No, Government Spending Really Isn’t Going Up Right Now

March 18th, 2013 at 4:09 pm

On the Bill Maher show the other night, I pointed out that contrary to the talking point that government spending is spiraling out of control, it in fact went up only 0.6%, 2009-2012.  Whenever I say that, I get emails from people who don’t believe it, and not just complaining conservatives.  Many progressives can’t believe that’s the case given the hair-on-fire rhetoric about Obama’s alleged ongoing spending spree.

Well, here are the numbers, straight out of CBO.  Spending went up a lot in the recession, as it always does, as automatic stabilizers like unemployment insurance and food stamps ratchet up, and the Recovery Act is in there too.  But since then outlays have been flat, up less than 1% over the President’s tenure, 2009-2012 (as I said on the show) and actually falling as a share of GDP (the figure includes CBOs forecast for 2013).

And no, I’m not bragging about this—I think those two lines partially explain why this recovery has been such a slog: we hit back hard against the recession in 2009 and GDP started growing in real terms shortly thereafter.  But we stopped too soon, certainly before the recovery reached most households.


Source: CBO

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

10 comments in reply to "No, Government Spending Really Isn’t Going Up Right Now"

  1. JeffCO says:

    I saw you on there, and though you did a good job putting the lie to this standard GOP talking point, you saw up close the effect it had on your Republican copanelist: none. More importantly though, while I did note that you made sure to keep referring specifically to barely controlled Medicare growth as a cause for (later, much later) concern, it would really have been helpful had you or Rachel not sat on your hands and corrected Bill in his mistaken assertion that *Social Security* has anything to do with budget deficits. So, no, the President is not being brave by continuing to put SS on the table when no one outside the DC punditry and the GOP (who quite openly want it to go away entirely) wants it to be cut, via chained CPI or any other sleight of hand.

    Should the President succeed in his goal of a Grand Bargain (which will most likely be neither grand nor a bargain), the Dems will most certainly pay the price at the polls. After voting aye to cut SS, the next words out of the mouths of every member of the GOP will be “Obama and the Dems just cut your SS!!!!” and they will repeat it loudly and often through the next 4 years, and what’s worse they will be telling the truth for once.

  2. foosion says:

    Given the vast attention paid to deficits, it is amazing how ill-informed most people are on the subject. Vast majorities think that it’s increasing rapidly.

    It would be nice is someone with a national megaphone were to inform people, but our man in the bully pulpit seems to prefer being seen as eager to cut social security and medicare.

    It is also useful to look at longer term trends. Here’s federal govt spending since 1980, from FRED: Consider how many more would be employed today and how much faster growth would be if spending had continued on trend.

  3. ICD says:

    So if spending has not been rising, why the rising debt/deficit? Is that all because of lost revenues?

  4. Nick Batzdorf says:

    Pigs fly: Boehner and Ryan admit that there is no debt emergency!

    “America owes this debt of gratitude to Boehner after he finally came clean on yesterday’s edition of ABC’s “This Week” and admitted that “we do not have an immediate debt crisis.” (His admission was followed up by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who quickly echoed much the same sentiment on CBS’ “Face the Nation”).”

  5. Frank Lysy says:

    Jared is certainly right. Government spending under Obama has been flat. One can find a more complete analysis, going back to Eisenhower, at .

  6. dougfir says:

    I wish you had started the chart at least four and preferably eight years earlier.

  7. Realist1953 (@Realist1953) says:

    This was one of the ‘good’ things about old Ross Perot’s WH run — CHARTS that use “the other guy’s numbers” so he can’t claim yours are lies.

    Big problem in America — education is so poor [and the screaming on both sides so loud] that No One Believes the Numbers!! They only seem to hear “you can make numbers say anything” and “you can twist the facts”.

    Someone with $$$$ needs to a 30 min ‘infomercial” and put Hard Facts on TV.
    And dispute the lies told by both sides.

  8. chris reedus says:

    I saw you as well and could not have been happier that you put that out there. The idea that POTUS has not been saying the same is laughable, people are not listening. It is like the GOP who say he has no plan he goes to them and tells them he does and its been on the W.H. website for awhile; then they say “well our leadership never shared that with us”. Are you kidding me! Your are a U.S Congressperson and you cannot do your own research er uh as in like go read it for yourself.

    I’ve no patience for people who make that excuse. What the hell are we paying them for? To sit and do nothing. The reason is people get the Gov’t they elect and when you elect people who do not believe in Gov’t that is exactly what you will get. People need to vote in their own economic self interest. If that were #1 in their mind the GOP would be out the door so fast it would never have a chance to hit them in the rear. Hopefully they can take some DEM’s with them so we can get some folks in Congress who will move the country forward.