Help Me Understand Leonhardt's Math

Derek Thompson refers to an analysis by David Leonhardt (it is David, by the way, not Richard) of the New York Times. Leonhardt writes,

The story of today's deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years... About 7 percent [of the $2 trillion swing] comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February.

If I take 7 percent of $2 trillion, I get $140 billion. The stimulus was $787 billion. I need help with the math.


First, Leonhardt is talking about annual spending, and the stimulus total is for cumulative spending.  OK, so let's multiply $140 billion by four to get cumulative spending through 2012--answer is $560 billion. That still leaves over $200 billion of stimulus spending not accounted for in Leonhardt's calculations. Is there that much left over to be spent after 2012?   What happened to the promise that seventy-five percent of the stimulus would be in the bloodstream by 2011?

Presented by

Arnold Kling

Arnold Kling earned his Ph.D in economics at MIT. He was an economist on the staff of the Federal Reserve Board. From 1986-1994 he worked at Freddie Mac. He started Homefair.com in 1994 and sold it in 1999. His fourth book, From Poverty to Prosperity, co-authored with Nick Schulz, is due out in April of 2009. He blogs regularly at Econlog.

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