This week the US got some good news: the federal deficit shrank for the 5th consecutive year – it has, in fact, gotten smaller EVERY year of Obama’s presidency, and is projected to continue shrinking EVERY year until he leaves office.
Who was the last president to accomplish that feat? It’s never been done – the US has never in its history had a 2-term president, under whom the federal budget deficit got smaller every year. Fiscally, Obama stands to be the most conservative president in US history.
Bill Clinton came close. The deficit shrank each of the 1st 7 years of his presidency – and the US still ran a budget surplus in his 8th year. (The surplus was bigger the previous year – hey, no one’s perfect.) And if you want to go way back, Andrew Jackson had a similar fiscal record.
By comparison, Bush Duh saw deficits increase through his first 4 years, and also for his last 3, culminating in the all-time record $1.4 trillion deficit in Fiscal Year 2009.
(US Fiscal Years run from Oct 1 to Sept 30 – and are named for the year they end. The infamous FY 2009 began Oct 1st, 2008, over a month before Obama was elected, and close to 4 months before he was inaugurated.)
Bush Duh’s pops did no better: deficits rose during his 1st 3 years. And then there’s Reagan – the grand-daddy of deficit spending, and the 20th century’s great unsung Keynesian. Reagan doubled the deficit in his 1st year and never looked back – he never once ran a sustainable deficit, defined as less than 3% of GDP. As a function of GDP, the federal deficit for 2014 will be less than what it was during 1983-86.
Last we have Jimmy Carter – who left the country’s fiscal condition as he found it, with nearly identical (and modest) deficits in 1977 and 1981. Carter never once ran a deficit greater than 2.7% of GDP.
Conservative’s claims of fiscal responsibility are absurdly at odds with the facts. Conservative presidents, without exception, have blown up the nation’s finances – and Democrats have reigned them in. And you cant put it on Congress – deficits were largely determined by major presidential policies. Reagan got his tax cuts and military spending; Clinton got his tax increase (with Al Gore casting the final vote); Bush Duh got his tax cuts and unfunded wars.
As for Obama – conservatives pretend to forget that he inherited the biggest fiscal mess and worst economy since the 1930s. CBO projects that in Fiscal Year 2016, the deficit will drop to sustainability (less than 3% of GDP). While the picture beyond is more complicated, it’s better now than its been for a long time.