The Unabridged And Illustrated Federal Budget For Dummies - Part 1: Spending

Tyler Durden's picture

In a four-part series, on the premise that a picture paints a thousand words, we present, via The Heritage Foundation, everything you wanted to know about the Federal Budget - In Charts. We start with Federal Spending - which is at record levels and is still growing, threatening economic freedom.

Federal Spending per Household Is Skyrocketing

The federal government is spending more per household than ever before. Since 1965, spending per household has grown by 152 percent, from $11,900 in 1965 to $30,015 in 2012. From 2012 to 2022, it is projected to rise to $34,602—a 15 percent increase.


Federal Spending Exceeds Federal Revenue by More than $1 Trillion

Since 1965, spending has risen constantly. While federal revenues are recovering from the recent recession, spending is growing sharply, resulting in four consecutive years of deficits exceeding $1 trillion.


Federal Spending Grew Nearly 12 Times Faster than Median Income

When federal spending grows faster than Americans' paychecks, the burden of government on taxpayers becomes greater. Over the past four decades, median-income Americans' earnings have risen only 24 percent, while spending has increased 288 percent.


What if Families Handled Finances Like the Federal Government Does?

In 2010, median family income was $51,360. If a typical family followed the federal government's lead, it would spend $73,319 and put 30 cents of every dollar spent on a credit card. This family would have racked up $325,781 in credit card debt—like a mortgage, only without the house. What credit card company would continue lending money to this family?


Mandatory Spending Has Increased Nearly Six Times Faster than Discretionary Spending

Mandatory spending— primarily entitlements and interest—is set on budgetary autopilot, growing without congressional debate. It has increased almost six times faster than discretionary spending, including defense, which is the part of federal spending subject to annual budgets.


Runaway Spending, Not Inadequate Tax Revenue, Is Responsible for Future Deficits

The main driver behind long-term deficits is government spending, not low revenue. While revenue will surpass its historical average of 18.1 percent of GDP by 2018, spending remains above its historical average of 20.2 percent, reaching 22.1 percent by 2022, even after $2.1 trillion in spending cuts in the Budget Control Act.


Medicare and Other Entitlements Are Crowding Out Spending on Defense

Ever-increasing entitlement spending is putting pressure on key spending priorities, such as national defense, a core constitutional function of government. Defense spending has declined significantly over time, even when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are included, as spending on the three major entitlements—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—has more than tripled.


National Defense Spending Would Plummet Under Obama's Budget

President Obama's lean defense strategy would create a hollow force and exacerbate today's readiness crisis. Decreases in funding for the core defense program mean losing capabilities that are crucial for the military to fulfill its constitutional duty to provide for the common defense.


Budget Control Act Sequestration Would Hit Defense Hardest

The Budget Control Act's $1.2 trillion automatic sequestration cuts, out of $46.3 trillion in total spending, would impose draconian cuts on defense (on top of an estimated $407 billion in cuts from its spending caps). This would slash the defense budget and jeopardize the U.S. military's ability to defend the nation. Entitlement spending—the biggest part of the budget— would scarcely be touched by comparison.


Obama Budget Would Make Defense the Lowest Budget Priority

President Obama's budget would lower defense spending below other major budget priorities, forcing cuts to personnel levels and weakening military readiness. By 2018, the U.S. would spend more on interest on the debt than on protecting the country.


More than Half of All Federal Spending Will Be on Entitlement Programs in 2012

Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security—along with other entitlements such as food stamps, unemployment, and housing assistance— make up 62 percent of all federal spending. In contrast, spending on foreign aid represents about 1 percent.


Total Welfare Spending Is Rising Despite Attempts at Reform

Total means-tested welfare spending (cash, food, housing, medical care, and social services to the poor) has increased more than 17-fold since the beginning of Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty in 1964. Though the current trend is unsustainable, the Obama Administration would increase future welfare spending rather than enact true policy reforms.


More than 70 Percent of Federal Spending Goes to Dependence Programs

Government dependence is driving budget deficits and federal debt. More than 70 percent of federal spending goes to 47 government dependence programs, including housing, farm subsidies, and the three largest entitlements, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.


Cut Spending, Fix the Debt, and Restore Prosperity

By rapidly lowering total federal spending, Saving the American Dream: The Heritage Plan to Fix the Debt, Cut Spending, and Restore Prosperity would balance the budget by 2021 and keep it balanced permanently, without raising taxes.


Source: The Heritage Foundation

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F. Bastiat's picture

The central government is out of control; what's new?

UP Forester's picture

But, but, we need a strong "Defense" to continue spreading democracy throughout the Arab world and Africa!

