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Truth Squad: Has government spending grown since JFK?

By Tom Watkins, CNN
updated 3:05 AM EDT, Wed October 12, 2011

(CNN) -- After being shown a video clip in which then-President Ronald Reagan called for reducing deficits and "raising revenue for those who are not now paying their fair share," former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney made a plea for cutting federal spending.

The statement: "If you go back a few years before that clip and go to JFK's time, the government at all levels -- federal, state and local -- was consuming about 27 percent of the U.S. economy. Today it consumes about 37 percent of the U.S. economy." -- Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney

The facts: According to the White House website, total government expenditures as a percentage of gross domestic product rose from 26.2 in 1960 to 27.7 in 1963. In 2010, the percentage was 35.0. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development puts the 2008 figure at 38.8%.

"Government size has increased, that's true," said Uwe Reinhard, a professor of health economics at Princeton University. But Romney fails to mention what the country has gotten for its increased government spending, he said. Since the Kennedy administration, Medicare and Medicaid were instituted, defense spending was beefed up and the population has aged, Reinhard said.

Verdict: True, but incomplete.

CNN's Lindsey Knight contributed to this report.

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