A Budget Rear-View Mirror
Now that Obama's last budget -- we hope -- is out, a mere week after the statutory deadline, the nation's budget experts are out in judgment. But few of them look in the rear-view mirror. How did the federal government's budget estimates compare with actual outcomes?
Here in southern India, the usgovernmentspending.com team is resting at an eco-resort high up in the Western Ghats after the hectic process of updating the site in the lobby of an eco-hotel in Pondicherry with data from the new federal budget. It's one of the miracles of the Internet that you can get budget data from gpoaccess.gov moments after the official release, load and test it on a prototype site -- complete with Apache, PHP, and MySql -- on a little netbook half way across the world, and then upload the massaged data back across the globe onto the powerful usgovernmentspending.com servers humming away at an undisclosed location in the United States.
But our crack team still has time, in between visiting gigantic Shiva temples and spice plantations, to look in the rear-view mirror at FY11 federal spending. It's one of the most closely guarded secrets in Washington that each budget contains the actual spending for the previous fiscal year. All the estimates and supplementals and smoke-and-mirrors end up in numbers for actual spending. If you are a liberal you can look at the actuals for Iraq War spending and rail about the ridiculous Bush budget estimates.
Here are the FY11 actual numbers from usgovernmentspending.com's estimates vs. actual page. For FY11 spending, it shows estimates of FY11 spending from six budgets, between FY07 and FY12, and actual spending published in last week's FY13 budget. Remember, all the numbers in the table except the blue ones are estimates for FY11 spending, the fiscal year that ended last September.
The rear-view mirror shows big-time increases in spending in Health Care, Education, Welfare, and Other Spending in the Great Recession. Let's take a look. Remember that the numbers in the column under "FY 2010 Budget" were from Obama's first budget published soon after his inauguration in 2009.
- Federal Health Care expenditures show a $80 billion jump between the FY09 estimate and the FY10 estimate. That is mostly Medicaid increases.
- Federal Education expenditures show a 50 percent jump between the Bush FY07 estimate and the FY10 estimate, from about $100 billion to $150 billion a year.
- You can see the failure of the Keynesian stimulus in the Federal Welfare expenditures. The Obamis estimated a 40 percent jump in the FY10 budget from $301 billion to $417 billion for FY11 welfare. But by FY12, they were estimating $496 billion for FY11 welfare. Well, that is what you would expect from America's food-stamp president.
- Then there is the 100% increase in Other Spending in the FY10 budget. What in the world could that be? Green crony capitalism, or something more sinister?
But there is a silver lining to all this spending splurge. It's the effect of the 2010 mid-terms. Let's look at the difference between the FY12 estimate for FY11 spending and the FY11 actuals reported in the latest budget. Look at Health Care: down by $24 billion; Education: down by $16 billion; Welfare: down by $23 billion; Other Spending: down by $62 billion. Overall, FY11 spending ended up down from $3.8 trillion in the FY12 budget to $3.6 trillion. That ain't bad when your side only has one House out of three. Who says that Republicans are total wimps? They are having an effect. Maybe that's why the stock market is up and the outlook for the economy is improving.
Now let's look at FY12 spending: The estimated spending is UP from $3.73 trillion in the FY12 budget to $3.80 trillion in last week's budget including a $30 billion increase in Education for those teacher union members. FY13 estimated spending is UP from $3.77 trillion to $3.80 trillion. So much for serious budget cutting if President Obama stays in office.
Here is something to chew on. The visits to usgovernmentspending.com blipped upwards for a couple of days after the budget, but nothing like during the debt ceiling fight of July 2011. So what gives? Do the voters not care about deficits any more? Or do they have bigger fish to fry?
George Packer, fulminates in The New Yorker about Charles Murray and Losing Ground. "Murray has a talent for raising important questions on the way to arriving at invidious answers." My "New Conservative Dictionary" defines "invidious" as "Likely to arouse or incur resentment or anger in others liberals." But what really tees Packer off is that the wrecked white working class, high on meth. and disability benefits, votes Republican anyway. Are Americans ignoring the budget because they already made their minds up about 2012?
Meanwhile, here in India, it's on to Cochin on the Arabian Sea and then by train up to Ooty, the old colonial hill station.
Christopher Chantrill is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. See his usgovernmentspending.com and also usgovernmentdebt.us. At americanmanifesto.org he is blogging and writing An American Manifesto: Life After Liberalism.