White House: ‘Of Course the President Believes That We Have a Spending Problem’

By Fred Lucas | February 12, 2013 | 3:20 PM EST

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney (AP)

(CNSNews.com) – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said “of course there is a spending problem,” one day after House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) denied the government had a spending problem.

“Of course the president believes that we have a spending problem that is specifically driven by – and I think any economist worth any insight worth the paper on which his or her PhD is printed would tell you the principle driver when it comes to spending of our deficit or debt is health care spending,” Carney said.

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During an interview with Fox News Sunday, Pelosi said, “It is almost a false argument to say we have a spending problem.”

“Does the president think we have a spending problem?” a reporter asked Monday during the White House press briefing, referring to Pelosi’s comment.

Carney said that health care spending has been the primary driver of government spending.

“That’s just a fact,” Carney continued. “What is also a fact is that we have reduced non- defense discretionary spending to its lowest level as a percentage of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was president and I think only a few of you here were covering Eisenhower, so that is a long time.”

During Obama’s first term, the national debt increased by nearly $6 trillion. Deficit spending surpassed $1 trillion each year of his presidency.

Non-defense discretionary spending, the category of domestic spending that Congress can control year to year by deciding on priorities and excludes entitlement spending, interest payments and other spending that is essentially locked in.

The comparison between Obama and Eisenhower – used frequently during the reelection campaign results from the estimated future spending as a percentage of economic output, according to an Associated Press fact check last April.

The administration’s Office of Management and Budget projects non-defense discretionary spending will drop from 3.9 percent of gross domestic product in 2012 to 2.9 percent of GDP by 2015. Under President Dwight Eisenhower, federal spending was 2.2 percent of the GDP.

“Whether that's really in the cards remains to be seen. Projections three or four years ahead don't carry much weight,” the AP article said. “Moreover, as the fact-checking organization PolitiFact pointed out when Obama compared himself to Eisenhower in February, the ledger is somewhat skewed because $54 billion in surface transportation money has been shifted from the discretionary spending column to mandatory spending, improving the bottom line on paper if not in reality.”

Last week, Carney did not deny a Wall Street Journal report on Jan. 6 about a conversation between Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). In the article, Boehner said Obama told him, “We don’t have a spending problem.” The article quotes Boehner saying Obama told him the problem is limited to health care spending.

During an interview Tuesday, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on CNBC, when asked the same question, “Does the country have a – the country has a paying-for problem,” Hoyer replied. “We haven’t paid for what we’ve bought.”