Yesterday's Paul Krugman's column said that President Obama has, in fact, reduced government spending, when you account for inflation and population growth.
That seemed surprising, so I checked it out. And it's true. Here is inflation-adjusted, per capita federal government outlays since 1960, plotted annually:
Data comes from the Federal Reserve in St Louis: Federal net outlays, population, and CPI.
Here are the percentage changes for each administration since Carter, for that administration's last fiscal year compared to the fiscal year in effect when it took office:
Note only does this dispel the common belief that Obama is a disastrous spendthrift for big government, it also shows was an utter disaster George W Hoover was. (Arguments about the extent to which Presidents or Congress are held responsible for spending are left for the comments. I do think it's clear that, at least in the case of Hoover, his two unfunded wars, two unfunded tax cuts, and an unfunded expansion expansion of Medicare (Part D) are his responsibility, not Congress's.)
I also put together these numbers on change in stock market capitalization (as measured by the Wilshire 5000 index) and total federal debt (click to enlarge):
These data are calculated from the very first day of that President's term, to his very last day.