Commentary Magazine


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$4.4 Trillion

The Wall Street Journal editors remind us:

CBO’s mid-year review largely reinforces the bad news we already knew—to wit, that spending has exploded since Democrats took over Congress in 2007, first with the acquiescence of George W. Bush and then into hyperdrive after Mr. Obama entered the White House.

To appreciate the magnitude of this spending blowout, compare CBO’s budget “baseline” estimate in January 2008 with the baseline it released Thursday. The baseline predicts future spending based on the law at the time. As the nearby chart shows, in a mere 31 months Congress has added more than $4.4 trillion to the 10-year spending baseline. The 2008 and 2009 numbers are actual spending, the others are estimates. As recently as 2005, total federal spending was only $2.47 trillion.

Here’s a plan for the deficit commission: just return to the 2005 level of spending. Civilization as we know it would not end. The government would still deliver essential services and very much more.

True, Bush could have done more to curb spending. But really, there is no comparison between the administrations:

The annual average increase in domestic, nondefense discretionary spending—on the likes of education, food stamps, and things other than Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security—was 6.4% from 1999-2008. Yet in 2009, nondefense discretionary spending rose by 11.2%, and in 2010 it will grow by another 14.7%.

“We should be so lucky” should be the response the next time Obama threatens that the GOP will return us to the Bush era.