Trump's Record on Spending Is Almost as Bad as Obama's... and That's a Problem

President Obama meets with President-elect Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on Nov. 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

I spent eight years criticizing reckless government spending under Obama, and I’m sorry to say things haven’t gotten better under Trump. Trump supporters shouldn’t ignore this problem.

While Trump has done a lot to clean up the mess left by his predecessor, the problem of spending has gone largely ignored. It’s up to conservatives to put pressure on both the GOP and Trump to do something about it. Conservatives should not turn a blind eye to Trump’s spending record. The Tea Party movement was crucial to crippling Obama’s reckless spending, and Trump gave us plenty of reasons to believe he was going to be frugal, not Obama-esque, when it came to spending.

“Obama is the most profligate deficit & debt spender in our nation’s history,” Trump tweeted in October 2013.

Trump wouldn’t be the first president to criticize spending under his predecessor only to sing a different tune once in the White House. On the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama called President George W. Bush “unpatriotic” for adding $4 trillion to our national debt. Obama went on to add nearly $10 trillion to our national debt and has the highest deficits in history.

Still, Trump’s spending record may not be one to brag about, but his critics on the left have no business doling out criticism. Obama’s spending was so reckless he added nearly as much to the national debt as all of his predecessors combined.

Unfortunately, rhetoric on spending is influenced more by tribalism than anything else. Obama’s critics on spending are a lot quieter lately now that Trump is in office, and Obama supporters think they have a leg to stand on when it comes to criticizing Trump regarding government spending.

To argue with Obama supporters over his record results in the same old bogus talking points, like “Obama lowered the deficit!” because they don’t understand the difference between annual deficits and the debt. They conveniently forget that Obama’s first deficit (FY2009) was triple that of the previous year. Once you’ve educated them about the differences between deficits and the national debt, they’ll blame the recession for that deficit. Of course the recession ended in the summer of 2009, yet we had deficits over $1 trillion for four years, and Obama only had one deficit lower than the FY2008 deficit—the year of the financial crisis, and the largest of the Bush years.

Still, spending under Trump hasn’t exactly gotten better. In fact, it’s gotten worse than the latter Obama years, but still not quite as bad as the worst of Obama’s years. Fiscal year 2019 came in at $984.4 trillion, up from $779.1 trillion the previous year, and $665.5 trillion for FY2017, Obama’s final budget. It’s a disturbing trend, and anyone who was critical of Obama’s reckless spending should be equally critical of how Trump hasn’t curbed spending.

To put Trump and Obama’s spending into perspective, I’ve created the following chart to put their annual deficits into historical context. Please note that all values are rounded and adjusted for inflation in 2012 dollars.

As you can see, despite much of the media rhetoric, Trump isn’t nearly as bad a spender as Obama, but Trump’s record thus far is nothing to brag about, and current projections suggest it’s only going to get worse. With the economy as strong as it is, we should be able to go back to pre-Obama era deficits, and, quite frankly, a balanced budget for a change. Trump has done a remarkable job with cutting costly regulations, and those cuts should be met with similar cuts in spending. If Trump doesn’t slash spending in his second term, it could be a huge problem politically and economically.


Matt Margolis is the author of Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis


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