In President Obama’s first budget, entitled (with no apparent sense of irony) “A New Era of Responsibility,” he projected that the federal budget deficit in 2012 would be a rather hefty $581 billion (see summary table S-1). Fast-forwarding three years, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now projects that it will instead be $1.079 trillion, meaning that, if the CBO is right, Obama was wrong by $498,000,000,000. To put that into perspective, that roughly half-trillion dollar margin of error is more than Obama allocated is this year’s budget for Medicare (see table S-3). Medicare could magically have become free for 2012, and the deficit would still have exceeded Obama’s earlier estimate.
Deficit spending under Obama has truly been historic. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal rightly observes that “Mr. Obama has the worst fiscal record of any President in modern times. No one else is even close.” However, even this is somewhat generous. When you factor in the context — we’re not currently fighting the Civil War, World War I, or World War II, which are the only other times that our deficits have exceeded 6.0 percent of GDP (as they have every year under Obama) — the deficits on Obama’s watch are by far the most profligate in all of American history.