Economics, Pethokoukis

Charts: Is the big US budget problem entitlement spending or defense spending?


This graphic from Veronique de Rugy and Jason J Fichtner of George Mason’s Mercatus Center simply and effectively illustrates how entitlement spending is slowly gobbling up the federal budget.

And let me add two other charts, both from AEI’s Nick Eberstadt, that focus specifically on defense spending and how much we should or shouldn’t spend in the future:

11 thoughts on “Charts: Is the big US budget problem entitlement spending or defense spending?

  1. Let’s talk about what’s going on here.

    Fact: the US government has a spending problem.

    Fact: The US government has a budget deficit of approximately $1T.

    Fact: CBO, OMB, and the Obama Administration all have projections that the debt will only get worse.

    Fact: Something has to be done about spending.

    So, let’s talk about spending.

    Are entitlements a problem? Yes, if for no other reason than an aging population. Because of the aging population, there is little that can be done (short of massive reform, which I do advocate).

    Interest will also be a problem going forward, but that can be curbed by dealing with the debt.

    Corporate Welfare could be eliminated. No point in giving billions of dollars to companies making billions more. I mean, that’s just the definition of “the bad 1%.”

    But why is military spending untouchable? The argument has never been (except by idiots) that military spending is bankrupting the government. The question is, rather, “why does this much need to be spent?”

    Expecting to solve the spending issue by only focusing on entitlements is just as foolish as expecting to solve the debt issue by increasing taxes. It’s just unrealistic.

    I am not talking about slashing the military. I am just talking about asking some questions: Does the US really need bases in Germany and Europe. Does the US really need to have ships that run on biofuels. Is our military over-stretched? Do we really need to be committing troops to Africa?

    The US has a spending problem. This much is crystal clear. So all forms of spending cuts must be on the table. No sacred cows. Sacred cows just signal how unwilling the negotiating party actually is.

    One final point, please nobody make the foolish argument “cutting military spending will destroy jobs.” Been there, done that. Still foolish

    • One way to reduce military spending is to investigate the profit % of the arms, services and equipment that are purchased in the “bid” process, and find a way to cap it to a certain smaller %. Actually this should be applied to all government and municipal spending.

  2. Jon is right on.

    but the big problem here is the lack of specificity for both entitlements and “military” spending.

    If we look at revenues – subtract out the FICA Tax revenues, what is left is about 1.5T to spend on entitlements, “the military” and other govt.

    trying to nail these 3 numbers down is nothing short of impossible when talking to the folks who don’t want to acknowledge the “military” spending.

    They first try to hide it by speaking of it in terms of percent of GDP.

    Then they try to convince you that only the base DOD budget is “military” spending and not the VA, military pensions and health care – both of which depend on SS and Medicare in addition to taxpayer subisides, Homeland Security, FBI/CIA anti-terrorism efforts, NASA military satellites and DOE work to support military nuclear needs.

  3. Look to the states that are best at balancing their budget and adopt their solutions to the federal level and avoid the worst. Keep the interest rate on the debt shrinking over time. Keep private sector growing jobs. Minimize government regulations to realistic common sense levels to attract foriegn business. If necessary let states and counties do most government work unified by federal guidance y half or more. Nothing would be duplicated with every county and state

  4. The primary problem with government spending is the excessive deficit and debt. The entitlements section of the budget being larger than the discretionary would be OK as long as the spending is sustainable, but the federal government must see the country is well defended if nothing else. Military spending is too high because of the wars and a large operations budget but the equipment procurement are actually quite underfunded.

  5. Stop giving our tax dollars to foreign countries, stop getting envolved in foreign civil wars, and consolidate medicare, medicaid and federal employee health insurance.

    Give jobs to the people who are on welfare and unemployment benefits instead of cash gifts. These people can re-build the physical infrastructure instead of being paid not to work.

    • That might not be such a bad idea except that the Republicans won’t allow it. Part of what you suggest is/was in the American Jobs Act that Democrats have introduced to Congress every year since 2011….and to date, the Speaker of the House has refused to even allow the bill to be debated on the floor of the House, let alone be voted on.

      It’s the Tea Party and John Boehner, my friend, that is holding up the citizenry of this country and obstructing the prosperity of not just them, but of this country.

      • KY woman2 it’s this kind of blind thinking and unreasonable
        rhetoric. That’s preventing anything from being done
        The it’s them and not us chatter the problem
        Both parties are at fault. Let’s leave it at that and agree that
        this problem has happened drip by drip for 40 years.
        Spending is the problem, and expectations of “What
        this country owes me is the root.

      • And what about the 47 jobs & appropriations bills that the House passed last year that Harry Reid wouldn’t let even come up for debate, let alone vote, on the floor of the Senate? Who exactly is “holding up” action in Congress???

  6. I find your article disingenuous. “Mandatory” spending is NOT just “entitlements”…it also includes things like SALARIES FOR CONGRESS, HEALTH CARE FOR CONGRESS, SECURITY FOR CONGRESS, PENSIONS FOR CONGRESS – and that includes FORMER congressmen and women, since once one serves, one receives these “perks” for life!

    And these are not the only “mandatory” spending items – there are MANY more items that fall into this category – and NONE of them have anything to do with “entitlement”

    Perhaps the author should have done a bit more research and then disseminated that information to us by giving a breakdown of everything that is included in the “mandatory” spending category, rather than skew the issue.

    The MISINFORMATION in this article is astounding. I don’t know whether I’m more inclined to spank the author or wash his mouth out with soap.

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