After two and a half years of budget battles, this is what the federal government looks like now:
It is on pace, this year, to spend $3.455 trillion.
That figure is down from 2010 – the year that worries about
government spending helped bring on a tea party uprising, a Republican
takeover in the House and then a series of ulcer-causing showdowns in
But it is not down by that much. Back then, the government spent a whopping $3.457 trillion.
Even after six paralyzing budget showdowns, this “mandatory”
spending has fallen by less than 1 percent. By contrast, spending on
“discretionary” expenses – the smaller pot of money that Congress does
control every year – has fallen by 14 percent. That reduction is
partially due to the winding down of a stimulus and two wars, as well as
to “sequestration” and other budget cuts imposed since 2010.
“We’re nowhere. I mean, the sad reality is that we’re nowhere” toward taming those “mandatory” costs, said Gordon Adams, a budget official in the Clinton administration and now a fellow at the Stimson Center.
And now, in a capital burned by six crises, a deal to cut these
big-ticket programs seems less likely than ever. “We’ve gotten further
away from anything that will bring us to a ‘grand bargain’ right now,”
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