As you can see with the easy assistance of the OMB’s historical tables, we’re in the midst of a pretty giant stimulus-driven runup in federal spending:
We spent more than this during World War II, but otherwise there’s no precedent in American history. Indeed, when you add state and local spending into the mix, we’re talking about enough “big government” to put us in the middle of the European pack. But then, as you can also see here, it’s all supposed to quickly fade away. And one interesting issue is what will actually happen with the spending trajectory here.
Some of the money really will just dry up. But there’s some good stuff in that stimulus, especially on education and on high-speed rail, that it’d be a shame to see go “poof.” I doubt we’ll see overall spending plateau at FY 2009 levels, but over the medium term we could see some of the stimulus programs crowd out state spending or federal spending on other, less worthy (the military, farm subsidies, etc.) priorities.