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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 03/ 3/2011

Four pinocchios for the American public on the budget

By Glenn Kessler


"Poll: Americans confused by budget"
--Politico headline, March 2, 2011

The American public appears to be clamoring for a discussion about the size and scope of the federal government. But how can Washington have a serious debate when most Americans are ignorant of what is in the budget?

Yet another depressing survey was released this week that attests to the failure of most Americans to understand the basics of the federal budget -- and why there is a soaring budget deficit. Respected Republican pollsters Ed Goeas and Nicholas Thompson reported that 63 percent of those surveyed believe the federal government spends more on defense and foreign aid than it does on Medicare and Social Security. (That's wrong.)

A similar majority believes that problems with the federal budget can be fixed by just eliminating "waste, fraud and abuse" -- and that 42 percent of every federal dollar is wasted. "Voters do not casually agree with these untruths -- at least 40 percent strongly agree," the pollsters said.

This survey is broadly reflected by other polls, recently collected by analyst Bruce Bartlett. Among the gems he uncovered:

  • A Nov. 30 poll by WorldPublicOpinion.org found that, when people were asked what percentage of the federal budget goes to foreign aid, the average response was 27 percent. (The real number is about 1 percent.) The estimates were essentially the same for Democrats, Republicans and independents.
  • A Jan. 26 Gallup poll found 59 percent of people favor cuts to foreign aid, but a majority oppose cutting any other programs, including Social Security, Medicare and education.
  • A Jan. 12 Ipsos/Reuters poll found that 75 percent of people say foreign aid should be cut, but the only other programs that a majority of people favor cutting are the budgets of the Internal Revenue Service and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Facts

Take a good hard look at the chart above. Or go to this nifty interactive web page on washingtonpost.com, which allows you to see what has happened to the budget over the last three decades.

Notice that foreign aid is so small in the above chart that it doesn't even merit a mention. While it's about 1 percent of the overall budget, it amounts to less than 3 percent of the dollars allocated year after year by Congress, known as the discretionary budget. Perhaps some people lump together foreign aid with military spending, since a lot of military dollars go to wars overseas. Certainly the military is a big part of the budget -- about 25 percent -- but that is not foreign aid.

In fact, compared to other wealthy countries, the United States is an absolute miser on foreign aid. The best way to compare budgets is by looking at how much is spent as a percentage of the country's overall economy, or gross domestic product. This 2008 list shows the United States as last among 22 countries, with 0.19 percent of GDP. The United Nations has set a target contribution rate of 0.7 percent, and the average country contribution was 0.45 percent. Some countries come close to donating 1 percent of GDP in foreign aid.

Nevertheless, House Republicans have targeted foreign aid for major cuts this year, with lawmakers even eliminating all funding for the U.S. Institute of Peace, which helps resolve bloody conflicts overseas. (One analyst has noted that the USIP's entire annual budget is equal to the cost of deploying one infantry platoon -- that's about 30 to 40 people -- to Afghanistan for a year.)

To some extent, politicians are to blame for some of the public confusion. The debate in recent weeks has focused on cuts in the discretionary part of the budget -- which is only about one-third of the government's $3.7 trillion budget -- and the tiny sliver of spending on foreign aid was a big part of that debate. For his part, President Obama, in his 2012 budget, highlighted cuts to relatively minor programs and avoided making proposals for reining in the cost of the big-ticket spending programs.

Look again at the chart. Much of the budget -- more than 40 percent -- is spent on social insurance, such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The interactive graphic shows that spending in those programs have soared in the last 30 years (while foreign aid has essentially stayed flat). Projections show the spending in those programs will only increase, especially as more of the baby boom generation heads into retirement.

That's where the money is. Politicians should be honest about the real sacrifices that will be needed, by all Americans, to deal with the looming sacrifices necessary to bring down budget deficits. Cutting development aid in Africa really will not make much of a difference.

