Ryan’s Absurd Lie About Obama’s Spending

Ryan’s Absurd Lie About Obama’s Spending September 17, 2012

There are three kinds of lies, the old cliche says: Lies, damn lies and statistics. Republican VP candidate Paul Ryan seems to be doing all three when he claims that Obama has “doubled the size of government since he took office. PolitiFact calls this one a “pants on fire” lie. From Ryan’s website:

“Strong leadership is needed in the White House, but despite repeated acknowledgments of the gravity of the federal government’s fiscal outlook, the president seems to have ignored the warnings of his own experts and punted on the (fiscal year) 2012 budget. The budget proposal he submitted to Congress last year continues down the same unsustainable path: doubling the size of government since the President took office, imposing $1.6 trillion in new taxes on families, small businesses and job creators and tripling the debt since the President was elected.

And PolitiFact debunks the lie:

First, let’s look at the amount of federal outlays when Obama “took office.” According to the Office of Management and Budget, federal outlays for fiscal year 2009 — the fiscal year that was underway when Obama was inaugurated — totaled $3.5 trillion…

CBO concluded that by fiscal year 2012 — the current fiscal year — the president’s budget proposal would increase federal outlays to $3.7 trillion. That’s a 6 percent increase — a far cry from doubling.

If you take a longer time horizon, the outlays come closer to doubling, but still not close. By fiscal year 2021 — the final year for which CBO provided its analysis and long after Obama will have left office — federal outlays would reach $5.8 trillion. That’s an increase of 66 percent, which is still not double.

However, even if that figure truly represented a doubling, using the 2021 figure is misleading. When Ryan said that Obama “has doubled the size of government since he took office,” it sounds like he’s saying Obama has already doubled the size of government — not that his spending blueprint will lead to doubled federal outlays at a point five years after Obama’s theoretical second term in office will have come to an end.

“I think it is pretty clear” that Ryan’s claim “in a straight budget sense is false, because it implies it has already happened,” said Steve Ellis, the vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Just to be sure, we also looked at the figures for federal outlays as a percentage of gross domestic product. These numbers actually decline from 25.0 percent in fiscal 2009 to 23.6 percent in fiscal 2012, and then moves within a narrow range, ending up at 24.2 percent in fiscal 2021. No doubling here, either.

The Ryan campaign says they used 2008 as a starting point, but that fiscal year ended before Obama was even elected, much less in office. He had zero control over the 2008 budget, and very little control over the 2009 budget, for that matter (most of the 2009 budget was already in place when he took office, but he did sign the stimulus bill that added about $800 billion to the deficit that year). This is just a lie, plain and simple. And it’s now been removed from Ryan’s website after PolitiFact pointed out that it’s a lie.

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