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Today’s Total Public Spending = Entire 1961 U.S. Economy

Saturday August 31st, 2013   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 1:53pm PDT   •  

We’re always on the lookout for ways to describe gargantuan amount of spending done by government, and we found a neat example created by Kevin Erdmann, who simply graphed both the level of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product per Capita and the total amount of government expenditures at all levels (federal, state, and local) per capita since January 1960:

GDP and Government Total Expenditures, 1961-2013

Note the vertical axis, which gives an indication of the rate at which both have doubled in size over time. We can see that total public spending per capita has fully doubled in size twice in the time since President Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the White House. Meanwhile, the nation’s economy has only fully doubled in size once, but is only halfway to doubling in size a second time—it’s not keeping up with the pace of growth of public spending in the U.S.

You would think that we’d have a lot more GDP to show for that kind of increase in total government spending, but given how much government and government regulations have increased over that time, perhaps what it really explains is why GDP is growing so much more slowly than government spending.

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August 2013