the government in banks and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, loans to credit unions, and increased spending from the stimulus package for unemployment insurance and Medicaid.
While it's true that the "investments" to which Nutting refers were part of the bailout of the banks passed under Bush, it is also true that Obama fully supported that $700 billion plan, not to mention another $50 billion for troubled automakers.

Third, and perhaps more remarkable, is an under-reported quote from Nutting's recent column (perhaps because you have to click through to page 2 of the story to see it.)  While the "Obama's getting a bum rap as a big spender" claim has garnered most of the attention, Nutting says this about the spending that his column tries to pin on Bush and the "previous Congress":
By no means did Obama try to reverse that spending. Indeed, his budget proposals called for even more spending in subsequent years. But the Congress (mostly Republicans but many Democrats, too) stopped him. If Obama had been a king who could impose his will, perhaps what the Republicans are saying about an Obama spending binge would be accurate.
 So after all that, Nutting concedes that Obama wanted to go on the spending binge that Nutting argues didn't happen, but was largely thwarted by Republicans!  And as far as Obama as king, perhaps this is where Nutting hits closest to the truth.  President Obama himself said in March 2012, “If Congress refuses to act, I’ve said that I’ll continue to do everything in my power to act without them.”  And a year earlier, the president was even more explicit:
Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, ‘No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.’
 Even though the Obama campaign quickly glommed on to Nutting's column as evidence that the president is not the profligate spender his opponents accuse him of being, they may be better off letting this kerfuffle fade into the background.  If more details begin to filter out, we might start hearing, "If you think that was bad, you ain't see Nutting yet!"

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