On this Halloween, ghastly, ghoulish garb and haunted houses aren’t the only sources of spookiness in Washington. Americans across the country have cause for alarm, because the federal government spent a spine-chilling $29,691 per household in 2012.
As The Heritage Foundation’s “Federal Spending by the Numbers—2012” shows, federal spending per household has grown 29 percent since 2002, when it stood at $23,010. Put another way, $29,691 is about two-thirds of the median household income. On a larger scale, total federal spending in 2012 reached $3.6 trillion, or 22.9 percent of the entire U.S. economy.
Because the stimulus money has mostly been spent, it now may look like federal spending is falling or will even settle into a manageable level. But don’t be tricked. Base spending—i.e., all spending other than the financial bailouts, economic stimulus, and war spending on overseas operations—still came in 13 percent higher in 2012 than it was in 2008, before the stimulus and bailouts began. Worse yet, projections show this spending growing by another 33 percent, reaching an eye-popping $4.47 trillion by 2022.
All this spending must be paid for—either through higher taxes or increased borrowing, both of which endanger a healthy economy, much less one foundering in recovery. The looming Taxmageddon has already shown us the negative effects that even the threat of tax hikes has on the economy.
It is spending far beyond our means—not insufficient tax revenue—that has largely gotten us into this mess and has led to unsustainable budget deficits on the order of $1 trillion for four years running. The future will be even gloomier if lawmakers and the President put off decisions now to reduce spending through structural entitlement reform, as these programs are the main causes of runaway spending and mounting debt.
If Washington dithers now, the choices lawmakers will be forced to make down the road will be all the more painful. Today’s fiscal picture will pale in comparison to the morbid state of affairs the country will face.
While the country’s $16 trillion national debt is a scary number, $29,691 in spending per household is an equally worrisome figure, and it’s one that Americans can relate to. It’s a sure sign of a growing federal government and spending that should be brought under control.