Federal Spending by the Numbers 2010
By Brian Riedl
The 2010 edition of "Federal Spending by the Numbers" shows spending and deficits continuing to grow at a pace not seen since World War II. Washington will spend $30,543 per household in 2010—$5,000 per household more than just two years ago. While some of this spending is a temporary result of the recession, President Obama's latest budget would replace this temporary spending with permanent new programs. Consequently, by 2020—a time of assumed peace and prosperity—Washington would still spend nearly $36,000 per household, compared to $25,000 per household before this recession (adjusted for inflation).
Since 2000, spending has grown across the board. Entitlement spending has reached a record 14 percent of GDP. Discretionary spending has expanded 79 percent faster than inflation as a result of large defense and domestic spending hikes. Other spending categories that have grown rapidly since 2000 include: anti-poverty programs (89 percent faster than inflation), K–12 education (219 percent), veterans spending (107 percent), and Medicare (81 percent). And despite all the pressing national priorities, lawmakers approved over 9,000 earmarks last year at a cost of $16.5 billion. Simply put, all parts of government are growing.
Consequently, Washington's 2009 budget deficit is estimated at $1.5 trillion ($12,664 per household). While deficits naturally rise during recessions, one would expect them to eventually return back to the $100 billion to $400 billion range that prevailed before the recession. However, the President's budget shows annual budget deficits averaging just under $1 trillion for the next decade—a level of borrowing that would cause the national debt to double. These deficits would not only raise interest rates, they would also nearly quadruple the net interest costs of the national debt over the next decade.
Of course, not all future spending is inevitable. In the 1980s and 1990s, Washington consistently spent $21,000 per household (adjusted for inflation). Simply returning to that level would balance the budget by 2012 without any tax hikes. Alternatively, returning to the $25,000 per household level (adjusted for inflation) that Washington spent before the current recession would likely balance the budget by 2019 without any tax hikes.