Even the "Heritage Foundation" sees this, and they're conservative!


flacon's picture

Funny how the spending chart looks a lot like the gold price. I wonder what the correlation is... perhaps we need a pH Dee to write his thesis on the corelation between spending and gold price. 

Bananamerican's picture

ya had me and then...

"President Obama's lean defense strategy would create a hollow force and exacerbate today's readiness crisis."


ya lost me

Benjamin Glutton's picture

When do we post the audit of actual expenditures...

Onetrick's picture

Sure would be scary... if our Government were like a household.  Good thing they are monetarily soverign.

Corn1945's picture

No such thing as "monetarily sovereign." It just changes the way you default. 

The rest of the world is not stupid. They are not going to tolerate us printing tens of trillions of dollars to maintain a bankrupt welfare state.

China didn't get where they are by being stupid. 

Vampyroteuthis infernalis's picture


President Obama's lean defense strategy would create a hollow force and exacerbate today's readiness crisis.

I cry horseshit! Readiness factor my white ass!

Baron Robber's picture

No shit. This bullshit by the Heritage Foundation about defense is absolute garbage. Their members writing this horseshit got us into this mess as much as Obummer. That last chart about "the Heritage plan" showing spending diving and revenues increase to balance out pure fantasy (more like pure theft from the cartel)

Muppet Pimp's picture

The choice of Blue team or Red team boils down to a few already decided social issues and which industries are gonna get the taxpayer loot.  The candidates should have to wear Nascar style uniforms with patches identifying  all of their sponsors so we know who gets the naxt generations earnings during their administration.  The election should be more Nascar-ish in general, might get a better turn out that way.

Obama: "I just wanna give a shout out to Solyndra, Teamsters Local 681, my homeboy John Corzine, Goldman up in tha house woo woo...I got you guys, checks in the mail"

Romney: "Bain: we made it , Citi U know you will always be TBTF in my book, Villages forget about that whole issuing unauthorized tax free bonds thing...The Taxpayers are here for you fellas"

GMadScientist's picture

Defense is "discretionary", yet who can point to any significant appropriation or off budget expense that was ever voted down?

Just look at how the "Red Team" backpedaled from their "automatic cuts" recently when their defense kickbacks went on the chopping block.

It's one of our very best jobs programs and none of that pesky infrastructure to maintain later as the bombs and drones never come back.

Matt's picture

If a 10 percent cut to defense spending would weaken the military, imagine how weak the US military was under Clinton with only half the budget! It's amazing the Cubans didnt sieze Colorado with paratroopers, how defenseless the country was back then.

But seriously, having military bases all over the entire planet is written into the constitution? The common defense of America plus everywhere on the planet American corporations or resources bound for America exist.

Muppet Pimp's picture

Krugman says the road to the promise land is juuuuuust up around the corner. Just a few trillion more will bring it into view. This is all perfectly normal in PK'S world. Would you expect any less from an ivy league commie who also writes textbooks teaching our next generation leaders. Move on folks, nothing to see here. Hugo Chavez smiles in our general direction. Krugman FTW!

three chord sloth's picture

Don't you see? Don't you understand? The national debt is like a car's odometer... if you drive that puppy forward faster and faster, eventually it turns over to all zeros again!

Muppet Pimp's picture

Anyone else notice Krugman is doing the full court press routine now that he is being openly mocked for his theories?  On all the MSM sites spewing his garbage.  Nice sit down with the wife on Bloomberg too.  Very warm, if only Oprah would have canducted the interview I might have climaxed right then and there. 

Dis: Long Parabola

nmewn's picture

Was the sit down interview conducted in his million dollar island getaway or his million dollar Manhattan apartment?...this is what Oprah viewers really want to know.

Gawd...the suspense is killing me, I'm all tingly ;-)


blueridgeviews's picture

Tell the American people we are broke and everyone will have to pay their own way. Then cut this crap out once and for all!!

vast-dom's picture

precisely my point all along: cease all personal taxation and if you must QE inject into actual households and NOT banks -- this will increase disposible income and that in turn positively impacts econ. Get gov and Fed out of business and minding their business. Simple shit.

insanelysane's picture

Exactly, Obama says he doesn't believe in trickle down economics (agree) but that is exactly what the Fed is doing.  Give money to banks and hope it trickles down to consumers.  Instead of stimulus we need to suspend income taxes.

Matt's picture

There is the heart of the matter; the politicians are permanently gridlocked, achieving nothing. Only the Fed as the ability to act unilateraly, but they have the wrong tools.

