Grasping at Shadows

So it looks as if the sequestration is upon us. The past few weeks have witnessed claims about the catastrophic implications of sequestration and ongoing efforts to assign responsibility (it was the GOP’s idea…unless it wasn’t). It has been quite the circus.

My chief concern: we are so busy grasping at shadows that we are missing the substance.

Examine the two charts below. Both report inflation-adjusted outlays and revenues (expressed in 2005 dollars) from 1940 to 2013 using OMB data (Historical Tables, table 1.3).

The first chart includes the estimated outlays (the blue line) and revenues (the red line) for 2013 without sequestration.

Outlays and Revenues

The second chart includes the estimated outlays and revenues for 2013 with sequestration.

Outlays and Revnues with sequestration

As we approach midterm exams at our fine university, let me offer a simple multiple choice question:

As you examine these charts, what are the most striking features?

  1. The magnitude of the cuts under sequestration
  2. The significant growth in inflation-adjusted federal spending
  3. The growing gap between outlays and revenues

2 thoughts on “Grasping at Shadows

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