GOVERNMENT SPENDING….Today is tax day, so Friedrich Blowhard is complaining about the growth of government expenditures. His numbers, I think, aren’t quite right, but there’s no need to quibble over minutiae since he’s got a more important point to make:
Without putting too fine a point on it, from the time I began to become aware of such things until the present?that is, roughly 1960 through 2000, I do not think that the quality of services provided by the public sector to me or my family improved by two-and-a-half times. In fact, in many respects–public school educations, transportation, crime come to mind–such services seem to have declined over that time period.
The thing is, he’s right: the services provided to him and his family probably haven’t changed much. In fact, most of the per capita increase in government expenditure over the past 40 years has come from Medicare, Social Security, and interest on the national debt, none of which benefit him at all ? for the moment, anyway. And much of the rest of it comes from the fact that we pay government employees more, just the same as we pay private sector employees more these days too thanks to rising GDP and increasing prosperity. School teachers, for example, are no longer expected to do their jobs for $15,000 per year. But since Friedrich doesn’t work for the government, that doesn’t benefit him either.
As I’ve mentioned before, total discretionary government spending as a percentage of GDP has been essentially flat for the past 50 years. Unless you’re willing to make drastic cuts to Medicare or Social Security, you really don’t have much to complain about.