I have had the opportunity to both study and teach statistics many times. Perhaps for this reason I am fond of the bromide, "There are lies, damn lies and statistics." As I read Mark Martinez's Feb. 25 Community Voice article, "All hail the GOP's stunning sequestration chutzpah," I was perplexed by the accompanying chart, attributed to The Californian (but reconfigured from a chart provided by Martinez, which was based on statistics from MarketWatch -- Ed.) which indicated that the Obama administration was the most restrained in increasing federal spending. It indicated that the current administration was by far the most fiscally conservative over the past 32 years, growing federal spending at a much slower rate than even the supposedly thrifty Clinton administration.

Something didn't ring true. So I went to the same source (Congressional Budget Office) to get the raw figures and to do my own analysis. The average increase in administration spending was highest during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations and lowest by far during the Clinton administration. If one looks at spending as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the ability of the economy to support federal spending, the Clinton administration was by far the most thrifty, followed by the G.W. Bush administration. By far the worst? The Obama administration.

Which statistics tell the "true" story? Hard to know. But no matter how I tried, I could not come up with an analysis that supported the assertion in the essay that "new federal spending under Obama has risen at its slowest pace since Dwight Eisenhower."

John Tarjan


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