Yet More on Government Spending Levels

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Last night I posted a chart showing government expenditures per capita over the past two decades. I guess somebody must have linked to it, because my Twitter stream is suddenly full of conservatives claiming that it’s all a fake because I showed total government spending (state+local+federal) and then adjusted it for population growth. That’s actually the right measure of the total impact of government spending, but apparently my critics want to see just federal spending, and with none of this “per capita” trickery.

I aim to please, so here it is. I assume no one objects to adjusting for inflation? (I used the GDP deflator, in case anyone cares.) As you can see, the chart is a little different from the previous one, but not by that much. Spending spiked up at the beginning of the Obama administration thanks to increased federal aid to people who were thrown out of work by the Great Recession, but since 2011 spending has slowly been sliding back down. Federal spending has stayed somewhat elevated to make up for declining state and local expenditures, which is as it should be during a weak economy, but not by that much. Given our current trajectory, it’s safe to say that even by 2016 the biggest increase in spending, by far, will have come during the Bush years.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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