The real debate here is what spending should have been in 2010 and 2011. The Obama administration wanted it to be higher. After all, unemployment rose through 2010, and remains high today. It has proposed a raft of additional stimulus bills since 2009. Republicans in Congress, however, refused to pass most of their plans. Properly understood, the fact that inflation-adjusted spending has fallen since fiscal year 2009 is the result of Republican obstruction in Congress. That Democrats are now crowing about these numbers — the DNC is e-mailing them around — and that Republicans are now viciously disputing them is an embarrassment to both sides.
You could as easily imagine Democrats lamenting these numbers as evidence of our failed policies and Republicans celebrating them as evidence of their congressional successes. But Republicans don’t want to admit that they bear substantial responsibility for the economic policy of the last few years. If they did, then it would be hard to argue that the economy’s performance in 2010 and 2011 is all Obama’s fault. And the Obama administration doesn’t want to clearly say that we should have been spending more in recent years, even if that’s what they believe, and what they proposed, because it polls poorly.