Interestingly, a recent study by the University of Maryland found that when people were actually given the facts about the budget, they could seriously understand and make choices about how to deal with the deficit.

In fact, the results upended some of the usual media stereotypes, with Democrats cutting spending more than Republicans -- and members of both parties agreeing to raise taxes. (Even after the survey, though, the respondents continued to have a misperception of foreign aid, with the median response being that it was about 15 percent of the budget and that it should be about 5 percent -- still much larger than the actual percentage).

The Pinocchio Test

No matter what rhetoric politicians use about the budget, people need to find out the facts in order to understand the costs, the trade-offs and the challenges ahead. Every year, when the president releases his budget, newspapers print pie charts showing how the money is spent. The budget is publicly available on the Web. There should be little excuse for not knowing the basic facts about how the U.S. government spends taxpayers' money.

Four Pinocchios

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By Glenn Kessler  | March 3, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  4 Pinocchios, Economy, issue context  
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Comments

Yes, the American public does not understand the budget or deficit, because they have been mislead about the fact by both political parties.


If theses career politicians of both parties in Congress would have put the interests of the American people before themselves and their special interests, we would not be in this economic mess.

Who kept taking money out of the Social Security trust fund??

Who keeps on giving tax exemptions to their friends that contribute large sums to their campaigns??
Democrats & Republicans are equally at fault.

Who gave subsidies to businesses that are taking jobs overseas?
Again both parties, including our current President.

Who gave subsidies to these oil companies?

Who rescinded The Glass-Steagall Act, and turned loose these financial institutions that took our economy down?
Thank you President Clinton and Congress.

Who gave themselves these special health care & retirement plans?

There are many more ..... too numerous to list them all.


Whatever happened to that government by the people for the people?
It seems to have vanished........

We now have a Cashrarocy, instead of a Democracy in this country.
The best government that the moneyed can buy!!

Posted by: bkarpus | March 3, 2011 6:36 AM | Report abuse

The fact checker is on the wrong track ...
"But how can Washington have a serious debate when most Americans are ignorant of what is in the budget?"

This is truly a disingenuous statement. The members of Congress and the Senate are e-l-e-c-t-e-d as the representatives of the people for the purpose of operating a government, which includes raising revenues from taxes, and allocating those revenues to necessary and proper purposes.

The real issue before us is 'do the peoples' representatives understand what is in the budget?' If they do, then they should be able to conduct reasonable debates in the House and Senate.

Posted by: Hazmat77 | March 3, 2011 7:17 AM | Report abuse

Our political system is not set up to address problems head on and solve them. It is designed to vilify the opposition and paint them as socialists or fascists using whatever tactics available to gain election. If our politicians were committed first to fixing government, then we would see completely different attitudes.

Conversely, and sadly, we the people don't elect pols that tell the truth and cause us pain. It is just too convenient to hear that our budget problems arise from waste and fraud. It takes a bona fide crisis for us to give up the services we like. We are not proactive. Unfortunately, we are heading toward a budget mega crisis that won't be truly fixed until we start falling off the cliff.

Posted by: gfoster56 | March 3, 2011 7:36 AM | Report abuse

The WaPo has a "fact checker"??? Isn't that a contradiction in terms? Oh wait, Tokyo Rose did a Fact Checker segment too.

Posted by: panola60 | March 3, 2011 7:42 AM | Report abuse

"Americans do not understand the budget"

"Politicians are Americans"

"Therefore, Politicians do not understand the budget"

ergo:

"No one understands the budget"

Posted by: nanonano1 | March 3, 2011 7:45 AM | Report abuse

The point is Americans do understand the concept of a checkbook.

What Congress purchases is a matter of political philosophy, not ignorance.

Americans understand they may not spend more than the amount in their checkbook and do not understand why Congress thinks they have no limits on spending.

Posted by: clandestinetomcat | March 3, 2011 7:48 AM | Report abuse

This is a ridiculous article.

