Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Era of Austerity is Over?


President Obama released his proposed 2015 budget this week and in it he declared that the Era of Austerity was over. The accompanying chart begs the question, “what the hell is he talking about?”

2009 was the year of stimulus, Tarp and other emergency spending designed to prevent the end of the world. We were all told that this was a onetime fix and that once rescued, our spending would return to normal levels. These assurances weren’t what I would call lies necessarily, but merely grossly inaccurate promises made with no regard or understanding of how Washington works. Once spending programs get started, they never truly end…never.

So, as the chart illustrates, that temporary onetime increase in spending in 2009 quickly became the new normal baseline for all spending thereafter. Both spending AND revenue have been on a dizzying ascent ever since, belying the claim by some Democrats that we have a revenue rather than a spending problem. My question is a simple one. Can someone show me where this Era of Austerity is on this chart? Aren’t eras generally considered to be relatively long, protracted affairs? Perhaps there was an Era of Austerity that escaped our notice between Tuesday and Friday afternoon during the third week August of 2011? In the over 5 years of this President’s time in office, Federal spending has skyrocketed from 2.95 trillion a year to 3.7 trillion a year, while our total debt was climbing from 10 trillion to 17 trillion. If this is austerity, I wonder what abundance would look like?

Webster’s defines austerity thusly:

A situation in which there is not much money and it is spent only on things which are necessary.

Can anything that Washington has endured over the past 5 and a half years be accurately described as austerity?