50 Years of Changes in Government Spending


Monday May 21st, 2012   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 8:27am PST   •  

Presented below, in one graph looking at 25 year intervals, and amazingly from National Public Radio of all places, which falls in the “Everything Else” category....

U.S. Government Budget Allocation, 1947, 1962, 1987 and 2011

Being NPR, the related article also offers the following tidbit of deceptive analysis:

Federal spending has grown roughly as fast as the overall economy over the past 50 years. In 1962, federal spending was $707 billion and accounted for 18 percent of U.S. GDP. In 2011, federal spending was $3.1 trillion and accounted for 24 percent of GDP. (The dollar figures are adjusted for inflation.)

The deceptive portion of the analysis is the “federal spending has grown roughly as fast as the overall economy over the past 50 years.” By any measure, the change from 18% of GDP in 1962 to 24% of GDP in 2011 represents federal spending that’s consuming a significantly increasing share of the U.S. economy over time.

To really see that effect, it might really help to consider the size of the federal government’s budget deficit in both years. In 1962, the U.S. budget deficit was $7.1 billion, or $53.89 billion in terms of inflation-adjusted 2012 U.S. dollars. In 2011, the U.S. budget deficit was $1,299 billion, or $1,324.16 billion in terms of inflation-adjusted 2012 U.S. dollars, which is over 24 times the size of the 1962 federal government budget’s deficit.

Of course, the reason why the deficit has grown so large over that time is because it is federal tax collections that has grown at roughly the same pace as the U.S. economy, and not federal spending, which has grown considerably faster.

If only that spending had grown at roughly the same rate as that of the U.S. economy. We’d be in much better shape today!




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