The Washington Post reports that federal government spending is down. That's great news! The bad news: the U.S. government is still on pace to spend $3.455 trillion for the 2013 fiscal year. And that's about $543 billion less than it will take in.
As reported by the Post's David A. Fahrenthold, federal government spending for this year is expected to be five percent lower than 2010.
To provide comparison, that amount of spending is still higher than during any year of the George W. Bush administration and 30 percent higher than the last year of President Clinton's term.
Mandatory spending — programs like Medicare, Social Security and food stamps that make up 60 percent of federal spending and more or less receive funding based on need, was down less than one percent. Discretionary spending fell by 14 percent, in large part due to the winding down of the stimulus package, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sequestration, and budget cuts imposed since 2010.
With a more disciplined bunch of lawmakers, spending could have been lower.
But as Fahrenthold writes: "In every category there was evidence that — even as politicians made some headway in reducing the budget — they could not shake many of the old habits that make government big in the first place. They allowed duplication to live. They let 'temporary' giveaways turn permanent. And they yielded to inertia, declining to revisit expensive old decisions."
"The result was that Congress often passed up 'smart cuts' in favor of dumb ones — taking broad hacks at the budget, instead of pruning away what was unnecessary."
Congress returns from its annual summer recess in late September, and then will have just days to agree on new spending in order to avert a government shutdown.
Here's hoping our representatives can figure reasonable, intelligent and long-term ways to reduce government expenses without increasing taxes, thereby growing the economy by reducing debt and freeing up citizens' money for new investment.
But don't hold your breath.