September 6 2013
Six Budget Showdowns Later, Government’s Still Big and Bloated
Vicki E. Alger
We’re headed toward budget showdown number seven if Congress can’t curb spending or raise the debt limit by October 1. The Washington Post broke down the numbers from 2010 and now, and they’re not pretty:
Government spending has dipped, but it’s still staggeringly high, $3.455 trillion today compared to $3.457 trillion in 2013.
There are about 170,000 fewer government employees. Still with 4.1 million government workers (military and civilian), the federal government is bigger than 24 states. And that’s a conservative figure since the government has been unable since 2009 to quantify the number of contractors it hires.
Looking at what the previous six budget showdowns accomplished, WaPo focused on federal expenditures, workers, rules, and federal real estate. It found:
The first two were down, slightly. The third was way up. And in the fourth case, the government itself wasn’t sure what happened.
In every category there was evidence that — even as politicians made some headway in reducing the budget — they could not shake many of the old habits that made government big in the first place. They allowed duplication to live. They let “temporary” giveaways turn permanent. And they yielded to inertia, declining to revisit expensive old decisions. …
This year, the government’s spending is projected to be down by about 5 percent from 2010, accounting for inflation.
But even now, the government still spends a vast amount of money.
This year’s projected spending will be more than in any year of the George W. Bush administration. And more than 30 percent higher (accounting for inflation) than the last year of President Clinton’s term.
In terms of regulations, the Code of Federal Regulations is longer than 95 King James Bibles, growing by 16,500 pages under the Obama administration alone to nearly 175,000 pages.
Finally, the federal government won’t say for sure how much property it currently has; but three years ago it had one building shy of 400,000—enough the cover the entire District twice over in cubicles.
At this rate Washington may just implode under its own weight.