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President Obama's Past SOTU Addresses & Spending

Dan Barrett
February 12, 2013

Of course, there is both widespread and wild speculation on what President Obama will say during tonight's State of the Union (SOTU) Address. I'm stumbling across so many predictions that you would think the speech is as important as the federal budget (which hasn't been released yet) or a solution to the pending debt ceiling debate (which has taken a backseat to the automatic across-the-board sequester cuts that have already been delayed in implementation). It is not bad to speculate but at some point, taxpayers will expect an agenda that allows Americans to get back to the business of business, instead of worrying about another government shutdown or one of the many financial near-catastrophes experienced in recent memory. How this happens is anyone's guess but by looking at the past, we can infer what the President might talk about tonight.

First things first, NTU Foundation has analyzed SOTU Addresses going back to the Clinton Administration (check out some of them here). Director of Research Demian Brady uses the same methodology as NTUF's BillTally project to determine how much the President proposes to change the federal budget (both in new spending and savings). BillTally is strictly a study on spending (or outlays) and does not account for revenue or regulatory costs. Normally, BillTally is the only comprehensive analysis of every introduced piece of legislation in both chambers of Congress (somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 bills sponsored and cosponsored over two years). You can search for your Representative and Senators' individual BillTally reports here. Now, back to SOTU...

President Obama has given four SOTU Addresses in the past and, as seen below, he has called for both spending increases and decreases (so much so that in 2012, NTUF found that if the speech's provisions were enacted, taxpayers might have seen spending decreases). What is outlined below is something of an historical baseline for taxpayers and policy experts alike to compare with tonight's Address.

President Obama's Spending Changes Related to his State of the Union Addresses
(in billions of dollars)
Non-Defense Discretionary
Defense/Homeland Security
*Historically Presidents do not give State of the Union Addresses in their first year in office
Source: NTUF State of the Union Studies, NTUF BillTally System

Over the past four years, some recurring themes and policies have come up during President Obama's OSTU speeches:

  • Broad Education Reform: Each year, the President has called for varying degrees of reforms in education. Increasing spending related to employing and training more teachers has appeared in all four years. He also proposed eliminating some unproductive education-related programs in 2009 but has since not.
  • Defense: The years are largely split. In 2009 and 2010, the President outlined increases in the defense budget for more personnel whereas, in 2011 and 2012, he was seeking multi-billion cuts.
  • Energy: Not a secret, President Obama seeks to develop a clean energy sector and has voiced his support for that transition every year, ranging from cap-and-trade proposals in 2009 to increasing energy efficiency in industry and buildings in 2012. He also called on his Administration to open up more offshore areas for oil and natural gas exploration.
  • Financial Changes: One of the recurring policies in the President’s SOTU Addresses is allowing homeowners to refinance their mortgages. Though many different bills have been proposed in both chambers and both sides of aisle, major changes to either how mortgages are negotiated or regulated have not occurred, except for some changes in the Dodd-Frank Act.
  • Immigration Reform: Since 2010, the President has called for immigration reform and, at times, for an omnibus comprehensive package. He has not given many details on specifically what he would like to see passed through Congress but, in 2011, he supported the DREAM Act. For perhaps some other information on this subject, check out NTUF Policy Analyst Michael Tasselmyer's post on the last comprehensive immigration reform package to be scored.
  • Infrastructure: As staple in his agenda, the President has continually asked Congress for more infrastructure funding for project ranging from increased bridge and levy safety inspections to constructing high-speed rail and improved highways. He has been pushing for the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank for years, which would centralize some public and private spending for these improvements.

NTUF will be following the Presidents SOTU Address this evening to let taxpayers know how the policies he proposes might affect the federal budget going forward. Join us on Twitter and follow the coverage offered by the National Taxpayers Union.


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