It isn't the public's job to understand the budget.

We elected officials to do just that.


By the way, anyone else wondering why this just deals with percentages?

Well, it's because NO ONE understands these budgets as far as how they will truly affect us in the future. If it was cut-and-dry, there wouldn't be any confusion.

Posted by: pjclarkfour | March 3, 2011 7:49 AM | Report abuse

As someone who is directly affected by the budget votes this week, it has been unbelievable to me that neither the WaPo or any other media has been providing specific information on what exactly has been cut. Despite widespread bipartisan support and frequent media coverage of my employer, I never once read a description that called my employer "unnecessary or redundant", until this week, which is all the media could bother to toss out about these cuts.
As usual, it seems the gamesmanship is the only thing worth reporting, as well as the ever-so-strong opinions of the ideological.

Posted by: mcpuckett | March 3, 2011 7:54 AM | Report abuse

"But how can Washington have a serious debate when most Americans are ignorant of what is in the budget?"

Seriously? We'll do what we always do: adopt passionate positions on all sorts of things about which we know little or nothing and then refuse to listen to any subsequent data that may serve to discredit our preconcieved notions.

For example, once someone has decided that defense is the biggest spending item, it is next to impossible to convince them that that is not the case despite that FACT that isn't the case and it's simple matter of subtraction to prove it. It's doesn't matter because so many people (both left AND right) believe what they believe ONLY because they WANT to believe it.

You really should read the comments threads once in a while and you'll see that ignorance stops no one from having an opinion about anything. Ever.

Posted by: andrew23boyle | March 3, 2011 7:54 AM | Report abuse

Yikes - the American people will hardly be more informed after reading this article. Notice how the Post fudges downward big time on the defense budget. Pressure from all your advertisers maybe?

Posted by: prickles1009 | March 3, 2011 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Cut funding for all things related to liberalism

There, see....I understand.

Posted by: georgedixon1 | March 3, 2011 8:02 AM | Report abuse

Although a small proportion of human beings are capable of great intellectual feats, most human beings have no more intellectual ability to than the average sheep or cow. The most human beings have the math skills of sheep or cow.

Posted by: jjedif | March 3, 2011 8:04 AM | Report abuse

I understand it just fine: entitlements are nothing but a mass Ponzi scheme. End them all now. It is NOT the government's responsibility to be everyone's nanny. The government has roles clearly defined by the Constitution. Being your retirement sugar daddy is not one of them.

Posted by: jayramage | March 3, 2011 8:19 AM | Report abuse

We plebians may not understand the budget as well as the enlightened ruling class inside the Beltway, but we do understand that spending money you don't have is a recipe for disaster.

Posted by: Chippewa | March 3, 2011 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Quote.
"The real issue before us is 'do the peoples' representatives understand what is in the budget?' If they do, then they should be able to conduct reasonable debates in the House and Senate". End quote.

Look, Hazmat77 -- and all of you making similar points. If the electorate (people) has no effing clue about the reality of the government budget; as in where to money goes and where it does not, then the said electorate cannot make informed choices when they are at the polls electing the representatives who then are ought to deal with the budget in question.

Ergo, the ignorance of the people has lead the representatives to get away with the most outrageous comments/solutions and what not, when they run for the office -- and when in office, continue to make head-lines with the most misguided options as a solution to the problems.

The above fact attest to the sad reality that most republican voters have voted against their own interests by being misinformed about the reality of matters. The trend is getting worse by the year as the electorate is more and more illiterate and uneducated.

You, Hazmat77, belong to the said category by your comments, that are untrue and invalid. Please, educate yourself and learn to think. It will help you and your family greatly -- and the country at large in the end.

Posted by: JyriSulin | March 3, 2011 8:24 AM | Report abuse

"This is a ridiculous article.

It isn't the public's job to understand the budget."


