The good news is that total net local, state and government spending dropped slightly from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2012 (the latest year for which full state and local spending numbers are available from the Census Bureau). The bad news is that government spending nationwide still topped $6 trillion in fiscal 2012 and equaled more per earner than the nation's median earnings.
There were 157,191,000 workers 15 years old or older in the United States who had earnings in 2012, according to the Census Bureau's Historical Income Table P-43. Their median earnings that year were $31,921 and their average earnings were $45,053.
Total net government spending was $6,099,996,642,000 in fiscal 2012, which works out to about $38,806 for each of the 157,191,000 earners. That $38,806 in government spending per earner exceeded the $31,921 in median earnings.
I calculated total net local, state and government spending by using the federal spending numbers published by the White House Office of Management and Budget and the local and state government spending numbers published by the Census Bureau in its Dec. 17 report on fiscal 2012 state and local government finances.
According to the OMB, the federal government spent $3,536,951,000,000 in its fiscal year (2012), which ran from Oct. 1, 2011 to Sept. 30, 2012. The Census Bureau reported that local and state governments spent $3,151,702,715,000 in their fiscal year 2012, which in 46 of 50 states ran from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012.
I deducted the payments the Census Bureau said that state and local governments made to the federal government ($4,157,695,000) to get net federal spending of $3,532,793,305,000. I then deducted the payments that the federal government made to state and local governments ($584,499,378,000) to get net state and local spending of $2,567,203,337,000.
That added up to a net combined local, state and federal spending of $6,099,996,642,000 for their respective 2012 fiscal years.
By the same calculation net combined local, state and federal spending was $6,110,738,652,000 in fiscal 2011.
So total government spending in the United States -- in current year dollars -- actually declined from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2012. In fact, it declined by $10,742,010,000 -- or about 0.18 percent.
In fiscal 1998, net combined local, state and federal spending was $2,923,171,706,000, according to the same OMB and Census Bureau data and the same calculation.
In the 14 years between 1998 and 2012, government spending in the U.S. more than doubled in current year dollars.
When adjusted for inflation using the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, the $2,923,171,706,000 in combined government spending from fiscal 1998 becomes approximately $4,117,440,200,000 in 2012 dollars. The $6,099,996,642,000 spent in fiscal 2012 represents a real increase of about $1,982,556,442,000 -- or a 48 percent -- from fiscal 1998.
While the $6,099,996,642,000 that government spent in fiscal 2012 equaled more per earner than the median earnings, it did not equal more per household than median household income -- a change from fiscal 2011.
As of March 2013, according to the Census Bureau's Historical Income Table H-6, which publishes median and average household income figures, there were 122,459,000 households in the country. So net combined local, state and federal spending of $6,099,996,642,000 worked out to $49,813 per household in 2012. The median household income, by contrast, was $51,017 in 2012 and the average household income was $71,274.
As of March 2012, there were 121,084,000 households in the country, according to Table H-6. So the $6,110,738,652,000 in combined government spending that year worked out to $50,467 per household in 2011. That was more than that year's median household income of $50,054, but less than the average household income of $69,677.
In 2012, however, there were 103,051,000 full-time year-round workers in the United States, according to the Census Bureau's Table P-43. Combined government spending in fiscal 2012 worked out to about $59,194 for each of these workers, who had median earnings of $42,799 in 2012 and average earnings of $58,157. Therefore government spending per full-time year-round worker exceeded the median and average earnings of those workers.