The War’s End

Sarah Laskow observes that the appropriations deal only constitutes the largest cut in government spending in American history if you arbitrarily decide to look at nominal dollars. What really brings spending down rapidly is ending wars:

The White House wants everyone to know that the deal President Obama cut with Speaker Boehner over the weekend counts as “the largest annual spending cut in our history.” That’s as measured in total dollars, of course. The cuts account for less than 1 percent of the government’s overall spending and can’t compete with massive cutbacks after World War I or World War II, when spending decreased by fewer dollars but in leaps and bounds as a percentage of the budget.

Now of course you don’t end a war just in order to cut spending. It would have been weird to give up on fighting Hitler in mid-1944. But the point is that war is a very costly enterprise, as is maintaining the giant semi-permanent establishment that makes it more feasible to start new ones.