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The 2011 United States Budget
February 1, 2010 3:22 PM   Subscribe

The New York Times visualizes the proposed $3.83 trillion budget for 2011.
posted by Joe Beese (61 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's a nice visualization indeed.

I knew a guy who used to say the US Government was basically an entitlement program with it's own military.
posted by lattiboy at 3:26 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Awesome. Thanks for this.

I see he's decreased spending for space operations by 20%, but increased funding to NASA and NSF programs by about 8%. Interesting.
posted by zarq at 3:29 PM on February 1, 2010


As an FYI, mandatory spending (Social Security, Medicare, various pensions, etc.) make up about 2/3 of the budget, and national defense about 1/2 of what's left.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:38 PM on February 1, 2010


Student financial assistance, education for the disadvantaged, and school improvements all get cuts. Though I'd be interested to see where they are relative to, say, two or three years ago.
posted by Nomiconic at 3:40 PM on February 1, 2010


I can see how expanding the upper left quadrant is "change", but not how it's something "we can believe in".
posted by clarknova at 3:41 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Infographics FTW. Very clear, handsome and easy to use; the NYT has gotten very good at putting those treemaps together. Much, much easier to read/understand than a traditional line-by-line budget.
posted by GrammarMoses at 3:42 PM on February 1, 2010


Education, Training, Employment, and Social Services: $107 billion
National Defense: $738 billion
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 3:43 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Treemapping!
posted by boo_radley at 3:46 PM on February 1, 2010


Some of the smallest boxes hint at the most interesting stories - i.e. "Uranium enrichment decontamination" slashed 90% to $11 million, which would barely pay for this budget's photocopying bill.

Who were they trying to placate by not eliminating it entirely? Could it possibly have succeeded? And... er, what about all this enriched-uranium contamination?
posted by Joe Beese at 3:51 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


National Defense: $738 billion

This is why we can't have nice things. "The Senate Finance Committee legislation to revamp the health care system would provide coverage to 29 million uninsured Americans but would still pare future federal deficits by slowing the growth of spending on medical care...at a cost of $829 billion over 10 years."
posted by kirkaracha at 3:54 PM on February 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


kirkaracha, I'm in agreement with your general point that we spend too much on the military, but the health care bills would only "cost" $829 billion in the gross sense, not in the net sense. In the net sense, they are projected to reduce the deficit.
posted by Flunkie at 4:06 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Ask yourself "what are we defending ourselves against?"

The military budget is the biggest entitlement program we have.
posted by Max Power at 4:14 PM on February 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


Who were they trying to placate by not eliminating it entirely? Could it possibly have succeeded? And... er, what about all this enriched-uranium contamination?

There are three plants related to the enrichment of Uranium which needed to be decommissioned, decontaminated and dismantled. This is a very-long-term DOE project. The one in Oak Ridge, Tennessee was scheduled to be finished in 2008, which would have freed up funds for the other two (Paducah, KY and Portsmouth, OH), but I believe it is a year or two behind schedule. Paducah was scheduled to begin decommissioning in 2009. I'm speculating here, but it's possible that they're delaying Paducah and have finished Oak Ridge.
posted by zarq at 4:27 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


What exactly does "mandatory" mean, in this context? It clearly can't be literal; for example, Congress could pass a law tomorrow defunding Social Security, if they wanted to, and didn't care about their re-election, right?
posted by Flunkie at 4:29 PM on February 1, 2010


Huh, interesting to see a 35% drop in rail spending but then 8 bil for high speed rail. Separate account?
posted by tmcw at 4:31 PM on February 1, 2010


What exactly does "mandatory" mean, in this context?

Mandatory spending means a law has been passed mandating that funds be set aside to pay for specific programs. Medicare and Social Security are two examples.

Discretionary spending (the military, national highways, NASA, education) is decided every year by Congress.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:34 PM on February 1, 2010


That looks like a representation of my HDD if "National defense" and "Social security" were "Hardcore pornography" and "Funny cat gifs" respectively. "Energy" would be "Work".
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:46 PM on February 1, 2010 [14 favorites]


Regarding the relatively low amount spent on social services, much of the spending that's classified as Medicare, Medicaid, Health, veterans programs etc are social services too. Rather arbitrary classification.

