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John Merline | What austerity? Federal spending is still rising

And the liberal Center for American Progress complained that "fiscal  austerity threatens the U.S. economy."

On the surface, it might look that way.

In its GDP report, for example, the Bureau of Economic Analysis said  government spending dropped 6.6% in Q4. And unless Congress acts, more than $1  trillion in automatic spending cuts will start to kick in as part of the  so-called sequester.

But dig a little deeper, and there’s little to back up all this austerity  talk.

Spending: Up

According to monthly spending data from the  Treasury Dept., total federal spending — which includes  transfer payments and other federal outlays not counted by the BEA — increased  by $98 billion in Q4 compared with Q3. And spending was up $31 billion when  compared with Q4 2011.

For the entire year, spending in 2012 was virtually unchanged from 2011, and  was up $86 billion over 2010, a year when the government was still spending  stimulus money in earnest.

Plus, the "fiscal cliff" deal worked out between President Obama and the  Republicans actually added almost $50 billion to planned spending in 2013, and a  total of $332 billion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office.


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