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Quotation of the Day…

… is from page 427 of H.L. Mencken’s indispensable 1949 collection, A Mencken Chrestomathy; specifically, it’s from Mencken’s marvelous May 27, 1935, essay in the Baltimore Evening Sun entitled “The New Deal”:

Of such sorts are the wizards who now run the country.  Here is the perfect pattern of a professional world-saver.  His whole life has been devoted to the art and science of spending other people’s money.  He has saved millions of the down-trodden from starvation, pestilence, cannibalism, and and worse – always at someone else’s expense, and usually at the taxpayer’s.  He has been going at it over and over again at Washington.  And now, with $4,800,000,000* of your money and mine in his hands, he is preparing to save fresh multitudes, that they may be fat and optimistic on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November, 1936, and so mark their ballots in the right box.

* The situation was even worse than Mencken here reports, for he (or a copy editor) forgot a digit: federal spending in 1935 was $14.8 billion.

Here’s a quick back-of-the-e-envelope calculation:

Adjusted for inflation (using the CPI), $14.8 billion 1935 dollars is the equivalent of about $258.47 billion in 2016 dollars.  Because the U.S. population in 1935 was about 127.3 million, that means that Uncle Sam that year spent about $2,030 (in 2016 dollars) for every man, woman, and child in America.  Today Uncle Sam spends annually a hair under $4 trillion – let’s call it, conservatively, $3.9 trillion.  Therefore, today Uncle Sam spends annually – for every man, woman, and child in America’s current population of about 322 million – approximately $12,110.  That’s annual per-capita spending today approximately 6 times more than Uncle Sam’s annual per-capita spending in the year when Mencken penned the above quotation.