What Obama Spending Surge?

Matt Yglesias:


And taken as a whole, consolidated government spending—federal, state, and local—simply hasn’t surged. You can take the beginning of the recession or the beginning of the Obama administration or whatever you like as your starting point and it still hasn’t happened. Spending continued on essentially the previous trend throughout the official NBER business cycle dates, and then flattened out in a nearly unprecedented way once the economy began.

If you believe that restraining government spending should supercharge private sector economic activity, then you ought to know that since 2010 we’ve been living through a nearly unprecedented level of public sector spending restraint.


  1. Not seeing the underlying data, that seems like a terribly simplistic way to read the graph. Putting total expenditures on one side and the year on the other doesn’t seem to tell us much, particularly without inflation, percentage of GDP, what it was spent on (wars vs domestic) etc. I guess the graph is adjusted for real spending???

    It would appear in some short time around 2009 (not sure how much) total government spending went up about 30-35%. Why that has anything to do with 1962 is unclear to me.

  2. I’d also suggest that using Obama’s start date is faulty because that assumes that George Bush was a fiscal conservative, when in fact, even after factoring out the war on terror, he was not.

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