Military spending is a big jobs program plus a way to socialize the funding of high-tech r&d in the guise of "defense", giving cover to those who denounce government spending. Actual war making is a sideline.
posted by aerotive at 5:04 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]



"National Defense: $738 billion"

This is why we can't have nice things. "The Senate Finance Committee legislation to revamp the health care system would provide coverage to 29 million uninsured Americans but would still pare future federal deficits by slowing the growth of spending on medical care...at a cost of $829 billion over 10 years."
Just so were clear, that's $829 over 10 years and $728 over one year. Also the $829 is offset by new taxes.
posted by delmoi at 5:07 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's a good visualization of the national debt.
posted by delmoi at 5:09 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I see a lot of green with defense and military and a lot of pink and red with social programs. When will we learn that socialism through defense-derived jobs will bleed us dry? Oh, I guess only when we're bled dry.
posted by zardoz at 5:16 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


How come Veterans benefits are not part of defense? Surely that is Enron accounting.

That takes the total to about ~800 Bn for defense.

Well, you Americans keep voting them in and the Chinese keep funding it. Guess we'll get to see where it winds up.
posted by sien at 5:28 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Now, I'm no economist, but I'm pretty sure you could cut that budget by 60% (eliminate the four biggest squares to the left) if we declared war on our senior citizens.

... or, in the alternative, force seniors to fight all of our wars. Give them all nice retirement homes in Pakistan's North West Frontier, then tell them the Taliban is on their lawn. Problems solved.
posted by Davenhill at 5:32 PM on February 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Kill corporate personhood and a lot of the military-industrial complex melts away, among a host of other problems. Just sayin'.
posted by DU at 5:33 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another data point: the budget represents approximately $12,500 per person in the U.S.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:33 PM on February 1, 2010


if NYT reporters generated a map of the NYT budget like this i would dig it
posted by Hammond Rye at 5:35 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


738 billion for killing folks and 38 billion for science. I don't know what the conservatives are bitching about.
posted by zzazazz at 5:37 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is the most confusingly organized pile of shit since the US Tax Code.

Why is "Terrorism Insurance Program" ($240 mil.) categorized under commerce and housing? Why, for that matter, are commerce and housing grouped together? Why is Health and Medicare two different sections? Why is the Department of Energy categorized under National Defense? Why is "Railroad Retirement" ($6.47 bil.) under Income Security, but "Payment to CIA Retirement Fund" ($290 mil.) under National Defense?

This isn't transparency. This is an organizational clusterfuck. The entire fucking government would be fired if they had to actually work for a living.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:50 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kill corporate personhood and a lot of the military-industrial complex melts away, among a host of other problems. Just sayin'.

What, you think it's like a video game boss, you just hit the weak spot and it disappears after flashing a few times?
posted by delmoi at 5:52 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


what are supplementals and where do they fit in?
posted by moorooka at 6:07 PM on February 1, 2010


Wow. 1500 Bn deficit.

The NYT also has a fine little flash app that allows you to compare budget balance forecasts against what happened.

Does anyone have something that allows you to try and balance the budget? Even halving defense wouldn't get you close.
posted by sien at 6:11 PM on February 1, 2010


This is why we can't have nice things.
"The Senate Finance Committee legislation to revamp the health care system would provide coverage to 29 million uninsured Americans but would still pare future federal deficits by slowing the growth of spending on medical care...at a cost of $829 billion over 10 years."


While I agree that we don't really need to spend three quarters of a trillion (750,000,000,000) dollars on building stuff to blow up other stuff, the answer to a 1 and a quarter trillion dollar(1,250,000,000,000) deficit is not to turn around and spend that money (which we don't have) on something else.
posted by madajb at 6:14 PM on February 1, 2010


Madajb--A fair point, but remember the legislation would cost $829 over 10 years and be offset by taxes, and $728 over one year, to say nothing of what the recovered productivity of a healthier citizenry would put back into the system.
posted by Bromius at 6:25 PM on February 1, 2010


Ack! Typing faster than I was thinking! "offset by taxes, and the defense budget is..."
All figures in billions, of course.
posted by Bromius at 6:27 PM on February 1, 2010


Here's some on the Railroad Retirement Board, which was set up along with Social Security in the 1930s.
posted by ltracey at 6:30 PM on February 1, 2010


sien: "Even halving defense wouldn't get you close."

To bring us to the level of the next largest military spender - China - you could halve the defense budget, halve it again, and then halve it a third time.

It's true that America's fundamental bankruptcy is irremediable. But when the deficit vultures start circling over Medicare and Social Security, as they're already beginning to, remember where the real fat in the budget is.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:33 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


It is truly amazing the sheer number of things the government spends money on.

