In today’s Politico, I argue that your money is your own, and the government is only entitled to collect in taxes what it needs in order to fulfill its legitimate functions. So the term “tax expenditures” is accordingly a bit of a misnomer (a useful one, though), and President Obama’s phrase “spending through the tax code” is not exactly apt.
That being said, oftentimes tax credits, deductions, loopholes, etc., are, for all economic purposes, exactly the same as spending, and should be treated as such.
This distinction relates to a lot of the larger concepts that are at play in politics right now. The larger question is about the role of the government. If tax expenditures truly are the same as spending in every way, then the government is not limited.