One of the pernicious sub-themes of the Obama presidency is the view among many Republicans that Obama has used the power of the federal purse to essentially purchase the votes of millions of his supporters—whether through generous Medicare or Medicaid payments, food stamps and unemployment checks, or (horror of horrors) the infamous “Obamaphones.” This is what Mitt Romney was alluding to when he complained after the election that Obama had used “gifts” to win over key interest groups, “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community, and young people.”
One neat thing you can do on a Bloomberg Terminal is look up—and chart—just about any piece of information imaginable. For example: personal income from transfer payments from the government since Obama became president. My colleague on the Bloomberg economics team, Alex Tanzi, decided to do just that and produced the chart above.
What it shows doesn’t mirror the Romney line of attack at all. Unemployment benefits are plummeting, partly (one assumes) because the economy is improving, but also because states such as North Carolina are eliminating federal unemployment benefits. On the other hand, the government under Obama has dramatically increased spending on veterans, a set of beneficiaries rarely mentioned by those who hew to the idea that Obama bought the election.