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Federal spending has exceeded its 2008 level by at least 15.8 percent in each subsequent year — only coming within $500 billion of it twice — exceeding it on average by 18.3 percent. In comparison, federal revenue exceeded its 2008 level by 10 percent last year.

Many liberals oppose the states’ approach of reducing spending in the face of an economic downturn — favoring the federal one — and take the Keynesian stance that government spending should be countercyclical to the economy.

However, for sake of argument, even accepting this approach, the fact remains: Federal spending has yet to fall.

The approaching five-year anniversary of the recession’s conclusion would seem to argue for federal spending’s retrenchment. Although the Federal Reserve has begun to taper its quantitative-easing program, the federal government has yet to seriously ease its spending program.

While sharing the same economy, America consists of different fiscal worlds. In states, spending falls with revenues. In Washington, spending hardly ever falls — regardless of where revenue goes.

The result is what we currently see: Washington congratulating itself for last year having achieved a $680 billion deficit that amounted to 4.1 percent of gross domestic product.

Had it not been for the previous four years’ deficits, last year’s as a percentage of GDP would have been the highest since 1992.

Entitlements, those autopilot spending programs, assuredly drive federal spending. However, Washington’s problem runs deeper than its spending mechanics.

It is rooted in its culture of spending. As the Congressional Budget Office points out, the federal deficit has averaged 3 percent of the nation’s economic production over the past 40 years.

While states are running surpluses and debating how to use their reinvigorated revenues, Washington continues to rack up high deficits by historical standards — despite higher revenue.

Those deficits resulted from federal spending surging at the recession’s beginning and then effectively never receding — now almost five years after the recession.

These deficits are the product of a culture of tolerance for overspending that stretches back decades. In contrast, the states neither share Washington’s culture of overspending nor the illusion that it is sustainable or desirable. They now have the surpluses to show for it.

J.T. Young served in the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget from 2001 to 2004 and as a congressional staff member from 1987 to 2000.