The condition of the economy when Obama took office in 2009 makes it tricky to render a historical verdict on his appetite for budget cuts, said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan budget-watchdog group.
Though Republicans consider Obama’s stimulus spending a failure, Bixby and others contend few economists would have prescribed cutting government spending at the height of the recession.
And Bixby notes Obama did sign the 2011 Budget Control Act, which spawned not only the sequester – the spending cuts Obama now is looking to avert – but also imposed budgetary caps on discretionary spending. Those caps, which Bixby says “will come to bite somewhere down the road,” are poised to shrivel spending for the 40 percent of the budget that is spent on non-entitlement programs, including defense, education, research and development, law enforcement, Congress and the White House.
But spending on entitlements like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security take up an ever-increasing share of the federal budget, and “there the instinct has not been to cut spending,” Bixby said.
But Bixby puts Obama on a scale of a 50-50 ratio of cuts to taxes. Obama’s fiscal commission was closer to a 3-to-1 ratio of cuts to taxes; and Republicans want spending cuts, no taxes.