Thursday, July 15, 2004

US Government Budget Data: 1962-2003

A CBO page with a bunch of handy tables giving information on revenues, outlays and debts both in absolute and in GDP percentege terms over the last 41 years (excluding 2004). What's interesting to see is just how stable the government share of revenues and outlays has been throughout the entire period, in spite of all the heated political rhetoric we've seen over the last few decades. There really is something to the complaints of Ralph Nader and others when they say there isn't all that much difference between the two big parties, though whether or not that is a good thing isn't something I expect everyone to agree on: being averse as I am to political radicalism, on most days I'd be tempted to agree that it is a good thing. Of course, my preference would still be for government's share of GDP to gradually trend downwards.

An interesting fact that emerges from the tables is that despite Reagan's anti-government posturing, US government outlays as a percentage of GDP actually reached their peak for the entire period under him, and during his first, supposedly more radical term. By contrast, Jimmy Carter, who few seem willing to acknowledge to have gotten anything right, actually oversaw a reduction in government's share of outlays to a level that would not be reached again until 1996 - under another Democratic president, who was followed by yet another "small government" boosting Republican under whom spending once again ballooned ...

I know these numbers may be hard for a lot of Republican-leaning libertarians to assimilate, but isn't it about time we considered that our agenda actually might fare best under a government divided between a Republican House or Senate, and a Democratic President? With the probable exception of foreign policy, what is there to Bush's agenda that could possibly appeal to a libertarian?