Weapons of Math Destruction, Part II

Calpundit, Angry Bear, and Joshua Claybourn have all had things to say about the issue that I addressed in my “Lies, Direct from the President’s Mouth” post of yesterday. Several people have offered up theories to explain the President’s incorrect statement, most of which revolve around the idea that Bush was talking about non-defense discretionary spending. Along those lines, Calpundit helpfully found the source of Bush’s untrue statement – it’s from the overview of the just-submitted budget, and it shows “non-defense, non-homeland spending” to be just as Bush described it on MTP yesterday.

The problem is that there is no supporting data for the chart. Furthermore, the OMB doesn’t even give us much insight into how they calculated those growth rates, so we have to guess.

Undeterred, I have been trying to replicate their graph. To do so, I’ve assumed that they took the data from their own historical budget documents. One particular White House document contains the salient information: “Historical Tables, Budget of the US”. The two tables that contain the relevant information are table 4.1, which contains spending for homeland security, and table 8.1, which contains budget outlays by category (i.e. discretionary vs. mandatory). When you subtract defense spending and homeland security spending from the numbers given by the White House for discretionary spending, this is what you end up with:

1999: $284 bn

2000: $307 bn, +8.1%

2001: $328 bn, +6.8%

2002: $367 bn, +12.0%

2003: $389 bn, +6.0%

But this still doesn’t match the White House chart (or what the President said on MTP). If someone has any insight into how the OMB came up with that chart of theirs, please let me know. Because at the moment, I’m starting to think that the OMB just made up that chart out of thin air – and then told the President that those numbers actually represented reality.


UPDATE: Spinsanity has provided the best explanation yet for how the OMB derived their numbers.