A lot of debate and passion have been stirred up as to the spending habits of the current President of the United States, Barack Obama. His conservative Republican opponents have gone on record to criticize Obama for being the president that has accelerated spending the most in the country’s recent history.
However, a closer analysis of the spending habits of post-World War II presidents indicates otherwise. In terms of raw amounts, Obama has actually registered the smallest average increase percentage-wise at only 1.4 percent. This is a far cry from Jimmy Carter’s record of 16.4 percent per year.
Adjusting for inflation, Obama’s fiscal spending even decreased on an average annual basis. He actually has presided over some of the slowest acceleration in spending in recent history.
Here now is a list of the top 10 biggest spending presidents based on acceleration of amounts, with figures adjusted to take into account the inflation rate.
10 Dwight Eisenhower, 1953-61 – (0.5 percent)
Dwight Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States. He presided over a largely peaceful period and considerable economic prosperity, though there was a recession towards the latter part of his rule. He was a moderate conservative and he aimed to reduce the federal deficit. He gave priority to the creation of inexpensive nuclear weapons while decreasing the funding for conventional forces. Though he ended 20 years of the New Deal coalition, he actually continued New Deal agencies and even expanded Social Security.
9 Barack Obama, 2009-present – (0.1 percent)
Barack Obama is the 44th President. He actively pushed for economic stimulus measures to counter the effects of the recession by signing laws such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act; and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act. He also pushed for Obamacare, formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as well as the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
8 Bill Clinton, 1993-2001 – 1.5 percent
Bill Clinton was the 42nd President. He was the first president from the baby boom generation. He presided over the nation in the period immediately after the Cold War. He was in charge during the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in history. He pushed for welfare reform and health insurance for children during his term. When he left office, he had the highest end-of-office approval rating of any president since the end of World War II.
7 George H.W. Bush, 1989-93 – 1.8 percent
George H.W. Bush was the 41st President. His presidency was marked by milestones in the fields of foreign policy, like the fall of communism and the Iron Curtain, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and successful military operations in Panama and the Persian Gulf. Domestically, however, he suffered after famously breaking his promise of not imposing new taxes. Mounting budget deficits and the weak recovery inspired his opponent, Bill Clinton, to coin the term, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Bush was defeated in the 1992 elections, just about a year after obtaining high approval ratings for the success of the Gulf War.
6 Ronald Reagan, 1981-89 – 2.7 percent
Ronald Reagan was the 40th President. He was known for Reaganomics in which he pushed for supply-side economic policies. Tax rates were reduced during his time, money supply was controlled to curb inflation, the economy was deregulated and government spending generally was limited. He is still credited for the ideological rise of the American right.
5 Richard Nixon, 1969-75 – 3 percent
Richard Nixon was the 37th President. Though forever scarred by the Watergate scandal, he was also the one who ended the Vietnam War, established a détente with the Soviet Union and established diplomatic relations with China. Economically, he imposed control on wages and prices and pushed for legislation to help reform healthcare and the welfare system.
4 Jimmy Carter, 1977-81 – 4.2 percent
Jimmy Carter was the 39th President. It was during his term that the world was experiencing inflation and stagnation. It was also during his time that a national energy policy was implemented that advocated for conservation, price control and new technology. The economic crisis was further worsened by the energy crisis of 1979. He also had the ill luck of facing the hostage crisis in Iran, the nuclear accident in Three Mile Island, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the eruption of Mount St. Helens. He lost the election in 1980.
3 John Kennedy, 1961-64 – 4.7 percent
John Kennedy was the 35th President. He presided during the peak of the Cold War that saw events like the missile crisis in Cuba, the building of the Berlin Wall, the race to space against the Soviet Union and the escalation of the Vietnam War. It was also during his time that the Civil Rights movement in the United States was slowly gaining momentum. He was assassinated in 1963.
2 George W. Bush, 2001-09 – 5.9 percent
George W. Bush was the 43rd President. He is the son of the 41st President. His presidency is considered among the worst in surveys of presidential scholars. It was during his time that the country entered the longest recession period after World War II. Though he tried to enact several programs to preserve the financial system, it still did not prevent the public from giving him the lowest approval ratings for a president. He also received a lot of flak for his mishandling of the second Gulf War and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He also refused to implement the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.
1 Lyndon Johnson, 1964-69 – 6.3 percent
Lyndon Johnson was the 36th President, assuming office after the assassination of Kennedy. Government spending accelerated the highest during his presidency because of his programs for Medicare, Medicaid, environmental protection, aid to education and the war on poverty. As part of his Great Society legislation, he also pushed for laws that upheld civil rights and public broadcasting. It was also during his time that American involvement in the Vietnam quagmire increased by almost 35 times, causing the creation of a large anti-war movement. Still, his presidency is considered as the height of modern liberalism.
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