Intended and Actual Spending

Kash, Brad, and I have been hamering Bush’s “15% discretionary spending growth” lie pretty hard. Now even the conservative/libertarians are getting in on the game. Posting on the subject, Jacob Levy at the Volkh Conspiracy writes this rather damning paragraph:

Authorization is not spending. A question about whether one is spending a lot of money is not responded to with an answer about how much one said one intended to spend. And “discretionary spending” is not the same as “non-defense, non-homeland discretionary spending.” This isn’t harmless abbreviation. In order to obscure the explosion in spending, the president’s advisors had to come up with an obscure and tortured way to measure what has happened (one that, again, doesn’t measure what actually happened but only what it was said that it was intended to have happen). If you’re going to offer an answer that’s intends to mislead about substance but is technically true, one had better be sure to get the technicalities right. (That is what Bill Clinton excelled at, of course: “There is no sexual relationship.”) Bush’s answer intended to mislead about substance (a strange way of measuring was used for the clear purpose of having a more palatable spending story to tell than is reflected in actual expenditures), and didn’t even manage to be technically true (because ‘discretionary spending’ wasn’t qualified).

Levy (a smart guy and, along with Dan Drezner, a conservative who uses reason to argue his points) is referring to a graph Calpundit found in the current budget, which contains alleged numbers for “authorized” [not actual] spending. That graph puts non-defense and non-homeland discretionary spending at 15% in 2001, and 6, 5, 4, and 1 percent in 2002-2005. However, those numbers don’t add up. (Somehow, intended/authorized spending growth of 5%, 14%, and 15% somehow averaged out to realized overall spending growth of 5.5% so either “authorization” is meaningless or the 15% growth is inaccurate.)

I’d give Levy’s post an A if he could somehow manage to criticize Bush without referencing Clinton’s penis (Andrew Sullivan managed that feat, here.) Still, a strong effort overall. A-.