Looks like "Other" kept its 66 million dollars. Not as good as the other "Other", though. They got an extra 15.8%.
posted by madajb at 6:38 PM on February 1, 2010


The fact that education spending is smaller than military spending, social security, medicare et al is the reason WHY the others are so big.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:50 PM on February 1, 2010


Here's some on the Railroad Retirement Board, which was set up along with Social Security in the 1930s.

OK, that almost makes sense, except… wait…
"Railroad workers do not pay money into Social Security, nor do they receive Social Security benefits."
No, instead they have their own, separate entity handling everything? What? Well where's the Astronaut Retirement Board? Where's the Cat-Sitter Retirement Board? Why can't they just pay SS like the rest of us and collect it like the rest of us?

NO SENSE.
"The Board administers a trust fund which operates at a substantial profit. In 2007, the fund recorded a net profit of $1.4 Billion, a return of 16.38% on its investment."
Nothing to see here.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:05 PM on February 1, 2010


Kill corporate personhood and a lot of the military-industrial complex melts away, among a host of other problems. Just sayin'.

Kill everyone over age 60 and a lot of the medical-industrial complex melts away, among a host of other problems. Just sayin'.
posted by happyroach at 7:07 PM on February 1, 2010


OK - totally tangential, but I love treemap visualization. This one rocks...like many well-applied treemaps. Why is it, then, that I get blank stares from 8 out of 10 people that I show this, or smartmoney, or newsmap to? Maybe I'm a visualization junkie, or maybe people's ability to parse with their right hemisphere is dropping off faster than I expected. I constantly get "oh, wow. that's awfully busy. Couldn't we do a pie chart?"
posted by ThusSpakeZarathustra at 7:14 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd really like to see a comprehensive break down of all the military/defense spending.

Everywhere I've ever been, over decades in and around the military, it's always been CUT CUT CUT..DO MORE WITH LESS! Really, where is all of that money going?

Back in the old days, military commands used to throw keggers. Now they have bake sales to pay for Christmas parties. WTF, over.
posted by snsranch at 7:17 PM on February 1, 2010


The US is still way behind a number of countries in terms of ranking of countries by public debt.

If the US is bankrupt, so are Japan, Italy Germany, France and others.

Also, given the US borrows in USD there is always an answe to public debt, known as 'quantative easing'.......

You just don't get to pull the same trick many times.
posted by sien at 7:20 PM on February 1, 2010


Does anyone have something that allows you to try and balance the budget? Even halving defense wouldn't get you close.
1. Decrease military spending down to twice as much as any other country on earth.

2. Five percent wealth tax on the wealthiest one percent of Americans.

Done and done.

(not gonna get elected)
posted by Flunkie at 7:28 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Ask yourself "what are we defending ourselves against?"
The military budget is the biggest entitlement program we have.


You're defending yourself mass unemployment. Between pulling hundreds of thousands of troops home to a country with no gainful employment, and the layoffs in all of the USA's best-paying, most-profitable military suppliers, product developers, and research facilities…

Wow. Talk about a Catch-22 situation.

In fact, military expenditures are such an integral part of the world economy, the worst economic disaster of all would be if peace were to break out.

I think I might be getting bitter.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:30 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


1. There's a lot of health care expenses in that budget, and we've all seen the reports of how per capita health care spending in the US is almost twice other countries. It would be nice to do something about that.

2. My conservative friends (well more like acquaintances) would complain about the $580B in "Income Security" (they'd call it Welfare State) as much as I would about the Defense Spending. In the end, like others have commented on, the two are probably tied together in the near term. I'm willing to pay for both.

3. I'm not top 1% of wealthiest, but I'm easily in the top 10% and I could have my taxes increased by 25% - who's with me?
posted by Edward L at 7:40 PM on February 1, 2010


Well where's the Astronaut Retirement Board? Where's the Cat-Sitter Retirement Board? Why can't they just pay SS like the rest of us and collect it like the rest of us?

There are several other retirement programs that are in lieu of social security. In many states, public school teachers have their own retirement system and do not pay into Social Security.
posted by zsazsa at 8:00 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]



I knew a guy who used to say the US Government was basically an entitlement program with it's own military.


