President Obama is being accused by some of pursuing a socialist agenda. His critics claim that under Obama, the federal government will consume more and more of what the American people produce, leaving less and less to be spent by the private economy.
It raises an interesting question: How much of our nation’s annual income OUGHT to be available for spending by the federal government? What’s the right level? Since 1970, the annual federal budget has been as low as 18.4 percent of our gross domestic product, and as high as 23.5 percent. (In 2008, preliminary figures say it was 20.5 percent.) (Source, Historical Tables, Office of Management and Budget).
Interestingly, that peak of 23.5 percent occurred in 1983, under President Ronald Reagan. In fact, the federal government consumed a greater share of our national income that year than in any year since the end of World War II.
To take it further, since 1947, the four years in which the federal government consumed the biggest chunk of our national income — the years in which Washington stole the most food off our children’s plates, as conservative rhetoric might put it — all occurred under Reagan.
They were, in order, 1983 (23.5 percent), 1982 (23.1 percent), 1985 (22.9 percent) and 1986 (22.4 percent).
Conversely, since 1970, the federal government spent the least amount of our national income in 2000 — 18.4 percent. That was under President Clinton.
In fact, the three post-’70 years in which the federal government consumed the smallest proportion of our national income were all under budgets signed into law by Clinton — 2000 (18.4 percent); 2001 (18.5 percent); 1999 (18.7 percent).