“We Now Have Our Smallest Government in 45 Years”

Federal Net Outlays

That’s the absurd title to a blog post over at The Atlantic today. The writer claims that the U.S. government is now the smallest it’s been since LBJ was president. The article is making the rounds among leftists, who, against all reason and common sense, have managed to convince themselves that the US government is getting smaller.

The claim is based on a calculation of total government employment as a ratio of the total US population. Right off the bat we know that comparing these ratios from 1968 and today will be off. This is largely because in 1968, most people whose salaries were funded by taxpayer sweat actually worked for the government. There weren’t mercenaries shooting up foreigners back then, or an enormous government-funded non-profit sector or legions of “consultants” who are really just government employees making extra-large salaries.

On top of this is the fact that government size is not only measured in the number of government employees. Better measures would include the US prison population, or taxes paid, or pages of government regulations or the number of federal laws, or the number of people groped by TSA pedophiles. Needless to say, all of these things have exploded in recent decades. On top of that, you have the war on drugs, the war on terror, the war on salt, fat, guns, raw milk, and a number of other things.

Yep, government sure is a shadow of its former self!

But, to make it simple, let’s just look at government spending. In 1968, the US government spent $883 dollars for every one of the 201 million Americans, or annual outlays totaling 178.1 billion. In 2011, the US government spent a whopping $11,493 for every one of the 313 million Americans for total outlays of 3.6 trillion. That’s an increase of 1,923 percent since 1968. The CPI over this period increased 545 percent, so we’re talking an enormous increase, even when adjusted for the official inflation rate.

We can also look at this another way. The amount of money taken from each American has increased almost 2,000 percent since 1968, which is more than triple the inflation rate.

Federal Net Outlays

1 comment… add one

  • Weismann has a point, even if his phrasing is sloppy due to a sophomoric attempt at being provocative.

    His ideological group probably does not want “big government”, but they do want the secure, middle-income jobs that come with direct government employment. The disconnect between government impact and direct employment is due to the modern Republican agenda of “privatizing” (i.e. outsourcing and profiting from) public services, while pretending that they are downsizing the government or making it more efficient.

    Reply

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