You hear a lot about federal government spending programs, especially in election years, but because it is presented in such a disjointed manner, it’s difficult if not impossible to get a grip on just what the federal government is actually doing with our tax dollars. Many people might be surprised to discover, for example, that at least, according to the National Heritage Foundation (see reference below), the U.S. federal government will spend over $30,500 per household this year (up from just under $22,000 just ten years ago.) This number becomes even more interesting when you consider that the average American household only earns something like $50,000 a year. The difference will be made up this year by going $1.5 trillion dollars deeper into debt.
Something else that might surprise a lot of people is the fact that, according to the U.S. government (see reference below), nearly half of all money spent (not counting Social Security) by the federal government goes to some form of military spending. Granted, only a little more than a quarter of that money goes towards spending on actual war efforts, the rest is for payroll, healthcare, veterans benefits, homeland security, strategic defense (nuclear and other ballistic missiles, CIA, NSA) research and development, military bases, maintenance and infrastructure, etc. But still, that’s nearly fifty cents of every dollar they take out of your paycheck. It might be useful to note that the United States spends more on defense related activities every year than does the whole rest of the world combined.
The other big ticket item we Americans are paying for of course is our Social Security program, which actually costs us just about as much as our military spending, though it’s costs are not counted as a federal budget item because it is seen as a national insurance program we are all paying for, and then taking from later, rather than as a tax and spend venture.
Next up on the list are those monies spent on entitlements, an ugly word if ever there was one for governmental spending. This is money spent to help people and falls under various programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP (food stamps) and unemployment benefits. It all adds up to about a quarter of the entire budget, so you can see by this point, there really isn’t much left, and that’s a good point to make, because all of the noise you hear on the news about congress voting to allocate funds for this or that, really don’t amount to much when you consider the total amount of money the government spends which will be about 3.72 trillion dollars this year. An interesting thing to note here is that the federal government has increased money in this category, collectively called anti-poverty measures by 89% in just the last ten years, though the success of these programs has become a matter of conjecture as it has recently been reported that more Americans are living in poverty now then during the 1960’s when Johnsons Great Society imitative was first started.
The rest of the budget is all the things you hear about so often, education assistance, road building, NASA, the Department of Interior, and on and on. All of those combined only get about a quarter of the money sent in, which means each of them gets just a tiny slice of the pie.
Also, it might interest some to learn that so-called “pork” items in the federal budget have been declining in recent years as money has gone to other areas, and they will account for just over $16 billion dollars this year, a barely discernable drop in the bucket when you compare that with the hundreds of billions spend on defense, social security and entitlement programs.
One final item of note, though there is a lot of noise about how our federal deficit is going to bankrupt us all, it might be noted that the interest paid for our national debt this year only amounts to about 5% of the budget.