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Over the last two years, David Leonhardt notes, "The government shrank at an annual rate of 1.4 percent." That meant that though the private sector grew at an average annual rate of 3.2 percent, the economy as a whole grew only 2.3 percent. Jared Bernstein looks at state and local government spending, which throughout the 1990s contributed to the GDP, and shows that today, massive cuts in local and state governments are creating a drag on the entire economy.

Yet we keep hearing about "out-of-control government spending," often from the same commentators acting mystified about why President Obama can't or won't do more to help the economy and create jobs.

Joe Weisenthal at Business Insider points to an exchange epitomizing this problem. On Meet the Press, David Gregory insistently questioned Obama adviser David Axelrod about what "hard choices" Obama would make, about "dealing with entitlements," and of course about debt, debt, debt. And Axelrod accepted the terms Gregory was laying out, just arguing about the details of how it would be done and how much would be done. As Weisenthal writes, "The premise of the question is accepted by everyone. That premise is that Obama has been a wild spender, and that now there's an urgent need to make cuts."

But it's not true. It couldn't be true first because, as Leonhardt and Bernstein show, government spending has been shrinking, and its shrinkage has been dragging down the economy. So the premise is wrong on two points: First, that government spending would be a bad thing and that cuts need to be made for the health of the economy, and second, that Obama has been spending a great deal—not remotely true. So Obama's taking it from both sides, getting blame for doing a thing he's not doing and for the negative economic effects of not having done it. And, at least on Sunday's Meet the Press, David Axelrod wasn't pushing back very hard against either side of that.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 08:18 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Government spending shrinking... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow, JeffW

    with the shrinking jobs market.

  •  Can somone explain, or (20+ / 0-)

    venture a guess, as to why Obama Admin. repeatedly swallows and works from other other side's framing (as Axelrod did in the above example)??

    We saw it in the President's handling and speaking of the debt ceiling debacle, we see it time and time again.

    Why are these intelligent folks not using their position to reframe the debate??? Exasperating.

    Thanks for the diary

    It's easy to love a flag. Try giving some love to a sick, homeless person. That takes some real [courage]. Kossack Scott Campbell, 9 January 2012

    by CoExistNow on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 08:23:32 AM PST

    •  They studied at the same debate school as Newt? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
    •  CoE - see my comment below (0+ / 0-)

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 08:45:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  To a certain extent,... (3+ / 0-)

      ...if we judge from this Administration's actions (e.g., the staff and Cabinet appointments, and the lust for conservative commissions), it would appear they actually believe much of this debt-reduction, austerity rhetoric.  Inside the Beltway, it's certainly easier to accept the dominant framing.  Inside the Village it's the populist stuff of the past couple of months, the Occupy-driven rhetoric, that's the stretch.  I'm hoping it'll be more than rhetoric, that it'll be actions aimed at benefiting Main Street directly, but I'd not place any $10,000 bets on that outcome.

    •  For all the talk about Alinsky's rules, (0+ / 0-)

      it seems like it's the Republicans who use then more than the Democrats.  

      "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves." - Abraham Lincoln

      by leftreborn on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 07:38:38 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  They thought it was a big enough issue to (0+ / 0-)

      create a high falutin' commission....

      look no further...they are boxed in on the topic...they just want it to stay neutral..

      oh...and Axelrod is a terrible surrogate...

      "But once John Boehner is sworn in as Speaker, then he’s going to have responsibilities to govern. You can’t just stand on the sidelines and be a bomb thrower." - President Obama, 12-07-2010

      by justmy2 on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 07:39:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Laura - aren't you confusing the two? (0+ / 0-)

    There is no doubt that in the face of shrinking revenues state and local governments, who have balance budget mandates, have reduced spending. It is also a fact that the federal government has been running historically high deficits of more than Trillion dollar a year for four years. While it's true if you add them together government spending is not out of control, but the Obama administration is responding specifically to federal spending, where on any historical basis, has exploded the past four years.

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 08:45:19 AM PST

      •  There are some unusual accounting issues. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        HarryParatestis, susanWAstate, VClib

        Government accounting largely uses "cash accounting" not accrual.

