PGL notes that the right-wing talking-point regarding the federal budget deficit – that the deficit is purely the result of out-of-control government spending, and that the deficit can be fixed by curtailing spending – is still being (ahem) liberally used. (Of course, some Bush-backers would argue that deficits don’t matter in the first place, but that’s another issue.)
It’s true the federal spending has grown fairly rapidly over the past few years. But some types of spending have grown faster than others, and in historical context, recent spending increases are not particularly dramatic, as I wrote about last month.
But let’s take an even more detailed look at exactly where spending has grown. The following chart shows the increase in annual spending by category between 2001 and 2005, as tabulated by the CBO.
So, if you want to assign the blame for federal spending growth, then apportion the blame as follows:
As I’ve said before, if you hope to fix the budget deficit by undoing the spending increases of the past 5 years, then you should focus your attention on Defense and Homeland Security spending and spending on federal health programs. Of the $450+ billion increase in annual federal spending since 2001 (excluding the separately funded Social Security program), non-security-related discretionary spending (including all of the government pork that so excite right-wing commentators) only accounts for $64 billion of the increase, or about fourteen percent.
UPDATE: Chart amended and text clarified.