Friday, May 28, 2004

A Bigger Beast

Spending by state and local governments in the United States is five times as large as the federal government's nondefense spending (about which see my previous post). Real (constant-dollar) spending by state and local governments increased by a multiple of 10 from 1945 to 2003. The population of the United States merely doubled in that same period. Thus the average American's real tax bill for municipal services is five times larger today than it was in 1945.

It's evident that not enough of the loot has been spent on courts, policing, emergency services, and roads. No, our modern, "relevant" municipal governments have seen fit to bless us with such things as free bike trails for yuppies, free concerts that mainly attract people who can afford to pay for their own entertainment, all kinds of health services, housing subsidies, support for the arts(?), public access channels on cable TV, grandiose edifices in which municipal governments hatch and oversee their grandiose schemes, and much, much, more.

Then there are public schools...

UPDATE: The good news about state and local spending is that its real rate of growth has dropped since 2000. The bad news is that the slowdown coincided with a recession and period of slow economic recovery. The good news is that municipal spending is a beast with thousands of necks, and each of them can be throttled at the state and local level, given the will to do so.