Everybodys All American's picture

It's got little to do with trickle up or down economics. The jobs (your neighbors and mine) were moved overseas to China, India, Mexico, etc. Bring the jobs back and if you have to use tariffs so be it. Very simple. This has worked for hundreds of years btw. Don't believe the democratic montra because it's pure socialism.

smb12321's picture

But artificial numbers always fail whether it be interest rates or in this case, "money from the government" through QE.  Nancy Pelosi is always blathering that we get $3 (or $2 - forget which) back for every federal dollar spent.  If so then why not send each household $1,000,000?  We instinctively recognize the silliness of that.  The problem stems from the notion that "government spending" (borrowed of course) will bring prosperity.

Corn1945's picture

Not only are we borrowing money, but we are borrowing money from countries that are hostile to us!

How stupid are we as a country to tolerate this?

Muppet Pimp's picture

Story idea for some of you press guys:

Start recruiting federal government employees to come forward, have their name and voice changed type deal (protect them like your family) and discuss the extent of waste that occurs with our tax dollars.  I am absoultely convinced that the reason there is no outrage is the people are in the dark.  For a long time I actually believed they ran that place in a reasonable manner, like a business maybe, efficient, serving the client (taxpayer).  What a joke.  They take us all for fools.  That would make a great story.  The more branches of .gov the better.  If the anonymity is guaranteed me thinks there would be some takers. 

OT: Brother in law has served two year+ tours (Iraq, Afghan).  Told us how disgusted he was that the .gov contractors that were there as mechanics (he is a mechanic) making six figures knew nothing.  They would routinely come and ask to borrow his soldiers to go with him and show him how to fix the equipment.  BIL said he had no choice, he needed the equipment fixed.  You really can't make this stuff up.  The enlisted end up working for a six figure unskilled teat sucker (whom they would gladly take a bullet for if they came under attack) while they get peanuts for pay and carry the guns.  Sad state of affairs.

GMadScientist's picture

Payroll Tax Holiday 1.28
Across the Board Tax Cut 1.03
Extend Alternative Minimum Tax Patch 0.49
Make Bush Income Tax Cuts Permanent 0.31
Make Dividend and Capital Gains Tax Cuts Permanent 0.38
Cut in Corporate Tax Rate 0.30
Extending Unemployment Insurance Benefits 1.63
Temporary Increase in Food Stamps 1.73
General Aid to State Governments 1.38
Increased Infrastructure Spending 1.59

q99x2's picture

What does this mean since it is not a closed system and that unaccountable entities, with the ability to "conterfeit," to dilute value through expansion of the monetary base, or through artificial financial instruments (unprosecutable fraud), have magnitudes of levels of impact on fiscal equilibrium? In other words can't you give the dummies, the sheeple, a sample based on reality instead of this depiction, once upon a time, of what some people believed spending used to be like?

insanelysane's picture

Starve the beast.  The government says look at all the poor people to feed, give us money.  They get the money, blow it on stupid stuff, trips to Vegas, etc.  Then they say, look at all the poor people to feed, give us money.  They get more money and blow it. and the cycle continues.

The Fed government is borrowing 40% of what it is spending; education is horrible, roads are crumbling, and there is nothing to show for this deficit spending.

GMadScientist's picture

We have a very nice collection of warhead delivery systems, thank you very much.


ThisIsBob's picture

Have you been able to determine if the cheap cafeteria meals at Fed headquarters will continued to be subsidized?

insanelysane's picture

You expect our poor public servants to pay full price for their lunch during their 3 hour work day?

Change-In-Trend's picture


  • We have been down day the last couple of days as the cycle progression chart forecasted which has enabled me to close my short position at a small gain after sideways consolidation.

  • I have now taken a small long position into Monday on anticipation of a reversal to the upside.

  • It is now possible that the initial projection for a low into the 6-8 May time frame will now be a high. 

  • The low was initially projected after analysing the individual stock & ETF cycles within the context of a Gann Master Cycle which i do not show. 

  • WD Ganns cycle also appears to have inverted and is now in confluence with the other individual cycle progression charts for a high into this timeframe 6-8 May.

  • With French elections over the weekend the iShares MSCI France Index EWQ is showing strength into 7-8 May.

  • Here in Australia the recent interest rate easing by the RBA is an indication that they want inflation. Generally the Australian government is no different than any other in terms on manipulating official interest rate figures, however in Australia with the economy propped up by the mining boom and overseas investment in this industry, interest rates have historically remained high when compared to other developed countries. Therefore the RBA has had no need for quantitative easing as a means of lowering interest rates, the RBA have just lowered them and the banks have drip fed easing through to households and businesses. So what's my point, well the doctored CPI figures are contrary to energy, food and clothing inflation that is beginning tot take its toll on households. Lowering interest rates will only stimulate more spending thus increasing price inflation. So it is of my opinion that we are moving into the final stages of a stock market fuelled by global inflation in commodities, so for the time being it may well be worth switching to energy stocks which at the height of inflation may well turn parabolic.


