National Budget Spending... Where is all the money going!?!?!
November 5, 2005 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Is there someplace to find a easy to understand breakdown of the U.S. National Budget?

I was talking to my G/F and her Dad last night and we were talking about paying all these taxes and where the majority of those dollars went. I was saying that alot went to the defense budget and they countered that it went to social services (gee Repub/Dem converstation?)

I do not want to start a political flame war here!!

I just want some actual numbers that show where the money is going either way!

If it's in a pie-chart form or some other graphical way is fine. I like the purdy colors.


P.S. Also, if there is also some place showing the current spending to past spending would be a bonus!
posted by Botunda to Work & Money (7 answers total)
This chart is a neat view of the current spending levels.
posted by piro at 1:16 PM on November 5, 2005

You can read the whole freaking thing, if you're feeling that way, but here are the summary tables. Turns out the Department of Defense budget is $400 billion, while Education, Energy, Health & Human Services, Housing & Urban Development, Labor, State & International Assistance, Veterans' Affairs, the EPA, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and Social Security get $289 billion cumulatively.
posted by gleuschk at 1:19 PM on November 5, 2005

The relevant table from gleuschk's comment is S-11.

You're both right.

Defense is $400 billion, about half of discretionary spending, dwarfing social services within discretionary spending.

But nondiscretionary social-services spending -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid -- is about $900 billion.

To complicate things, taxes are disaggregated too. Your income tax, proper, goes mostly to discretionary spending, while your payroll taxes are earmarked for different social services.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:05 PM on November 5, 2005

I was saying that alot went to the defense budget and they countered that it went to social services

Roughly the same amount to both, really. But it depends on what you count. For instance, social service spending (transportation, education, agriculture, welfare, medical) altogether is about double military spending.

If it's in a pie-chart form or some other graphical way is fine. I like the purdy colors.

So does the House Budget Committee. Or their wide television audience, perhaps.

Here's the classic Federal Buck pie chart for 2004. It breaks down both all federal spending and revenue.

It's important when reading any budget claims to distinguish between discretionary and non-discretionary/mandatory spending. For example, NASA is discretionary; the military is discretionary. But most welfare, including Medicaid and Medicare, is non-discretionary -- that is, Congress has set statutory eligibility levels, and the nation is obligated to fund those expenses. Social Security is another large non-discretionary expense -- but it's in principle self-funded.

The business about the Social Security Trust Fund is monies collected and invested for future Social Security payments, which Congress decided to borrow against -- mortgage -- in order to cover non-Social Security expenses. At some point we'll be obligated to start paying back into that fund, which will be non-discretionary.
posted by dhartung at 2:11 PM on November 5, 2005

Ah, looks like I was o'erhasty (as usual). Still, ROU and dh have the poop.
posted by gleuschk at 3:06 PM on November 5, 2005

Defense spending is almost exclusively from the federal treasury. Which is, by the way, as it should be per the constitution. It is not fair to compare social services from the federal budget with defense and make "values" and "priority" comparisons. We should look at ALL government spending (Federal, State and Local) and THEN look at what this nation spends on social services. In a word: staggering.

posted by Independent Scholarship at 3:51 PM on November 5, 2005

Hierarchical, Visual Breakdown (1.8MB jpg). Actually quite good. Apologies if it goes slow, it's on my ADSL.
posted by polyglot at 6:20 PM on November 5, 2005

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