Trillion-Dollar Math Quiz: Does Obama Pass?

Photograph by Charles Dharapak/Pool via Bloomberg

President Barack Obama, center, arrives to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 12, 2013.

President Bill Clinton sang the praises of “arithmetic” in his 2012 convention speech. President Barack Obama relied on “math” in his debates with Mitt Romney to argue for his deficit reduction package.

But Obama has used some contradictory numbers himself. In last year’s State of the Union, he claimed $2 trillion in deficit reduction. In this year’s address, he put the number at “more than 2.5 trillion.”

Given that the only policy changes between the 2012 and 2013 speeches were year-end tax increases that the White House books as $630 billion, the two State of the Union numbers don’t add up.

In 2012, the White House was counting money that would have been spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so-called Overseas Contingency Operations savings in budget-speak.

Obama’s accountants don’t count OCO savings in their new $2.5 trillion number. Here’s what they do:

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