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Historic Cuts? Try a Record Year for Spending

by Brandon Greife / /

If you’ve spent time listening to liberals and progressives over the past year you were no doubt inundated with the message that Washington can’t afford to keep cutting. If we cut any more spending, we’ll not only endanger the recovery, but we’ll put millions of Americans who rely on the government at risk…or so the argument goes.

In March for instance, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin declared during the budget debate that “to go any further [than $10 billion in cuts] is to push more kids out of school, to stifle innovation which small businesses and large alike need to create more jobs, and it stops the investment in infrastructure which kills good paying jobs.”

He’s not alone. It’s a line that has been tweaked and recycled by liberal politicians in nearly every budget debate Washington has faced this year.

The trouble is there haven’t been any cuts. At least in the way that average Americans would define them.

As the Wall Street Journal reports,

Maybe it's a sign of the tumultuous times, but the federal government recently wrapped up its biggest spending year, and its second biggest annual budget deficit, and almost nobody noticed.

The Congressional Budget Office recently finished tallying the revenue and spending figures for fiscal 2011, which ended September 30, and no wonder no one in Washington is crowing. The political class might have its political pretense blown. This is said to be a new age of fiscal austerity, yet the government had its best year ever, spending a cool $3.6 trillion. That beat the $3.52 trillion posted in 2009, when the feds famously began their attempt to spend America back to prosperity.

What happened to all of those horrifying spending cuts? Good question. CBO says that overall outlays rose 4.2% from 2010 (1.8% adjusted for timing shifts), when spending fell slightly from 2009. Defense spending rose only 1.2% on a calendar-adjusted basis, and Medicaid only 0.9%, but Medicare spending rose 3.9% and interest payments by 16.7%.

The bigger point: Government austerity is a myth.

So next time you hear a politician say “we can’t afford to keep cutting,” subtly ask him when we started.