Defending his budget’s $5 trillion in proposed cuts over the next decade, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has noted that total federal spending would still be nearly $43 trillion over that period, implying that criticism of the cuts is therefore off-base. But as I explained recently, this number by itself doesn’t tell anything about whether spending under the Ryan plan would be adequate or properly targeted.
Here’s some historical context for that ten-year cumulative $43 trillion figure, using spending as a share of the economy (gross domestic product, or GDP) — the standard measure that economists and analysts use to examine trends in spending over time:
The amount of cuts in the Ryan budget is not in doubt; Chairman Ryan’s own materials specifically say that his budget “cuts spending by $5.1 trillion.” And Chairman Ryan has not challenged our finding that 69 percent of those cuts would come from programs targeted on low- and modest-income families. Instead, he cites the fact that under his budget, federal spending would total $43 trillion over the next ten years.
In short, $43 trillion is a big number that Chairman Ryan employs in a way that masks the deep cuts his budget aims at key programs for Americans of limited means.