Well, the public could at least make a small effort before it opens its willfully ignorant, self-righteous pie-hole. Show that you care about something except the sound and amplification level of your own melodious voice.

Don't you wish you understood enough to at least KNOW when you're being lied to?

I think that IS our job. And if we had DONE our job up until now, things in this country would be very very very different.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | March 3, 2011 8:25 AM | Report abuse

The general public runs on the normal loop of sound bites which are generated by our politicians and media. "Discretionary spending" can roughly be translated into "pork spending" which in turn is that part of the budget that politicians fight over every year. Hence the attention from the media, and the politician's willingness to fight to the death over this "small" part of the overall budget. However, if a politician is forced to give up his or her political candy within the discretionary spending, the broader implications can be far greater than the total sum of dollars saved either on that individual's pet project or the collective sum of savings from all such cuts. Once the sacred cow has been sacrificed, will it be easier or harder to move forward with th ediscussion on nondiscretionary budget cuts?

Posted by: rcb21 | March 3, 2011 8:28 AM | Report abuse

What's there to understand - the country's broke and we know it.

Posted by: prickles1009 | March 3, 2011 8:37 AM | Report abuse

This is not surprising nor is the information new. It's like how
Americans think that cutting back on earmarks will balance the budget. Most Americans don't know that the US accounts for about 40% of global arms spending and our military spending is over six times higher than China's military budget. Most first world nations spend the bulk of their budgets on their citizens via health care, education, and other social services. Imagine that, nations who don't mind spending their citizens'tax money on taking care of their citizens.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | March 3, 2011 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Where does war spending fit? Are special appropriations and the resulting debts covered in the budget accounting?

Posted by: VirtueTriumphs | March 3, 2011 8:40 AM | Report abuse

It's nice to see I can agree with Fact Checker's rating today.

Like some posts above say, a part of the reason we have representatives is so that we can trust them to deal with the important, detailed issues on our collective behalf. But still, knowing the basic parameters - the amount of spending, the size of the deficit, rough size of a few key programs, is a civic duty.

I think the column's emphasis on foreign aid is wrong, however. Some DoD spending IS foreign aid. The first Iraq era war supplemental, maybe in FY 2004, I recall was $87 billion. (It may have been reduced by Congress.) That $87 billion included Iraq AND Afghanistan, and warfighting costs as well as REBUILDING efforts. I don't know the breakdown, but the rebuilding projects from that supplemental alone could have been $25 billion, by itself about 1% of the budget.

And it really would be nice if accounting gimmicks weren't used by either party. A 'cut' outside of Washington means a reduced amount in absolute terms, not a reduction from a planned growth rate (which was often larded up to begin with). 'Trust funds' exist to make deficits look smaller. Related, the difference between on-budget accounting and total budgeting including off-budget amounts takes a lot of attention to achieve just a basic understanding.

Federal 'loan guarantees' are really just loans, except a banker (likely a gov't crony) collects the interest rate benefits instead of the taxpayer.

I would like to add that the most uninformed citizens are the most likely to be talked into voting by public campaigns to 'get out the vote!' Flooding the polling stations with uninformed voters can't be a good idea. So, can we stop using voter participation rates as a metric?

Posted by: angrydoug1 | March 3, 2011 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Yes but, Medicare and Social Security currently take in more than they cost through payroll taxes. Which means that they are not causing the budget deficit. Rolling SS and MC together but not including veterans benefits and homeland security in the defense number is disingenuous.

Posted by: RichieRichA | March 3, 2011 8:47 AM | Report abuse

I agree with the comments regarding the public's willful ignorance. People know so little about the US budget that they say silly things about not writing checks for what you don't have. They compare the nation's budget and budgetary functioning with with their household budgets. They make uninformed statements like, "I do know you can't spend more than you make." There is no understanding of the words investment or deficit. Politicians have worked to get people to compare a nation's budget to their household budget which is preposterous! The media is largely to blame too. They spend more time speculating on who will run for public office, what some irrelevant person is tweeting, or what some tv pundit or radio entertainer had to say, than what actually occurs in government. People know more about Sarah Palin's daughter's boyfriend than they do the Affordable Healthcare Act because that's what organizations like the WaPo feel is important. This article would have been better if it had focused on how the media has let the American public down by getting more news from Twitter than Capitol Hill.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | March 3, 2011 8:59 AM | Report abuse

Two points to make.

