03/18/2013 02:00 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

No, Government Spending Really Isn't Going Up Right Now

On the Bill Maher show the other night, I pointed out that contrary to the talking point that government spending is spiraling out of control, it in fact went up only 0.6 percent, 2009-2012. Whenever I say that, I get emails from people who don't believe it, and not just complaining conservatives. Many progressives can't believe that's the case given the hair-on-fire rhetoric about Obama's alleged ongoing spending spree.

Well, here are the numbers, straight out of CBO. Spending went up a lot in the recession, as it always does, as automatic stabilizers like unemployment insurance and food stamps ratchet up, and the Recovery Act is in there too. But since then outlays have been flat, up less than 1 percent over the President's tenure, 2009-2012 (as I said on the show) and actually falling as a share of GDP (the figure includes CBOs forecast for 2013).

And no, I'm not bragging about this -- I think those two lines partially explain why this recovery has been such a slog: we hit back hard against the recession in 2009 and GDP started growing in real terms shortly thereafter. But we stopped too soon, certainly before the recovery reached most households.


Source: CBO

This post originally appeared at Jared Bernstein's On The Economy blog.