Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…

This one’s for Stan (2)


I had a very pleasant chat with the guys on my football team after the game today. After the third beer the topic turned to politics and I made some claims that my teammates thought were outrageous. I promised to back them up.

First claim: Net Migration from Mexico under Obama is Zero

The specific point that Stan made was that under President Obama, immigration from Mexico was out of control. I said that net migration from Mexico under President Obama was zero.

Here’s the data (from Politifact):

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The chart shows that the number of Mexicans living in California has stayed more or less the same under President Obama. I make no claims as to whether or not that’s a good thing or a bad thing. But it’s a fact.

Second Claim: The number of deportations under President Obama has gone up.

Again, I’m not expressing an opinion on whether deportations are a good thing or a bad thing. I was merely countering the claim that President Obama’s was not enforcing the immigration laws.

Here’s the data (from Pew Research):

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Third Claim: Deficits are more likely to go down under Democratic presidents

My conservative friends were under the impression that the debt increases more under Democratic presidents. I’m on dodgier ground with this one because of recent history and a lot of depends-how-you-measure-it but I will valiantly do my best to defend the claim.

Here’s the data. This first chart is from The Atlantic.

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The first thing to notice is that the debt shot up under President Reagan. The next thing to notice is the massive drop under Clinton. The situation under Obama is complicated and I’ll get to that in a minute.

Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter. — Dick Cheney

There’s a different way to look at the numbers though that is kinder to Republicans. Let’s look at that first.

Here’s the per annum increase.

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That Reagan jump still stands out and the Clinton drop does too. But this chart accentuates the increase under Obama that really troubles Stan. What’s up with that?

Let’s drill into the Obama years. Here’s the Wall Street Journal.

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Now, we all agree that that first year was horrendous but, as we all remember, we were in the aftermath of the word financial crisis in 70 years. The numbers have improved a bit since though.

The main cause of the Obama deficit was the reduction in tax revenues caused by the recession.

deficit=revenues – spending

As before, I’m making no comment about whether or not the government should increase spending during a recession, but the data says that spending increased more, percentage-wise, under President Bush than it did under President Obama.

Here’s a Forbes article (Obama’s a Big Spender…Just Like His Predecessors) that shows some data on spending. Again, check out the massive rise in spending under Reagan and the massive drop under Clinton.


You probably also didn’t fail to notice the massive rise under President George W. Bush and the absolutely enormous leap in 2009. Who gets the blame for that?

Another Forbes article (Who Is The Smallest Government Spender Since Eisenhower? Would You Believe It’s Barack Obama?) says that the budget in the first year of a presidency should be credited to the previous guy.

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I think that’s going a bit too far but it does shine a bit of light on the complexity.

In summary, the data clearly shows that the deficit (and spending!) increased more under Reagan, Bush I and Bush II than it did under Clinton or Carter. Obama’s record stands or falls on whether you think the 2008/9 financial meltdown was Bush’s fault or Obama’s fault but let’s not pretend that it didn’t happen at all.

Here’s Factcheck.org with the final word,

Federal outlays for the current fiscal year are estimated to be $3.65 trillion, according to figures released in March along with the president’s proposed budget for fiscal 2015. We calculate that to be just 10.1 percent higher than fiscal 2009 spending levels he inherited from George W. Bush. (Fiscal 2009 began nearly four months before Obama took office, and spending levels were mainly set by Bush. As we’ve detailed elsewhere, we attribute — at most –$203 billion of actual FY 2009 outlays to increases signed by Obama.)

That 10.1 percent increase in spending is below the nearly 12 percent rate of inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index since Obama took office.

Obama’s increase in federal spending over five years contrasts dramatically with the 78 percent increase during Bush’s eight years.

A couple of other points came up that weren’t points of contention, but I’ll support them .

Claim: The number of uninsured has fallen under Obamacare.

Here’s a Gallup poll reported in Forbes (After Obamacare: Number of Uninsured Hits Five-Year Low):


And here’s similar data from the CDC showing the 16 million people who now have insurance who didn’t before:


Now, I think Obamacare is shit. But it’s better than what came before.  Stan and I differed on whether it’s a tragedy that 9% of Americans still don’t have health care but we did agree that the USA spends too much on health care. Here’s how much too much (Health Costs: How the U.S. Compares With Other Countries on KQED).


First of all, note that the US spends more on healthcare than everyone else. Second of all, note that the US Government spends more on healthcare than everyone else (except Norway and the Netherlands)!  But it doesn’t cover all the people! And does the USA get better healthcare for all this money? [SPOILER ALERT: no].

Stan said that if I could produce data to support my claims he’d reconsider his political outlook. I doubt I’ve changed his mind very much on the deficit (though it is certainly true that the deficit tends to go up more under Republicans) but I hope he will concede the facts on immigration and deportation at our next discussion 🙂