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CHART: The Gobsmacking Drop In Government Spending Under Obama

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The government spending cuts have come about amid a mood of austerity incubated by Republicans across the country shortly after Obama took office.

For a longer-term historical perspective, the drop in overall government spending after Obama's stimulus funds expired in 2010 has been the sharpest since the 1950s, when the United States was demobilizing after the Korean War.

The new numbers provide more grist for the debate, such as it is, over whether contractionary economic policies slow growth. Conservatives say government spending is the problem, not the solution. Keynesian economists, notably Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman, have argued that pulling back on government spending while economic output remains below its potential threatens the recovery.

"Gosh, I wonder why the economy is underperforming?" Krugman wrote of the data.