        The big spike in 2009 and 2010 includes money going to financial institutions due to TARP, which were then repaid in 2010 and 2011 - which are treated like "negative spending."  So if the portion of TARP that was paid back is removed from the chart, the peak is lower and the period of negative growth goes away.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 01:26:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Ok, but then my question VClib, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vigilant meerkat

      transforms only a little bit if what you're saying is true: Why is the Obama Admin not pointing this out - that the explosion of federal spending is attributable to W.'s reign? It's the least they can do - point out where the deficit spending comes from, what years it skyrocketed, and the policies it's tied to (tax cuts for the wealthy + two wars + prescription drug benefit sans any method of paying for any of them).

      Obama's refusal to clarify the record leaves room for the other side's meme ("Omaba is spending out of control, on poor and black people no less, and bankrupting the Nation") to take root and spread like Kudzu.

      It's easy to love a flag. Try giving some love to a sick, homeless person. That takes some real [courage]. Kossack Scott Campbell, 9 January 2012

      by CoExistNow on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 09:14:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Presidents cannot escape being President. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        vigilant meerkat, VClib

        Pres Obama could have withdrawn forces from Iraq and Afghanistan during his first 6 months in office, as some (including myself) advocated - without the need for approval from Congress.  He therefore "owns" the spending and death in those countries while he was in office. The wars became his, just a Nixon "owned" the Vietnam war he inherited from Johnson when Nixon decided to continue and expand the war.

        "W" Bush's tax cuts expired in 2010, Pres Obama made the choice to extend them, as well as not ending them earlier when Democrats had historic majorities in the House and Senate.

        Under the Health Care reform, having CMS negotiate drug prices could have been included,  it was not included although it was a natural way to reduce government Healthcare spending and make the financial impact of PPACA be better.

        It does not matter if this is fair or not, this is how the public accounts responsibility.

        The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

        by nextstep on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 01:19:14 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I've watched Axelrod for a while now. He's quick (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        on his feet on certain points, and will push back, but he has a narrow range that he concerns himself with. So I'm often wondering why he let Gregory or whomever get away with their crap.

      •  CoExistNow - tax cuts for the wealthy are tiny (0+ / 0-)

        The Bush tax cuts "cost" about $400 billion a year, of which less than $100 billion go to families making more than $250,000. The big expense is the rest of the taxpayers below $250,000. How the narrative came to be that the Bush tax cuts were only for the "wealthy" I don't know. Certainly they had more benefit for high income earners, but there are so few of them that the overall "cost" is small compared to everyone else. Obama and the Dems should have let the Bush tax cuts expire at the end of 2010 just like they were scheduled. You can't blame GWB for not ending the cuts in 2010.

        "let's talk about that"

        by VClib on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 08:58:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Letting the high income cuts (0+ / 0-)

          ride was the only chip Obama had to make the Repubs turn loose unemployment insurance, Pell grants, repeal of DADT, the START Treaty, the Food Safety act, and a whole bunch of other things.

          You would have him sit on a high horse while the rest of the things that a hell of a lot of Americans needed went down the tubes. Oh yes, I almost forgot, the Republicans were refusing to vote on a continuing appropriations resolution to the government would shut down Jan 1.

          That would have been cute.

          I'm asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... *I'm asking you to believe in yours.* Barack Obama

          by samddobermann on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 04:12:57 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Cost of tax cuts for top 5% are around $1 trillion (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          And $728 billion of that went to the top 1%.

          See this updating visual.

  •  Gregory is more useless than Tim Russert. (8+ / 0-)

    I'm the plowman in the valley - with my face full of mud

    by labradog on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 08:57:14 AM PST

  •  They're Not Going to Push Back Hard Because They (4+ / 0-)

    fundamentally believe in austerity.

    Just not the Republican's total dismantling of government.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 09:14:19 AM PST

    •  They are calculating that the austerity zombie is (0+ / 0-)

      not dead yet. I don't think they believe it, I think they believe that some influential people believe it. Or a majority of independent voters they have to convince.

