The Angry Bear has prepared this chart showing the main categories of federal spending as a percentage of GDP from 1970 to the present. I’ve taken the liberty of lifting the chart, knowing that most people don’t follow any given link, and a picture is worth lots of words; but please do visit Angry Bear’s site for his commentary on the significance of the numbers. I haven’t, of course, checked the accuracy of the data reflected in the chart.
This chart tends to undermine the stereotype of the free-spending, money-hemorrhaging Bush administration. If the numbers are correct, only defense and medical care have risen significantly during the present administration, measured as a percentage of GDP. The increase in defense spending is good, and the increase in medical costs is bad, but typical of what has happened at all levels of government under current law.
Another way of looking at the data, of course, is to say that everything has risen as a percentage of GDP except interest and Social Security, the latter of which, at least, has nothing to do with the administration’s policies.
I’d be curious to know whether any of our readers think the data summarized in this chart are inaccurate.
UPDATE: Joshua Claybourn of In the Agora notes that 1) the chart doesn’t take into account commitments to future spending made by the Bush administration, most notably the Medicare drug entitlement, and 2) there is no reason to be satisified with expansion of government spending at the rate of GDP growth. Both are fair points, but do not negate the usefulness of the chart as a historical look at spending trends.