As opposed to what other govt on earth that isn't an entitlement program with a military. Or just a plain military without entitlements? Govt is SUPPOSED to be an entitlement program. Problem is who gets entitled.
posted by spicynuts at 8:23 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Huh. I'd already made my own attempt to visualize out-of-control entitlement growth, insanely high defense spending on multiple wars, and interest payments on a debt that's growing exponentially as it finances a third of our budget. Somehow I ended up with fewer red and green colored boxes, and more images of ex-middle-class hobos using hyper-inflated dollar bills as kindling for trash can fires.
posted by roystgnr at 9:04 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


You just don't get to pull the same trick many times. Data?
posted by carping demon at 9:14 PM on February 1, 2010


Under "Income Security," $3.81 billion (+9.5 % over 2009 level) for "SSI Administrative Expenses." In other words, about 3x the 2009 inflation rate for the Federal bureaucrats who want me to fill out 2 or 3 reports a year for the $8,118 in SSI cash benefits (about 80% of the Federal poverty level threshold for 2008) that my 100% mentally disabled, U.S. Army veteran brother received in 2009, after news last fall that he won't be getting any cost of living adjustment for 2010.

Color me entirely unimpressed, if only on the narrow grounds of being the responsible alternate payee for a deserving U.S. veteran, on the very bottom rung of the social ladder, with Mr. Obama's first budget effort, funding "Change We Can Believe In."
posted by paulsc at 9:45 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


data.

data.

data.
posted by sien at 10:21 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


None of these countries borrowed in their own currency.
posted by carping demon at 10:58 PM on February 1, 2010


In many states, public school teachers have their own retirement system and do not pay into Social Security.

Let me guess: that's filed under "Environmental Protection."

And why are they spending so much money getting people interested in the 'Net? People already love the 'net! /kidding
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:57 AM on February 2, 2010


carping demon: There is a real question about how long the US will continue to be able to borrow in USD.

When the Chinese laugh when American officials talk about about a strong dollar the writing is on the wall. When the Chinese talk about Special Drawing Rights so they can borrow in currency that isn't dollars something is up.

The US is a truly great country but the polity is broken. Both political parties are dismal at balancing the budget. Even though as a percent of GDP the deficit is smaller than other countries the scale of the US changes things.

Proper, large scale large representative democracy with everyone voting is a fairly new thing in the world. Women and minorities got the vote fairly recently in historical terms even in the US. A worrying possibility is that in the long term politicians promising the populace that they can have their cake and eat it leads to bankruptcy.

Hopefully this is wrong, hopefully people and their representatives will realise that it is better to start living within your means sooner rather than later and by choice rather than penury.
posted by sien at 5:52 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why is the Department of Energy categorized under National Defense?

Because one of their largest programs is nuclear stockpile maintenence.

"Payment to CIA Retirement Fund" ($290 mil.) under National Defense?

Because they're defense workers.

Why is Health and Medicare two different sections?

Because Medicare is so large and special (it has its own taxes, trust fund).

Not everything is going to fit perfectly in one box.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:55 AM on February 2, 2010


....I am perfectly serious with this question: Where's the NEA funding on that map?

(Asking because a] I honestly couldn't find it, and b] I'm wondering if that's because "it's so miniscule it doesn't even show up", in which case I would gleefully print this out and brandish it when anyone complains about the NEA spending their money and crow "SUCK IT!")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 AM on February 2, 2010


What should the Grand Bargain look like?
The answer starts from the insight that the public policy world is full of “free lunches,” or changes in public policy that produce massive net gains for society. I will try to describe one such policy package:
  1. Raise about 7% of GDP through a VAT (and gas or carbon tax if you wish; those details aren’t important here.) Now you have an extra 2% of GDP to work with.
  2. Abolish the income tax. I seem to recall that the income tax raises about 8% or 9% of GDP. So to get the extra 5% percent of GDP you would need another tax to raise about 6% or 7& of GDP in other taxes.
  3. The other tax would also have to be very progressive, or else the Dems will never go along.
  4. Increase the payroll tax on upper-middle class and wealthy American enough to raise at least 6% of GDP. Currently the tax has a flat rate of about 15.3%, and then drops to about 2.5% somewhere over $100,000 a year. Under my plan those making over $100,000 would face a marginal payroll tax more in the 25% to 40% range, although I have no idea what the exact numbers would be. There would probably be a graduated system, with perhaps a 20% rate for those making between $60,000 and $100,000. The EITC might have to be increased a bit to offset the VAT, and ditto for low income Social Security recipients. The experts would tweak the rates so that the overall progressivity of the tax system (including the VAT) is roughly unchanged. I think that would be necessary to getting any deal.
  5. Then we need to follow Steve Forbes’ advice and abolish the income tax entirely. If we try to simply reform it (as in 1986) the bracket creep and loopholes will gradually return over time. If we abolished it entirely that would represent a pretty definitive repudiation of the whole idea. The Senate would likely filibuster any future attempt to reinstate it.
  6. That would be enough, as even liberal economists understand that a progressive consumption (or payroll) tax is better than an income tax (which double-taxes saving.) But it would still look unfair to the average person as the rich coupon clippers wouldn’t seem to be paying much tax at all (although they actually would be paying taxes indirectly). So you change the system so that taxation of capital is done at the source. Banks would withhold taxes on interest, bond issuers on bonds, corporations would withhold taxes on dividends before they are paid out. This means taxes on capital could not be progressive, but that’s not much of a problem as the poor receive very little capital income. Any distributional effects could be offset by tweaking the payroll and EITC rates. We could also allow corporations to expense new investment, which I believe would greatly reduce the problem of “double taxation of saving.” I’ll leave the complex issue of taxing capital to the experts.
What are the advantages of this deal?
  1. Republicans get rid of the hated income tax.
  2. Democrats get political cover to expand the federal government as a share of GDP through higher taxes.
  3. Neither side wins or losses through changes in progressivity.
  4. Most importantly, you get massive net efficiency gains over the more likely alternative.
And what is the more likely alternative? A mushy compromise. Government only grows by 3% of GDP, not 5%. The other 2% is cut through means-testing entitlements and other changes. The income tax stays in place, massively distorting health care, housing, and all sort of other sectors. In addition, using up valuable labor to deal with the complexity of the system. Also remember that means-testing is really just another implicit marginal tax rate, so no Republican that worries about high MTRs should go for a plan that slightly reduces the growth in explicit taxes, if the means-testing raises IMTRs. And means-testing means even more complexity, more forms to fill out.

