How has President Obama's view of the desirable level of federal government spending evolved since he came into office?
This is the flip side to our previous analysis of the government revenue forecasting ability of U.S. Presidents, in which we found that a President risks losing credibility for their economic initiatives when government revenues fail to match the forecasts they make in their annual budget proposals.
Fortunately for President Obama, his credibility isn't at risk of falling even lower with this aspect of the federal government budget. Instead, we will evaluate his judgment.
Unlike the situation with collecting revenue, where factors outside the U.S. government's control affect how much revenue it can actually collect, the federal government is fully capable of spending every single dollar it intends to spend. As a result, a President's budget proposal really represents their view of the appropriate level of spending needed to satisfy their political priorities.
Our chart below reveals how Presidential desires for federal spending have stacked up against reality for each the budget proposals made by both President Bush or President Obama for each of the U.S. government's fiscal year from 2004 through 2014 (FY2004 to FY2014).
Looking over President Bush's record, we find that the federal government's actual level of spending was often anywhere from $60 billion to $90 billion greater than the amount originally proposed by the President. This is largely the result of the U.S. Congress adding spending on top of the amounts proposed by the President. Generally speaking, this outcome suggests that President Bush's political priorities were largely agreed to by the U.S. Congress during his tenure in office.
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