WASHINGTON (AP) - Republicans and other fiscal conservatives keep insisting on more federal austerity and a smaller government. Without much fanfare or acknowledgement, they've already gotten much of both.
Spending by federal, state and local governments on payrolls, equipment, buildings, teachers, emergency workers, defense programs and other core governmental functions has been shrinking steadily since the deep 2007-2009 recession and in the anemic recovery that continues today.
What obscures this recent shrinkage is an offsetting increase in spending on benefit payments to individuals under "entitlement" programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans benefits.
In addition to previous cuts in non-entitlement programs, a round of huge mandatory cuts - known in Washington parlance as the "sequester" - could hit beginning next Friday.
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