23 May 2011

Frames of Reference

Political Calculations | Ironman | The Right Frame of Reference

How does today's U.S. federal government spending compare to the levels recorded before the recession?

That's an important question to ask because a lot of politicians and bureaucrats have a pretty large stake in keeping federal spending at elevated levels. How elevated those current levels of spending are with respect to what was typically recorded in the ten years before the most recent recession began [pdf] is the subject of our data visualization exercise today!

[...] The period of 1998 through 2007 makes for a very nice comparison because it contains both a period of time in which the U.S. government ran budget surpluses (1998-2001), a period of recession with an extended period of recovery (2001-2003), and also a period of time where the government ran what were considered for the time to be record high budget deficits (2002-2007).

Oh for those days! We suppose a good question for those politicians seeking to keep the federal government's spending so permanently high is why shouldn't the U.S. go back to those levels of spending recorded from 1998 through 2007, which just about everybody else in the world would call "normal" levels of spending for the U.S.?
Why indeed?

I've said over and over that 2007 was a pretty fine time. All I'm asking is to return to 2007 levels of spending. I'd even go for 2007 levels, adjusted up for population growth and inflation. But as soon as you propose that the big spenders tell scare stories about old people dying in the streets and children starting on street corners.

Obama promises "targeted and temporary" spending at the onset of this recession. That was a complete lie.

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