From the Right



The Federal Government Spent $19,762 Per Capita in FY2020

Terence P. Jeffrey on

Two years after World War I ended -- in fiscal 1920 -- the federal government spent approximately $6,358,000,000, according to Historical Table 1.1 published by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

At the same time, it collected approximately $6,649,000,000 in taxes -- and ran a surplus of $291,000,000.

When that federal spending of $6,358,000,000 is adjusted for inflation from June 1920 dollars (the last month of that fiscal year) to June 2021 dollars (the latest month that can be calculated using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator), it becomes $82,652,780,000.

The 1920 Census discovered that the United States had a population of 106,021,537. That means the $82,652,780,000 that the federal government spent in fiscal 1920 -- when Woodrow Wilson was president -- equaled $779.58 per person in the country (in June 2021 dollars).

Then, in 1929, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began.

In 1930, when Herbert Hoover was president, the federal government spent a total of just $3,320,000,000, which equals $53,692,300,000 in June 2021 dollars. That means the federal government spent only $435.80 (in June 2021 dollars) per each of the 123,202,624 counted by the Census Bureau that year.


In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president. In FDR's first two terms, federal spending more than doubled -- rising from $4,598,000,000 in fiscal 1933 to $9,468,000,000 in fiscal 1940 (which ended almost a year and a half before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor).

The $9,468,000,000 Roosevelt spent in 1940 equaled $182,440,970,000 in June 2021 dollars -- and $1,380.41 per each of the 132,164,569 people the Census counted in the country that year.

Roosevelt was one of the most aggressive advocates of big government ever to serve in the presidency. With the Great Depression and World War II, his administration took on two of the greatest crises this nation has ever faced.

But the rise in per capita federal spending did not end with FDR -- it accelerated.


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