  •  They're just in a rut... n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 09:34:34 AM PST

  •  David Gregory is an IDIOT (6+ / 0-)

    I can't STAND to watch him.  Tim Russert must be rolling in his grave to have someone like David Freaking Gregory doing Meet the Press.

  •  As Ronald famously said... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happymisanthropy, 417els, Terminus

    "Facts are stupid things."

    Sure, this kind of argument might work in the reality based community, but we're talking about Republicans!

    "What is being noticed is only an indication of what is being done." Albert Einstein 1954

    by tundraman on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 09:48:24 AM PST

  •  David Gregory is a lying, manipulative piece of (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eXtina, susanWAstate, 417els, Terminus

    garbage. Axelrod gave up halfway through because lying with the uninformed, right wing drunk troll just was never going to stop spreading fallacies.

    There are only 2 things in life I believe about religion: There could be a God and I'm sure as heck not him.

    by Irixsh on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 06:35:05 PM PST

  •  The GOP Will Get A Free Pass All This Year (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eXtina, JML9999, susanWAstate, 417els

    The media will be tossing the GOP life preservers constantly

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 06:38:32 PM PST

    •  At the rate they're going (may it never cease) MSM (0+ / 0-)

      won't have the power to save them...even with a speeding inflatable full of SWAT teams.

      Personally, I'm not sure this is the best time to be distracting the public (or the blathering media stars) with facts.  What Newt & Romney are doing to each other is too deliciously destructive to interrupt.  Making jackasses of themselves and the "gop establishment".  It's inciting even the baby crackpots like West (R-FL) to scream obnoxious crap..."If you don't agree with me GET THE HELL OUT OF MY COUNTRY!"

      About 28% of voters are loyal ignoramuses beyond help and redemption. This is the crowd - the gop BASE -  these candidates are trying to keep corralled?  I think a lot of the remaining voters are feeling a little alarmed at what they're seeing/hearing (may their alarm only increase).

      "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

      by 417els on Tue Jan 31, 2012 at 03:54:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  great point. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    eXtina, JML9999

    Gregory pissed me off and axelrod did accept the premise. Gregory is a right singer.  NBc seems rotor like Romney.

    I'm from the Elizabeth Warren and Darcy Burner Wing of the Democratic Party!

    by TomP on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 06:38:57 PM PST

  •  Contrast on MTP this weekend was striking (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    first half of the show, Republicans McCain and Fred Thompson - had a pleasant chat with Gregory, then came the Democrat Axelrod and as you point out was repeatedly and insistently hammered with questions the framing of which was chosen by the network

    Who says MTP doesn't ask the hard questions?

    David Gregory insistently questioned Obama adviser David Axelrod about what "hard choices" Obama would make,

    "I'm sculpting now. Landscapes mostly." ~ Yogi Bear

    by eXtina on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 06:42:53 PM PST

    •  I wish the Administration had an (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Elizabeth Warren clone to field questions for them.  She does an awesome job of re-framing questions to make her points - and still make the questioner feel like she answered their question.

      Can't never did nothin'; Can Do did!

      by susanWAstate on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 07:17:46 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Jeff Greenfield. Shiny Toys. March 1994. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    While covering several odd stories of the time...

    Lorena Bobbitt, Khalid Muhammad (Nation Of Islam), Anti-Semitic and Anti-Black Supremacists, as a start...

    Jeff Greenfield ruminated why the media chases the 'extremist view' and doesn't make the effort to counter with the facts.

    The unsaid part is still true - if the person or person on the other side says nothing the reporter can repeat, the other side is not reported on. Leaving the extreme view hanging in the air.

    People think Obama is spending out of control because he himself has not said 'That is not true.' Which would make the media report 'Obama said he is not spending like a Kardashian at a Neiman-Marcus bankruptcy sale.'

    Give the morons something to do. They won't do it on their own.

  •  Congressional catering Budget (0+ / 0-)

    They sure spend a lot on catering

    Of course, that won't make a dent in the nation's deficit. But for 435 lawmakers, who last year were allotted about $1.5 million each, the cut will mean trimming their budgets by $75,000 -- the equivalent of about 1.5 full-time staffers.

