NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Budget Is Still Surging -- But Don't Blame Sept. 11

September 20, 2002

Budget experts report that federal spending is skyrocketing -- but that shockingly little of that can be attributed to the war on terrorism: only about one-third of the additional outlays, in fact.

Soon after Bill Clinton declared "The era of Big Government is over" in 1996, expenditures started to zoom. Spending is now rising so briskly that -- for the first time since the late 1960s -- annually-appropriated programs have been growing faster than formula-driven entitlement programs.

  • Of the programs that the President and Congress control directly, spending is up 13.9 percent this year.
  • While only about $30 billion has been spent on homeland security and national defense programs directly related to the anti-terror campaign, $91 billion has been appropriated this fiscal year for matters that range from highway construction to medical research.
  • Farm subsidies have doubled, while unemployment compensation and health programs -- other than Medicare and Medicaid -- jumped 50 percent, and education outlays have risen by a third.
  • Only one year ago, President Bush was confidently predicting $5.6 trillion in budget surpluses over the next decade.

But analysts say fiscal 2002 will probably post a deficit near $165 billion.

Source: Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, "The Return of Big Government," Fortune, September 16, 2002.


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