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    Sweatyfingers's picture

    An obvious solution would be to outlaw mandatory budget expenditure and require the government of the day to review and approve expenditure.

    Why should politicians of past governments dictate the expenditure of future governments? Why should today's government not have control of its budgets?

    Citizens elect a government to run the country in a manner appropriate for today, not for a politician to hog tie future governments and citizens to their long gone whims.

    nmewn's picture

    +1 for Sweatyfingers for Senate ;-)

    Muppet Pimp's picture

    +1 for still believing there is a buget.

    GMadScientist's picture

    I seem to remember something about "no standing armies for more than two years"...for similar reasons.

    Yeah that worked. /sarc


    The Alarmist's picture

    Let's be real: a 10% cut in defense is hardly draconian, especially on the cuurent projected baseline increases. It would be nice if the 10% was a real 10% and across the board rather than a pretend reduction in planned spending icreases in one of the few constitutionally mandated functions.

    Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

    That was all good, except that it was from the Heritage Foundation.

    hellas4life's picture

    The real picture (posted this in part 2 by accident)
    4 trillion for Iraq
    Military closer to 50% of spending

    The events and policies that pushed these deficits to high levels in the near term were, for the most part, not of President Obama’s making. If not for the Bush tax cuts, the deficit-financed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the effects of the worst recession since the Great Depression (including the cost of policymakers’ actions to combat it), we would not be facing these huge deficits in the near term. By themselves, in fact, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will account for almost half of the $20 trillion in debt that, under current policies, the nation will owe by 2019. The stimulus law and financial rescues will account for less than 10 percent of the debt at that time.

    A recent Heritage Foundation report claims that tax cuts and other policies initiated during the Bush administration are not a significant factor behind the deficits we face in the coming decade.[10] Heritage places blame for the deficits squarely on rapid growth in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and interest costs, and dismisses the significance of weak revenues in general and the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts in particular. But Heritage’s analysis is both misguided and seriously misleading.
    Heritage ignores the fact that rapidly-rising interest costs — one of its “culprits” behind rising outlays — result in significant part from the tax cuts and other fiscal policies of the Bush era . The tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan accounted for over $2.6 trillion of our national debt by the end of 2008 and, if continued, will add another $7 trillion in debt by 2019. In that year alone, about $450 billion of our interest bill will stem from those two policies. It is disingenuous to tar interest as a “fast-growing” spending program while ignoring which policies — including tax cuts — account for that fact.

    Heritage admits that it understates the cost of the tax cuts by omitting their impact on rising net interest costs. “On the other hand,” Heritage asserts, “the original CBO scores of tax cuts have been underestimates because they excluded all supply-side feedback effects and overestimated the GDP between 2008 and 2011, which made all revenue and tax cut projections appear larger.” That convenient justification, however, misses the boat. We know that the tax cuts led to higher borrowing and larger debt-service costs. We do not know that they led to extra economic activity (or that they would have a positive effect on economic activity if made permanent). In fact, analyses of so-called “dynamic scoring” of tax cuts have found that: 1) such estimates generally come close to the standard estimates;[11] 2) stimulative effects may appear strong in the short run but tend to dissipate over longer horizons; and 3) most importantly, as both CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation have concluded, large tax cuts financed by borrowing can harm the economy over the long term rather than help it. [12] In short, there is no reason to ignore the enormous debt overhang that the Bush tax cuts caused and plenty of reason to be skeptical of their economic benefits. Including the interest costs, the Bush-era tax cuts account for over $700 billion — or nearly 55 percent — of the deficit projected for 2019 under current policies.
    Heritage ignores the fact that the share of deficits accounted for by the Bush-era tax cuts will grow in future years as the impact of the economic downturn on deficits diminishes . Because the economic downturn and efforts to combat it have such a large effect on the deficit in 2010, the share of the deficit accounted for by the tax cuts seems relatively modest; we estimate that the tax cuts account for about one quarter of the 2010 deficit. But as the effects of the downturn recede, the tax cuts will account for a much larger share. In 2019, the tax cuts, if continued, will account for nearly three-fifths of the deficit. And, despite the growing impact of rising health care costs and the continued aging of the population after 2019, the tax cuts will continue to have a major impact on the deficit. The Center has estimated that not extending the tax cuts — or fully paying for the cost of extending them — would reduce the projected budget shortfall through 2050 by two-fifths. [13]
    In constructing its baseline, Heritage partly assumes its own conclusion. The baseline projections developed by Heritage generally resemble CBPP’s, with one crucial difference. Heritage assumes that regular discretionary spending (other than war costs and stimulus funds) will grow at the same rate as the GDP over the next 10 years. In contrast, we assume that such appropriations will grow somewhat more slowly in the 10-year budget window because they will grow with inflation; this is the standard, widely accepted baseline assumption. Heritage’s decision to scrap normal baseline practices and assume higher levels of discretionary spending boosts such spending by more than a full percentage point of GDP by the end of the ten-year period and adds to interest costs as well. Heritage then uses this increased spending it assumes to buttress its claim that it is excessive spending growth that causes the deficit. In theory, policymakers might choose to increase discretionary spending to keep pace with GDP, but that is highly unlikely in these straitened times. And that is not how the Budget Enforcement Act, CBO, and the Office of Management and Budget define “current policy” when they make their baseline budget projections for the coming decade. [14]
    It was not a sudden spurt of growth in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid that turned projected budget surpluses into deficits . CBO and many budget analysts have long pointed out that the “big three” entitlement programs will swell in future decades as a result of an aging population and steady growth in per-capita health-care costs.[15] Indeed, CBO had already projected that this would eventually occur when, in 2001, it projected significant budget surpluses through 2011 and years beyond . [16] Since the growth in these large programs was anticipated (other than the growth due to enactment of the Medicare prescription drug benefit), it is not what turned projected surpluses to deficits.

