Frequent commentator MajorFreedom linked to this, and I thought it worth highlighting. Remember, I had linked to David R. Henderson’s critique of Paul Krugman, who put up a graph–in a post titled “Unprecedented Austerity”–showing percentage changes in (a three-year average of) total government spending at all levels in the U.S. Krugman then said of this graph: “You can see that there was a brief, modest spurt in spending associated with the Obama stimulus–but it has long since been outweighed and swamped by a collapse in spending without precedent in the past half century.”
Because it was a graph of percentage changes, and because it had surged at first due to the stimulus, Henderson pointed out that it was very misleading. The particular figure Krugman used didn’t even fall below the 0% line until the very end of the series.
Anyway, here’s the absolute level of “total government expenditures”:
As Krugman might say: Feel the collapse!
UPDATE: Krugman adjusted for price inflation. I’m not using his exact measure (I’m using CPI because that’s easier for me to grab from FRED) but here’s the above chart, dividing by CPI:
So yes, you do see an actual fall. Is it a “collapse”? It looks a lot less so in this graph than in the one Krugman posted. (Again, the reason–as David pointed out–is that Krugman chose to graph percentage changes, so the stimulus surge followed by an actual reduction [in inflation-adjusted numbers] made it look like a huge swing in his graph.)