Professor Charles Musgrave, who teaches at the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Colorado at Boulder, is a faithful EFM reader. He sent me this analysis:
Like former speaker Gingrich’s exaggerated claims of his relationship with Reagan, Gingrich has claimed on several occasions that while Speaker of the House he balanced the federal budget four consecutive years. Setting aside his ludicrous assertion that he deserves credit for the balanced budget, a quick examination of the federal budget during the years Gingrich was speaker (January 1995 through 1998) shows that the budget was only balanced once, in 1998. Furthermore, the deficit began steadily declining in 1992, three full years before Gingrich was speaker. In fact, this trend continued to 2000, when the surplus peaked, two years after Gingrich was ousted as speaker. In fact, an examination of tax revenues and federal spending between 1992 and 2000 show that there was no Gingrich effect at all. Again, as with other claims made by the speaker, this one is at best an extreme exaggeration.
Charles e-mailed a clarification:
I noticed one complication with my previous blurb on Gingrich’s balanced budget claims. The federal fiscal year begins in October so Gingrich could claim budget surpluses in 1998 and 1999 (which would have started Oct. 1998; he was speaker until Jan 3, 1999). Also, fiscal year 1997 had a deficit, but it wasn’t that large so Gingrich might try to claim that the budget was balanced that year. It wasn’t, but he could try to claim it. So, he can legitimately claim balanced budgets for two years, but definitely not four and the graphs show no change in trend while he was speaker.