I Can Haz Chart?
Stunning stuff as National Review's Peter Robinson asks John Cogan a question:
Q: The chart shows the increase in spending in dollar terms. Haven't you been able to find a chart that shows the increase in spending as a proportion of GDP?
A: No, I haven't—not in the time I've had available for Googling this weekend, which, since I've been scrambling to get the family ready to go back East for a couple of weeks (we're off at 4.30 this very morning) amounted to a little under half an hour. Sorry about that. And I'll check in the from the beach when I can.
Ross Douthat is amazed:
According to Cogan's bio, he's a professor in the Public Policy Program at Stanford University, and his "current research is focused on U.S. budget and fiscal policy, social security, and health care" - yet he can't find a chart showing one of the most relevant statistics to a debate about whether George W. Bush is a wild and crazy overspender? I know where to find those statistics right off the top of my head, and I'm a rank amateur: Just head to CBO.gov, click on Historical Budget Data, and flip to page 8, where you'll discover that in 2001, when Bush took office, discretionary domestic spending accounted for 3.1 percent of GDP, and in 2007 it accounted for ... 3.3 percent of GDP. In the years between, it rose as high as 3.6 percent of GDP, which is on the high side by post-Reagan standards (we averaged 3.25 percent a year in the 1990s), but way lower than in the profligate, post-Great Society Seventies, when we were spending as much as 4.8 percent of GDP a year on domestic programs.
One of the top results when I googled for "federal spending share of GDP" was Richard Kogan's article (the "K" makes all the difference) "FEDERAL SPENDING, 2001 THROUGH 2008: Defense Is a Rapidly Growing Share of the Budget, While Domestic Appropriations Have Shrunk" for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It includes helpful tables like this one showing that domestic discretionary spending has been a shrinking part of the Bush-era federal pie:
It also shows that if you combine homeland security appropriations with military appropriations, that the residual domestic spending component has actually shrunk as a share of GDP:
Now of course this raises the question of whether Stanford University really has budget experts on its faculty who don't know anything about the federal budget. The answer turns out to be "sort of." It turns out that Cogan isn't part of the regular Stanford faculty at all, instead he's appointed at the Hoover Institution, the conservative think tank that's embedded inside Stanford. But they do seem to have him teaching undergraduates in some capacity.