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Where do federal tax dollars go, and what is involved with "fiscal responsibility" at the federal level?
There are basically two different types of government spending: discretionary and mandatory. Discretionary programs are subject to appropriations bills every year; these are the programs adressed every year by the budget. Mandatory programs are provided for by laws that do not require review; unless congress directly adresses a law providing for a mandatory program, they recieve funding every year.
Mandatory programs include Social security, medicare, medicaid, and various other smaller government programs, including food stamps, child nutrition programs, and some farm subsidies. These programs are generally immune to the annual budgetary process.
According to the CBO, http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=5530&sequence=1 , Social security spending is expected to increase from $492 billion in 2004 to $888 billion in 2015; medicare is projected to increase from $297 billion today to $766 billion in 2015; and medicaid is projected to increase from $176 billion today to $392 billion in 2015.
Together, these three programs accounted for 41% of federal outlays in 2004, and they are projected to nearly double in over the next 10 years.
Considering discretionary funding, slightly over half goes to the department of defense directly, and a modest proportion of the remainder goes to defense related programs in other agencies, such as nuclear weapons research done by the energy department and veterans affairs.
Basically, you can divide federal spending up as follows: Interest: 7% Mandatory entitlements (medicare, social security): 33% Other mandatory programs (medicaid and others): 19% Discretionary defense dept. : 20% Other discretionary: 19% Total: 98% - rounding error
The "mandatory entitlements" catagory is particularly likely to grow at a rapid rate in the near and not so near term.
Anybody who thinks we can make major progres toward national "fiscal responsibility" by making cuts in the "other discretionary" catagory is obviously crazy, lying, or arithmetically impaired.
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