One is that people really have a division of opinion about the nature of spending. Some think all spending is equally bad. Others divide it into good and bad. I tend to believe that some spending creates jobs or has other benefits that justify it. Most Republicans would cut all spending.

But the other point is Social Security which has always paid its own way. It may change in the future. So far - not one dime of the National Debit is from Social Security. People try to lump it with Medicate so we see both as a problem. And the solutions to both may be the same. But so far we can fix Social Security with a few months added to retirement ages and a higher limit on wages to be taxed.

That is not a world ending change, just accounting.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | March 3, 2011 9:03 AM | Report abuse

@angrydough1

While I understand your point regarding some money of the DoD budget, supplemental or not, going to rebuilding efforts, I do take issue for it to be called 'foreign aid'.

Two reasons. 1) if a country invades another and takes it over, then it is quite natural to have some civil project costs attached to it, in order to win the war aims; and 2) most of the rebuilding projects in question were awarded to US companies, hence the money returned home, so to speak.

A general note. It is almost an oxymoron to call military spending as foreign aid. When aid is brought in at gun point, it is most likely not an optional choice for the folks receiving it.

There are naturally exceptions to this, e.g. a military assistance with natural disasters (Haiti), when there is not an invasion attached to the aid the recipients receive.

Posted by: JyriSulin | March 3, 2011 9:07 AM | Report abuse

Hey, look, Kessler finally got one right for a change.

The fact is that both parties attempt to benefit from the lack of voter knowledge of the U.S. budget, and the press tends to highlight the wrong items.

As far as foreign aid goes, however, a low percent of our budget still adds up to a lot of money.

I think we can still debate on the merit of spending on an organization called "The Institute of Peace".

Posted by: postfan1 | March 3, 2011 9:10 AM | Report abuse

americans are ignorant about everything save American Idol and Charlie Sheen. bunch of uninformed idiots that make their idiotic decisions that the rest of us have to live with. half of those who are interested are so weak minded they can be controlled by bumper sticker slogans, lies, and transparent propaganda. If you're not rich, you're doomed.

Posted by: red2million | March 3, 2011 9:29 AM | Report abuse

Quote. "I think we can still debate on the merit of spending on an organization called 'The Institute of Peace'". End quote.

postfan1 - I am still laughing at the comment.

As I am not very informed about the effectiveness (read: not having the slightest clue) of USIP, I cannot directly agree or disagree with you on that, but I guess it is simple math that we need here.

If the institute has managed to resolve just one conflict, without the need of military engagement -- even a small one, then I'd hazard to say that it has more than self-financed its value -- and raison d'etre, for decades to come. If not, then it might be quite a useless organization.

Again, I have no idea, but maybe someone has?

Posted by: JyriSulin | March 3, 2011 9:33 AM | Report abuse

"when most Americans are ignorant of what is in the budget?" Most Americans are just plain ignorant which is why politicians ignore them and lie to them every chance they get and it is what they deserve. I suspect these same people do not vote and are more on the narcissistic side of life.

I call it stuck on stupid.

Posted by: wkcc36 | March 3, 2011 9:47 AM | Report abuse

All one had to do to recognize that the American public as a whole is dumber than a box of rocks is to look at who they elected in 2010

Posted by: KENMAREINC | March 3, 2011 9:49 AM | Report abuse

And it's the idiots who can't find their own state on a map that elect the morons who feed teir ignorance by blaming the Fderal government for all that's wrong with the world. It's high time that we add college education to age and citizenship requirements for voting eligibility in this country.

