30,543 Reasons Spending Is Out of Control

June 3, 2010 | By Amanda J. Reinecker

Washington will spend $30,543 per household in 2010—an increase of $5,000 per household in just two years. Federal spending and deficits are increasing at levels unseen since World War II. And though President Obama has done little to quell the spending surge — in fact, his budget only accelerates the pace of spending — excessive government spending did not begin with him.

Since 2000, spending has grown across the board, according to a new Heritage Foundation analysis. Over the last decade,

  • Entitlement spending on programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security 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;
  • Anti-poverty spending increased 89 percent faster than inflation;
  • K–12 education spending rose 219 percent;
  • Veterans spending grew 107 percent; and
  • Medicare jumped 81 percent.

“Simply put,” writes Heritage’s Brian Reidl, “all parts of government are growing.”

As Reidl explains, more than 41 cents of every dollar Washington spends in 2010 will be borrowed. This year alone, Washington is projected to spend $3,618 billion, tax $2,118 billion out of the economy, and run a $1,500 billion deficit. The President’s budget plan shows annual deficits averaging just under $1,000 billion for the next decade—a level of borrowing that would cause the national debt to double.

Though the big spenders in Congress maintain that rising deficits are a result of tax cuts, Brian Reidl exposes the truth:

Rising spending—not low revenues—is driving the long-term budget deficits. By 2020, spending is projected to be 6.2 percent of GDP above the historical average, while projected 2020 revenues are 0.2 percent of GDP above the historical average. Thus, the entire expanded budget deficit will be caused by rising spending, rather than by falling revenues—even if the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are extended.

There are steps lawmakers can take to rein in spending and the federal deficit. For example, returning to 1980’s and 1990’s spending levels of $21,000 per household (adjusted for inflation), Reidl argues, would balance the budget by 2012 without any tax hikes. Alternatively, returning to the pre-recession $24,800 per household level (adjusted for inflation) could likely balance the budget by 2019 without any tax hikes.

Spending can be reduced by implementing spending caps and deficit ceilings — and actually enforcing them. (Congress has a habit of announcing new spending controls, like the left’s vaunted PAYGO rule, but then waiving them at every opportunity.) This would force our elected leaders to prioritize and enact serious reforms to curb runaway spending

Brian Reidl identifies over 50 areas of wasteful spending in 2009. If lawmakers are seriously looking for advice on how to end the taxpayer-funded spending spree, they’d be wise to start here.

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