2010 US Spending Priorities: 58% to Military

Recently, Live Science published a chart showing that the US spends about one-fifth of its budget on the military. But this aggregate view hides how Congress prioritizes spending, when you consider what is discretionary and voted upon each year. A more salient view of these figures segregates ‘discretionary’ spending from ‘mandatory’ spending. During the severe economic downturn of the past two years, how has Congress prioritized spending?

When it comes to discretionary spending, Congress gives 58% to the military. Here are US budget charts for the years 2009 and 2010, according to the National Priorities Project (NPP):

NPP describes these charts this way, explaining the difference between ‘mandatory’ and ‘discretionary’ spending:

[These charts show] the breakdown of the proposed federal discretionary budget for fiscal year 2010 [or 2009] by function area.

The discretionary budget refers to the part of the federal budget proposed by the President, and debated and decided by Congress each year. The part of the budget constitutes more than one-third of total federal spending. The remainder of the federal budget is called ‘mandatory spending.’ Fiscal Year 2009 will run from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009.

Note that this chart includes the war-related spending requested by the administration as supplemental to the regular budget proposal.

Note, too, per NPP:

Federal Discretionary and Mandatory Spending

Congress directly sets the level of spending on programs which are discretionary. Congress can choose to increase or decrease spending on any of those programs in a given year….

About half of the discretionary budget is ‘national defense,’ a government-defined function area that roughly corresponds in common parlance as ‘military.’ However, this category does not include foreign military financing, security assistance, and other programs commonly thought of as military. Other types of discretionary spending include the budget for education, many health programs, and housing assistance.

Mandatory spending includes programs, mostly entitlement programs, which are funded by eligibility rules or payment rules. Congress decides to create a program, for example, Food Stamps. It then determines who is eligible for the program and any other criteria it may want to lay out. How much is appropriated for the program each year is then determined by estimations of how many people will be eligible and apply for Food Stamps.

Unlike discretionary spending, the Congress does not decide each year to increase or decrease the Food Stamp budget; instead, it periodically reviews the eligibility rules and may change them in order to exclude or include more people.

Mandatory spending makes up about two-thirds of the total federal budget. By far the largest mandatory program is Social Security which makes up one-third of mandatory spending and continues to grow as the age demographic of the country shifts towards an older population. [See more at National Priorities Project.]

Also see discussion at “How Are Our Federal Tax Dollars Spent?” which shows that, in the aggregate, the military budget is one-fifth (21%) of our budget:

But, which is the more realistic view of military spending? Which captures how Congress prioritizes spending? Which is more relevant to us?

Arguably, discretionary spending is most relevant to ordinary citizens, as we continue to suffer under rising unemployment, increased foreclosures, bankster bailouts, million dollar industry bonuses while the minimum wage remains below poverty, all amid a global financial crisis.

And what does that 58% of discretionary spending amount to? In 2010: $1,027.8 billion, or over a trillion dollars, according to Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute.

Rady Ananda began blogging in 2004. Her work has appeared in several online and print publications, including three books on election fraud. Most of her career was spent working for lawyers in research, investigations and as a paralegal. She graduated from The Ohio State University’s School of Agriculture with a B.S. in Natural Resources. Read other articles by Rady.

3 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Deadbeat said on April 26th, 2010 at 9:08pm #

    Rady please take a look at the War Resisters League Pie Chart. They have been publishing the truth about the federal budget for decades now.

    What you are missing in your analysis is where the REVENUE comes from that comprise the so-called “discretionary” budget versus the misnamed and off-putting “entitlements” spending. Entitlements are funded separately via the REGRESSIVE payroll tax. In 1983 in order to make up for revenue shortfall due to the 1981 Kemp Roth income tax cuts for the RICH, Alan Greenspan and the Democrats agreed to increase revenue by shifting the tax burden by raising the regressive Social Security tax far above what’s needed to maintain the system. The overcharged was then funneled into the discretionary part of the budget that mostly fund the military and the RICH. In other words these budgets are a TRANSFER of income from ordinary workers to the RICH.

    Also prior to 1969 the federal budget did NOT count the payroll tax as part of the overall budget since its revenue emanates from INCOME TAXES. Social Security is set up as a TRUST fund and was NEVER meant to be a part of the U.S. budget. What confuses the issue is that the ruling class refers to it as “government SPENDING” rather than a TRUST FUND. The “Left” unfortunately has withdrawn from the arena has done a POOR job of educating the masses into understanding the distinction. And that the income tax today is exceedingly much more regressive today than it was. At one time the top income tax rate was 92% and there was about 14 graduated brackets. Today the top rate is 36% with only three brackets. Corporate income taxes has also also been greatly REDUCED as well.

    The reason why the budget was “unified” was to CONCEAL the actual spending on the Vietnam WAR. In other words Social Security was fraudulently used to “balance” the 1969 budget just as Clinton used Social Security to “balance” the budget during his tenure.

    Your article unfortunately reads like a moral appeal rather than an indictment of fraud and EMBEZZLEMENT of the public trust and CLASS WARFARE engaged by these politicians against the working class.

  2. Rady Ananda said on April 27th, 2010 at 2:35pm #

    Deadbeat, the theme of this piece does not go to funding origination – that’s a huge topic far beyond the scope of what I am addressing.

    I appreciate the info as an aside, tho.

  3. Deadbeat said on April 27th, 2010 at 2:44pm #

    Rady your dismissal of funding origination is critical to understanding how the rhetoric and propaganda works. If you want to report about the budget you MUST provide your audience with a CLEAR picture because the media has been aiding and abetting the government LIES for DECADES.

    The lies has been repeated so often that even the “Left” repeats them. They have little to no understanding of how the budget works and where the dollars come from and how they are supposed to be allocated.