Understanding the Budget (Graphic of the Day)

The NYT has a fantastic interactive graphic that not only provides information on the budget proposed by the Obama administration, it also gives one an idea of the relative level of spending per policy:  How $3.7 Trillion is spent.


h/t:  The Political Wire.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    It is a great graphic. IMO there’s just one wrinkle that it needs: there should be some way of distinguishing between the portion of the budget that’s funded from revenues and the portion that’s borrowed.

    That would tell us at least three things. First, it would be clearer just how lousy our fiscal position is. Second, it would be clearer that we can’t exempt Social Security, Medicare, military spending, and interest on the debt and bring the budget into anything that remotely resembles balance. Third, we can’t balance the budget by cutting discretionary spending alone.

  2. Axel Edgren says:

    The fact that you are not actively hating on every politician and voter that whines about the deficit while not supporting tax hikes is pretty much a sign that you don’t really care about your country.

  3. Gerry W. says:

    Nice graph. Social Security is self funding although it needs to be worked on. And I wonder how much money has been taken out of the SSA fund over the years.

    Also, it would be nice to see a graph on what we need to spend money on that we have neglected through the years. Like 2 trillion dollars to support our infrastructure and billions needed on scientific research just to keep up with competing with other countries.

  4. John Burgess says:

    @Axel Edgren: First things first, please… cut the spending, then raise taxes to meet the necessary expenses. Entire agencies and departments could reasonably be shut down, though doing so would rather add to unemployment right now.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Social Security is self funding although it needs to be worked on.

    You might want to take a look at the trustees’ report. Social Security outlays were larger than revenues this year.

    Nominally, that just means that some of the IOU’s that the system has accrued over the years will be cashed in. Consequently, while from an accounting standpoint the system is self-funding, from a cashflow standpoint it isn’t and may not be again for the foreseeable future.

  6. Drew says:

    If memory serves (and I have to admit, I was too lazy to go refresh my read) on an inflation adjusted basis the average SS recipient receives 2.5 – 3x their contributions. Let’s be careful when we say SS can’t be adjusted because “they are owed.”

    If you put a dollar in the bank are you owed $3? This is an intergenerational wealth transfer.

    And let’s not even go to the original SS proposition…..

  7. john personna says:

    As a cynical moderate, it seems obvious to me that both sides should bend together. Call it bilateral arms negotiations. Some small spending cuts and some small tax increases to start.

    But, you idiots still want to wait for the other side to go first?