    Centurion9.41's picture

    Military is closer to 50% of spending, really? 

    Looked at your "War Resisters" link.  Found this right in their main commentary on their pie chart of spending:

    "Past military" represents veterans' benefits plus 80% of the interest on the debt.*

    *Analysts differ on how much of the debt stems from the military; other groups estimate 50% to 60%. We use 80% because we believe if there had been no military spending most (if not all) of the national debt would have been eliminated.

    Well, it looks like you have tremendous potential for a career as a bankster; you're dumber than a box of rocks and have the same ethical standards as a radical muslim stoning his daughter for embarrassing his name.

    Thanks for making it so easy to figure out there's no need to read the rest of your BS.

    Oh, and you're welcome for the freedom to write it and make sure everyone knows you're an idiot.


    hellas4life's picture

    ok centurion bad time of the month?   take the ~ 250 bln current interest payment and assume 50% instead of 80%  that saves you about 75 billion.  that brings the current military to just under 1.3 trillion of the 2.9 trillion (doesn't include SS trust funds because it's NOT an entitlement) in outlays or about 44%.  and when just one war (iraq) will end up costing somewhere between 4-6 trillion, i'd say  a very large part of our debt and interest on our debt is due to military spending. 

    Pike Bishop's picture

    The Heritage Foundation using OMB numbers. What's next, Bill O'Reilly?

    Go ahead, swallow it down. Then when they are done thinking for you in Economics, prance over to "The Project for A New American Century".

    They are the Leo Strauss buttboys who orchestrated 2 worthless wars, your dead military friends, and $Trillions for the Death-for-Oil business. And if you confront them, they say "Yeah, that's how you become the ruling hegemonous power on the planet."

    See, it's one thing to present all opinion, it's another thing if you present an organization which both made up shit, and then were wrong in every outcome they predicted.

    Why are they here for conclusions to theoreticals, when those conclusions were predisposed to ANY data or facts. Wholly selected for expediency's sake.

    They were WRONG about everything, they don't get another turn.

    What is this "The Enemy of my Enemy is my friend?"

    Welcome to NeoCon Central.

    lolmao500's picture

    Most of this is garbage. And you know why? Because it's based on bogus CBO estimates.

    Centurion9.41's picture

    One word, ENTITLEMENTS.

    Good luck Gen-X & Z paying for all the benefits your parent's and grandparent's voted for but didn't pay for.  Maybe they will leave you enough in their will....

    Nah, they are too full of themselves to care about what they BOHICA you with.

    Uchtdorf's picture

    We would not need a military that outspends the rest of the world combined if we didn't go around peeing in everybody's cornflakes and on their front door and and in gas tanks. If America would return to its non-interventionist roots, there would be financial freedom for Americans and a lot more goodwill towards us around the world.

    The Heritage Foundation, good grief. Military Industrial Complex cheerleaders one and all.

    So do we spend ourselves into oblivion or do we vote Ron Paul?

    kralizec's picture

    Nothing trumps the Democrat-Media Complex, nothing.