    There are some obvious places for lawmakers to cut. In the first quarter of 2010, the House shelled out almost $190,000 for bottled water. (Quick note to investors: Lawmakers overwhelmingly prefer Deer Park brand. They spent $120,000 on it.)

    Over the same period, lawmakers spent more than $600,000 on food, according to data compiled by the Sunlight Foundation. They also spent $10.2 million on mail and $6.4 million on travel.

    Response: If you "got it" you wouldn't be a republican

    by JML9999 on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 06:45:39 PM PST

  •  David Axelrod is a twit. (4+ / 0-)

    He's not fast on is feet, he should know that and he should know better than to be interviewed on TV.

    Barack Obama: So morally bankrupt that he thinks people who tortured other people to death should get a pass. Likes to prosecute whistleblowers and pot smokers, though.

    by expatjourno on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 06:50:15 PM PST

  •  Going back to the premise. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There are two people:
    ·    Dr John, who is regarded as an educated man of science.
    ·    Fat Tony, regarded as a man who lives by his wits.

    A third party asks them, "Assume a fair coin is flipped 99 times, and each time it comes up heads. What are the odds that the 100th flip would also come up heads?"
    ·    Dr John says that the odds are not affected by the previous outcomes so the odds must still be 50:50.
    ·    Fat Tony says the question is BS because the odds of a coin coming up heads 99 times in a row are so low that the initial assumption that the coin had a 50:50 chance of coming up heads is wrong.

    Keep it real.
    Don’t waste time arguing the results of a false premise, rather, go back and refute the flawed base of the claim.

    -- We are just regular people informed on issues

    by mike101 on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 06:52:22 PM PST

  •  Gregory & Axelrod: Blind Leading Blind (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    susanWAstate, Tommy Allen

    Gregory has a degree in international studies and Axelrod's degree is political science.  Both are journalists who have no background at all in economics or finance.

    So listening to these two talk about economic policy and the federal debt is equivalent to listening to a couple of 5 year olds talking about sex.  Might be amusing at some points, but hardly informative.

    Yet this is what passes for informed opinion in America - dolts who have never picked up an economics textbook, let alone read one, giving us their "analysis" of our economic problems.

  •  Just Imagine (0+ / 0-)

    Just Imagine where the overall unemployment rate would be today if the Federal government had just funded State and Local governments (including Schools) enough so that wouldn't of had to lay off a single goverment worker.

    I haven't done the math, but I'd guess the rate would be at least 2% lower.  Am I Wrong?

    "Some men see things as they are and ask, 'Why?' I dream of things that never were and ask, 'Why not?"

    by Doctor Who on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 07:12:05 PM PST

    •  Doctor Who - how much would it have cost? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Do you loan the money to states, or give them grants? How do you decide which states would receive the loans or grants, those who had the done the best job of balancing their budgets or those who had the largest budget deficits? Does federal government assistance encourage good state budget management, or create a climate of dependency?

      "let's talk about that"

      by VClib on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 09:13:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  David Gregory is OBSESSED... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    samddobermann, Terminus

    ...with the idea of middle class pain and sacrifice. He mentioned this repeatedly during his debate appearances, asking where candidates saw need for the American people to feel pain, and he dwells on it on MTP. It's a new spin on "class warfare"... class sadism.

    Okay, maybe it's not a new spin. ;-)

    Is it Newt or is it Schrute?

    by newinfluence on Mon Jan 30, 2012 at 08:03:52 PM PST

  •  Damned if you do.... (0+ / 0-)

    The president is trying to address the nations ill's but at the same time he cannot fight back against what many Americans are pushing for despite the fact they do not know what they are getting.

    Less spending in the wake of tremendous debt is good but when the revenues do not go up, and you are taking a pay cut in taxes, then you are going to get farther behind on the debt.

    Americans have no idea what they are asking of their government and the chains they are putting in place over a President that now has to swim with both hands tied.

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