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Facts on government spending from Nate Silver

January 22, 2013

Silver has written an excellent primer on the growth in total government spending in the United States. I plan to keep this post in my back pocket and refer back to it now and then to keep the fiscal debate in perspective.

Silver does not really have an agenda with the post other than to remind his readers that the growth in government spending is very real and that it is driven by safety net spending, as shown in this chart (one of many simple visuals sprinkled throughout the post):

This does put my desire to eventually address the budget deficit partially through defense spending in perspective. Sure, defense spending does make up 24 percent of the federal budget, and significantly reducing military spending will not put American citizens in danger, but defense spending is not driving the trend in increased federal spending. I still support reduced defense spending, but we are still going to need to address the increasing cost of the social safety net either way.

To me, this is an important reminder that as long as spending on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security needs to be addressed then it might as well be people who believe in these programs that take the lead in reforming them. At some point someone is going to cut spending on these programs (or at least cap the growth in spending) because the math necessitates it and if those who support these programs do not take the lead themselves then they may not like the outcome.

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