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Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact: Rep. Dennis Ross says U.S. spending has fallen two straight years for first time since Korean War

The statement

"For the first time since the Korean War, total federal spending has gone down for two years in a row."

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, in a Tampa Bay Times op-ed

The ruling

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, is one of a small group of Republicans calling for an end to the government shutdown.

After all, Republicans have succeeded in reining in government spending, Ross wrote in an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times on Oct. 7.

"In the few years since I was elected to Congress in 2010, we have achieved huge savings and taken monumental steps. For the first time since the Korean War, total federal spending has gone down for two years in a row," Ross wrote. "That is why I would support a continuing resolution that funds the government at sequestration levels for one year."

A reader asked us whether Ross was correct that, "for the first time since the Korean War, total federal spending has gone down for two years in a row." We thought the claim was interesting, and we decided to check it out.

By the most basic measure we found that Ross is right.

The Korean War was an active conflict through the signing of a truce on July 26, 1953, so we counted starting in 1953.

Between 1953 and 1955, federal spending fell each year, from $76.1 billion to $70.9 billion to $68.4 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget. By 1956, spending had edged up again, to $70.6 billion.

After that, spending almost always went up every year, at least until recently. It fell for one year between 1964 and 1965, and then once again between 2009 and 2010.

But the only time it fell two years in a row was between 2011 and 2013. In 2011, federal outlays were $3.6 trillion. Outlays fell to $3.54 trillion in 2012, and the Congressional Budget Office projects the figure to fall to $3.46 trillion in 2013.

We should note that this is not the only way to measure a claim like this. Sometimes, raw dollars aren't an especially useful measurement for analyzing long periods of history, especially when talking about things that are growing. Inflation, population growth and economic expansion almost inevitably make the most recent year the largest ever. However, in this case, we think that using raw dollars is an acceptable measurement. That's because reductions in spending mean swimming against the tide of inflation and growth.

We rate the statement True.

Louis Jacobson, Times staff writer. Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Rep. Dennis Ross says U.S. spending has fallen two straight years for first time since Korean War 10/11/13 [Last modified: Friday, October 11, 2013 3:48pm]
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