“With the 2015 budget request, Obama will call for an end to the era of austerity that has dogged much of his presidency and to his efforts to find common ground with Republicans,” reported the Washington Post a few days back.
Bart Hinkle finds the idea that we’ve been living through an era of austerity to be pretty ridiculous:
Well, it’s about time! The end of austerity cannot come soon enough, as far as your humble correspondent is concerned. And a quick look at the historical budget tables shows why: In 2008, the federal government spent just a hair under $3 trillion. After six years of President Slash-and-Burn, spending has shrunk to almost $4 trillion. If we keep cutting like this, it will be down to $5 trillion before you know it.
These savage reductions have taken place in nearly every major federal program. Take defense spending: The year before Obama took office, it stood at $594 billion. It’s now $597 billion. Back in 2001 it was almost $300 billion. Even if you adjust for inflation, it’s clear that defense spending has shrunk at an alarming rate.
Same deal for food stamps: Under President Barack Obama, spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has gone from $40 billion to $78 billion, in constant dollars. And that’s after it went from $20 billion to $40 billion under Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. Spending cuts like that are simply barbaric.
But they are par for the course. Using inflation-adjusted, 2012 dollars, federal spending on K-12 and vocational education has gone from $41 billion in 2002 to $100 billion in 2012. During the same period, Medicare spending has gone from $293 billion to roughly $500 billion. Transportation spending? It went from $86 billion to $138 billion. Medicaid and related programs? $223 billion to $327 billion. Energy? Half a billion to $9 billion.
If we keep hacking away at federal spending like this, pretty soon we won’t have any federal government left!
We see debates in Washington DC all the time about spending going up and down, but the truth is that in terms of the overall national budget, spending never goes down. The “austerity” our spend-happy friends on the left like to talk of in gloomy, cataclysmic terms is really just a reduction in the rate of growth of national spending.