The Campaign Spot

Who Thought Reducing Federal Spending Was Important?

There is a long tradition of presidents expressing concern about high federal spending… and then, once in office, raising that spending dramatically.

A long tradition:


Of course, government spending went up considerably under FDR. In 1932, when he uttered that quote, federal spending was 7.27 percent of Gross Domestic Product. By the end of 1933, it was 9.05 percent; it bounced between 9 and 11 percent until World War Two, when it burst to nearly 22 percent in 1942 and hit nearly 48 percent in 1945. (Tanks, planes, and the A-bomb were expensive.) But the government spending in proportion to the rest of the country’s economy shrank rapidly after the war, down to 13.23 percent by 1948.

U.S. federal government spending is 23.8 percent of the gross national product today. It was below 20 percent as recently as 2007.

But even FDR, perhaps the most passionate, popular, and persuasive advocate of higher federal spending in U.S. history, had to at least appear to be concerned about the amount of spending under President Herbert Hoover, and pretend that he found it excessive.


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