Perhaps anticipating its new life in the Bezos' world, the Washington Post on Sunday put on its green-eye-shade to tally up the books for the federal government. It noted that federal spending was down just $2 billion since 2010, when the Republicans, and the Tea Party, took control of the House. While implicitly trying to minimize the impact of the Tea Party, the Post ignored where spending would be without the healthy dose of austerity. Based on a decade-long trend-line, the influence of the Tea Party didn't just trim $2 billion from the budget but avoided almost $500 billion in new debt.
Since the turn of the new century, government spending has increased an average 6% a year. Applying this historical trend to the Post's 2010 baseline number indicates that federal spending would be about $430 billion higher than it is today. Even this might be underestimating the impact of the Tea Party revolution.
In the four years that Democrats had complete control of Congress, federal spending increased by an average 9% a year. If the Democrats had maintained control of Congress after the 2010 elections, this trend would put spending over $4.1 trillion today. All things being equal, the federal debt would be $700 Billion higher than it is today.
The Post does get one thing right, however. We are nowhere close to tackling our fiscal problems. People can scream about earmarks, subsidies and wasteful spending until they are blue in the face, but those are almost a rounding error in terms of our budget. More than two-thirds of all federal spending is on entitlements or other redistribution schemes. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid consume almost all federal tax dollars.
Outside of those three programs, our government spent $1.2 trillion last year. That includes the military, highways, FBI, the courts, farm programs, food stamps and all the federal agencies. Our deficit last year? $1.1 trillion. Essentially, we spent all federal tax revenue writing checks to people and borrowed money to fund the things we think government ought to do.
So, yes, we have a long way to go.