Mattie Duppler

Despite the recent gains made in the debt limit negotiations, there is no amount of debt-shuffling that doesn't leave taxpayers footing the bill for Washington's spending problem. In its annual Cost of Government Day report, Americans for Tax Reform Foundation calculated that Americans worked until August 12 this year to pay for the full costs of government spending and regulation.

The 'Cost of Government Day' report determines the day of the year on which the average Americans has made enough income to pay off the local, state and federal regulatory and spending burdens. This year, Americans work a full 224 days—eight and a half months—to support the government spending agenda and regulatory state.

Since President Obama has been in office, the Cost of Government Day has fallen halfway into August. Prior to this administration, COGD had never fallen later than July 21. This is fueled largely by explosive federal spending—taxpayers now work 103 days, nearly half of the total cost of government, just to pay for federal spending.

The debt limit negotiations were instructive on where future COGDs will fall if the President is allowed to continue his aggressive spending agenda. Indeed, the President argued the debt limit should allow him to do just that, and be increased without any preconditions on his future spending plans. Republicans, recognizing that a statutory limit on debt should actually serve that end, demanded reform in exchange for more borrowing authority.

Amongst other things, this established a precedent that any increase in borrowing authority be matched with spending cuts at a rate that was at least dollar-for-dollar. It also represents the first time the debt limit has served as an actual constraint on our debt, a not insignificant development in altering Washington's spending bias.

As Stanford Economist John Taylor pointed out, the debt limit deal got us halfway towards the spending restraint envisioned in the House-passed Ryan Budget plan. If these kinds of spending cuts are enacted annually—roughly $25 billion a year—spending would be two percent lower than its historical average by the end of the ten year window. After three years of growth that witnessed an almost doubling of discretionary spending and expansive regulatory growth, this is no small feat.


Mattie Duppler

Director of Budget and Regulatory Policy at Americans for Tax Reform. She also serves as the Executive Director of ATR’s Cost of Government Center, which focuses on reducing government spending and fighting excessive regulation.