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Wisconsin Watch partners with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Read our methodology to learn how we check claims.


The federal government spent $6.27 trillion in fiscal 2022, which covered Oct. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2022, according to the Treasury Department.

That’s up 51% from $4.11 trillion four years earlier.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., drew the contrast in a Sept. 26, 2023, interview.

Nonpartisan federal budget experts cited various factors to Wisconsin Watch.

Robert Bixby of the Concord Coalition said spending on Social Security and health care programs such as Medicare and Medicaid increased by $635 billion. “This is largely because of population aging and rising per-capita health care costs. In other words, they grow on autopilot,” he said.

Spending increased by roughly the same amount on programs responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Marc Goldwein of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said inflation was another factor.

For the first 11 months of fiscal 2023, federal spending was 3% higher than fiscal 2022.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


U.S. Treasury Department: Treasury Bulletin December 2022

U.S. Treasury Department: Treasury Bulletin December 2018

IHeart: The Vicki McKenna Show Ron Johnson interview

U.S. Treasury Department: How much has the US government spent this Year

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Tom Kertscher joined as a Wisconsin Watch fact checker in January 2023 and contributes to our collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online. Kertscher is a former longtime newspaper reporter, including at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has worked as a self-employed journalist since 2019. His gigs include contributing writer for Milwaukee Magazine and sports freelancer for The Associated Press.