Skippy Stalin submitted a legitimate comment to my earlier post “When A Big Deal Is Diddly Squat“. He pointed out that budgets passed during the Bush administration but implemented during the Obama administration were painted, unfairly, as Obama’s doing. He’s right, the graphic is indeed biased against Obama. He also wondered if that might indicate flaws with the rest of the chart.
I decided to go to the horses mouth (the OMB) and make my own charts.
Because I’m lazy In order to avoid bias I didn’t label much of anything and left scale and color choices to my spreadsheet defaults. They look ugly…so be it. This is one of those times when raw data hits you on the head with obvious, inescapable conclusions.
Before I hang up my charts I’d like to clarify my thesis. Obama and Bush have both performed so spectacularly awful that their combined efforts are a duet of suck. Poor impulse control is nothing new to a president; our government’s finances have been consistently, deliberately, and willfully corkscrewed into the ground by presidents of both parties. But things have gone from “very serious” to “flat out hysterical” by the last two presidents. Bush and Obama, representing both parties have been fiscally unsound on such an epic scale that it should be carved in stone and exhibited as the triumph of wishful thinking over reality in a species formerly considered capable of counting.
Obama is not a cypher. He’s a free rider who is out of his league because he’s never before made any decisions of merit or importance. His decision making in 2011 is exactly as I imagined it would be during his election campaign.
Bush Jr. was another free rider who did have experience making decisions and had made most of them unwisely. Having spent much of his life drinking too much and destroying any profit making venture in his orbit was not indicative of a good leader. He too, governed just as I expected.
Who is worst? That’s a hard call. Bush Jr. was, in his time, the most fiscally incompetent executive breathing air. (Possibly with the exception of Hugo Chavez and Robert Mugabe who destroyed Venezuela’s and Zimbabwe’s economies respectively.) Obama somehow managed to do worse. Possibly he could see farther into the debt hole because he was standing on the shoulders of a debt accumulation giant? I’m not sure if Bush could have vaporized more money but I harbor the suspicion that he stopped where he did because it was, at the time, as bad as humanly conceivable. Had he followed on Obama’s heels he might have understood that a whole new dimension of fiscal insanity existed. He might have rolled up his sleeves and met that challenge.
In short, each one did vastly worse than the entire history of our nation before their hand was on the tiller. Each one going as far as their contemporaries could visualize on the scale of debt ruin. I don’t know if there are greater horizons but the fact that Donald Trump (even in jest) was mentioned as a possible presidential candidate suggests that a few people think there is even more ruin to be had.
So there you have it. When asked which is worse; D presidents or R presidents? I respond; “A pox on both their houses”.
Now to the charts. This first one shows America’s annual debt from 1900 to official estimates for 2016. Notice that tiny little blip in the forties? That’s when America fought WWII and then rebuilt the economies of both Europe and Japan. Something has gone truly unhinged when defeating the axis powers and restoring a big chunk of western civilization was a bargain compared to medical care for Baby Boomers. The y-axis is not dollars…it is millions of dollars. (The y- axis is not adjusted for inflation.)
I made the first graph to point out that the nation managed to keep it’s fiscal house in order for many years. The current delusion that it’s impossible to live within our means is utterly incorrect. We stayed solvent for well over a century. There is some level of government that could exist responsibly once again. For the last thirty or forty years we’ve developed a collective inability to even conceive of a debt free government. That inability means that the current leadership is simply fiscally inferior to their counterparts of earlier years. Arguing about the party of D versus party of R is like debating the merits of being bludgeoned to death with a ball peen hammer versus a sledge.
Now to a graph with more recent data. I took off old stuff because that’s back when things were more or less rational. I thinks it’s important to avoid sugarcoating truth so I named this chart; “We are fucked”. (The y-axis is still millions of dollars; that lower line is -$1,500,000,000,000. Count those zeros. That’s the debt amassed in one year.)
The last chart is to represent the amount of money the brave party of R managed to extract from the benighted party of D. I’m all for any number anywhere that’s a reduction in debt so I’m happy that the budget was reduced. But the word “insignificant” is just too huge to signify how small the “budget battle” really plays out. The fact that R was so timid and D dug in it’s heels so forcefully is all you need to know. Both parties demonstrably intend to ride this thing all the way into Zimbabwe levels.
Observant folks might wonder why my chart looks even less inviting than the ones you’ll find elsewhere on the Internet. Even this is an interesting story caused by my attempted “de-obfuscation”. What you’re looking at is a Federal Debt of $1,645,119,000,000. That’s the OMB estimate for 2011 and it includes both on and off budget spending. The sliver is the “budget compromise” of $38,000,000,000 which happened last week.
Most charts stick the “budget compromise” with the budget which theoretically began in October of last year. Ignoring “off budget” and using the 2010 budget as a base makes the significance seem bigger; “whole whopping couple percent”. I decided to cut to the chase. You can disagree with my logic (everyone else does) but here’s my reasoning: I live in reality where the sky is blue and the sun rises in the east. The calendar on my wall says 2011. So I used 2011 numbers for the “base” budget. The compromise happened last week…which my calendar calls 2011 so I stuck with it. As for off budget; I loathe the concept. I refuse to pretend that something which is “off budget” is magically free. I can’t vacation in Aruba by calling it “off budget”. America can’t run a war (or three simultaneous ones) and make it free by calling it “off budget” either. Congress and the executive can blather all they want but spent is spent, my calendar says 2011, and it all goes on my chart. (Yes, I juxtaposed fiscal years with calendar years but This is all splitting hairs. There is no configurations of numbers anywhere anyhow that’ll make the recent “budget compromise” anything bigger than a couple percent. It was, is, and will remain too small to matter beyond symbolics.)
Those charts are (and are meant to) be a bit depressing. I think I’ll go buy a pineapple to cheer myself up. Unlike politicians I can afford to pay for what I want with cash. That too cheers me up.
(Note #1: Data taken directly from Office of Management and Budget: hist01z1.xls.)
(Note #2: I, unlike politicians, do not pull numbers from orifices. I’m mildly disturbed that my third chart looks even worse than the expected level of dismal. If I broke my calculator pounding that zero button too much go ahead and tell me.)