By now you must think I am a John Lennon-type dreamer. Yes, but I’m not the only one...

Seriously, it is a long shot, but maybe a bit less far-fetched that it seems. There is currently near-total gridlock in government. Any deal at all would be extremely difficult to achieve. But at some point there simply must be some sort of deal.
Did Obama Change the Conversation? "You can't get people all worked up about the deficit, and then block every attempt to deal with it, especially when your party has been behind some of those proposals in the past. Or so you would think... It always worked before. But in listening to people talk about Obama's meeting with the Republicans, I am beginning to think that his appearance, and particularly his rebuttal, was more notable than people realize..."

Obama's Biggest Mistake? "I don't think Barack Obama is an ideologue, but rather a goo-goo (good government type), which is okay but places a special burden on him to explain everything he does..."

The argument Obama didn't win: "It's Medicare and Medicaid -- whose rate of spending is driven by the rest of the health-care system -- that break the budget."

March of the Peacocks: "our political system doesn’t seem capable of doing what’s necessary"
posted by kliuless at 8:18 AM on February 2, 2010


The blog over at the economist has more data on a number of countries debts.

It puts the US deficit in more context. The US has a mid-table ranking.

This is a problem for all governments. It used to be wars that bankrupted states, now welfare and democracy offer new opportunities. It's clearly avoidable with discipline and good politics and places like Norway and Australia (until recently) have shown great discipline.
posted by sien at 2:04 PM on February 2, 2010


sien: Real questions can be asked about all sorts of things. The "statement" (and I realize you did not make this direct statement) that the US will become unable to borrow in USD requires more than comfortable logic. In terms of the state of the world economy in 2010, what would lead to the US losing the ability to borrow in USD?

Chinese laughter is as it may be, like Chinese statistics. Talk about Special Drawing Rights is not unreasonable, but just talk. How would they do it? Who will propose it and who will back it? (Not who might.) The US is a market, not just a borrower.

As you say, the US polity is not performing in the way we were taught it would in grade school. Our democracy is indeed a new thing in civilization. It may not last. However, it is an enormously complex advance (or experiment) in governing all areas of society; all the more reason to avoid conceptualizing it at the individual household, "balanced budget" "have their cake and eat it, too" level.
posted by carping demon at 2:26 PM on February 2, 2010


In 2010 and for at least a few more years the US will almost certainly be able to continue to borrow in USD. Also, the US having to borrow not in USD isn't the end of the world, many countries do it. Given that it would also, at least initially be only for a part of the debt it isn't that bad.

Saying that the any government cannt borrow indefinitely is true. There are limits. It is worth looking at in terms of 'having cake and eating it too'. That's what unwise borrowing is.

History is replete with states that buckled due to too much debt. Traditionally this was monarchs spending on Empire. They also had a considerably smaller percent of GDP under their control.

The US, or some other developed economy going bankrupt isn't the end of the world but it would be a bad thing. Latin American countries did it through the C20 and went from being some of the richest places in the world to be in the middle. It's a real possibility that some developed countries will do this over the next 50 years.
posted by sien at 5:20 PM on February 9, 2010


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