Finally, the president at the end of the press conference, says he wants to increase taxes and get through this initial crisis so that he can spend more on infrastructure. This is an insatiable appetite for spending.
CHENEY: It is driving the country off of a cliff. It is completely irresponsible.
PODESTA: I think that is so fundamentally wrong on the facts. President Obama has proposed taking the domestic government down to the size that it was in the Eisenhower administration. That is in his budget. We have taxes now lower than they have ever been since 1950, and have --
My immediate reaction was that Obamacare alone probably represented more domestic government - in terms of employees and raw spending - than we had during the Eisenhower era. I don’t know if that’s the case but it does appear that Podesta’s characterization of Obama’s proposal was inaccurate or at least sloppy in four ways:
1) I am not aware that Obama has a budget on the table. My understanding is that he withdrew his February proposal and has not presented a formal, specific budget proposal since.
2) Obama is not proposing cutting the size of domestic government as measured by Federal employees on the domestic side back to what it was in Eisenhower’s day.
3) Obama is not proposing cutting the size of domestic government as measured by raw spending on the domestic side back to what it was in Eisenhower’s day.
4) Obama is not proposing cutting the size of domestic government by any measure - employees, raw spending, share of GDP, whatever - back to what it was during the Eisenhower Administration. Rather, Obama said (emphasis mine):
That’s why I’ve called for a freeze on annual domestic spending over the next five years – a freeze that would cut the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, bringing this kind of spending to its lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.
Those four points speak to Podesta’s understanding, accuracy, or carefulness. There is one other point that speaks to Obama’s understanding and accuracy:
5) The “annual domestic spending” Obama wants to freeze does not include “the military, the entitlement programs Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and interest on that debt.” As JustOneMinute puts it:
But focusing on "domestic spending" sidesteps the philosophy espoused by Willie Sutton - since it excludes interest, entitlements and defense, it is not where the money is.
The current United States debt is over $14 trillion. Obama’s freeze on domestic spending would, by his own estimate, reduce the debt by $400 billion over the next ten years. By my calculation, Obama’s $400 billion is less than 3% of the debt. That’s less than 3% of the current debt, not of whatever the debt will be in ten years. Every little bit helps; journey of a thousand miles; and all that. But a plan to cut less than 3% of the current debt over the next ten years isn’t what I would offer if I wanted to prove Obama is fiscally responsibility.