George W. Bush X 2 = Barack Obama in both extra spending — and tax cuts.
It’s a crude but fair summary of the two presidents based on new data mapping how the nation moved from surpluses in 2001 to record deficits over the past decade. And it takes on special meaning given the turmoil these days in the Senate, whether in producing a budget, salvaging months of work by the bipartisan Gang of Six or expanding the Treasury’s borrowing authority to avert default.
For Republicans, the new numbers — compiled by the Congressional Budget Office — bolster the GOP’s argument that President Barack Obama has gone well past Bush’s hearty appetite for new spending. But for Democrats, the same equation underscores the fact that the growth in discretionary appropriations since 2001 has been matched almost dollar for dollar by a series of tax cuts that were also expanded under Obama.
“Starve the beast is the worst kind of diet,” an administration official joked when told of the numbers. “It shows the beast eats more.”
Indeed, from 2002 through 2011, CBO estimates that the combined tax cuts enacted by successive Congresses cost $2.8 trillion, even as increased appropriations added $2.95 trillion above projections for discretionary spending.