Posted by: dem4life1 | March 3, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

This article presents a distorted view regarding Social Security spending. Please remember that Social Security is not a part of the general budget but that is has dedicated funds. I am sick and tired of the media lumping Social Security together with Medicare and Medicaid. How can the average citizen understand the budget when even the Fact Finder misrepresents the truth?

Posted by: marmac5 | March 3, 2011 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Out of the 40.7% for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, how much of that comes directly from what employers and employees put into those programs? I don't consider those contributions to be government spending.

Posted by: pstenigma | March 3, 2011 9:54 AM | Report abuse

@KENMAREINC
"All one had to do to recognize that the American public as a whole is dumber than a box of rocks is to look at who they elected in 2008."

FTFY

Posted by: capsfan77 | March 3, 2011 9:57 AM | Report abuse

The real issue before us is 'do the peoples' representatives understand what is in the budget?'

Posted by: Hazmat77
-----
The representatives understand that they have to stoop to the intelligence of the 'peoples' to get elected.

What's misleading about the chart is that social security and medicare should be separated from the chart altogether. They are separately funded sources (from employers and employees), and it's the lumping that has been the bane of much of the misleading discussions.

Posted by: shhhhh | March 3, 2011 10:08 AM | Report abuse

For all the experts who keep saying that Social Security and Medicare are funded from separate sources, that's like saying your saving for your health care and retirement based on your future lottery winnings.

Posted by: capsfan77 | March 3, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

The GOP is targeting only domestic discretionary spending - less than a fifth of the overall budget - and the cuts would barely dent the deficit.

This is not responsible by any definition.

Posted by: jayjordan | March 3, 2011 10:27 AM | Report abuse

I don't ever recall being exposed to even ballpark budget numbers in grades 1-12. The lack of effort put forth to educate children in how our government works is pathetic.

Having said that, The people who shoot their mouth off without having the slightest idea of what they're talking about have obviously made little effort to find out what they didn't learn in school. The Tea Party is packed with such people.

Posted by: st50taw | March 3, 2011 10:31 AM | Report abuse

All one had to do to recognize that the American public as a whole is dumber than a box of rocks is to look at who they elected in 2008!

Posted by: thejames1225 | March 3, 2011 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Let's be kind. The American voter is asked to make decisions about a lot of activities and realities beyond their immediate knowledge. In order to do this, they "elect" people who are supposed to know and be able to manage these things.

The basis for a successful candidate is the popular vote, basically a popularity contest to be won by the person who makes the people feel best about the candidate and themselves.

And we expect this person to manage.

Good luck with that.

Posted by: IGiveup1 | March 3, 2011 10:34 AM | Report abuse

The looney group in DC setting the budget do not read or understand what they are doing, so how can anyone else be expected to?

Obama actually read any bill he has signed?
Dream on.

Posted by: dottydo | March 3, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

"Out of the 40.7% for Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, how much of that comes directly from what employers and employees put into those programs? I don't consider those contributions to be government spending."

None of it!Employees and Employers pay out of pocket for these. Am I missing soemthing?

By the way, 1% of $3.7 trillion is quite a chunk of change! It makes a huge difference when the state and federal governments don't have enough funds to pay for necessary programs, that we are sending 1% of our money to support foreign countries, who by the way are hostile to us!

Posted by: hebe1 | March 3, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Isn't it interesting that the financial ponzi schemes of SS and Medicare that are breaking the back of our budget our the same time of ponzi scheme that put Madoff in prison. ALL ponzi schemes like this will eventually go off the cliff whether practiced by Madoff or the government.

Posted by: thejames1225 | March 3, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

there is plenty of blame to go around but the media should also be included. How many articles have the press printed on this topic? And how has Fox treated it?

Posted by: ianstuart | March 3, 2011 10:58 AM | Report abuse

The interesting point is that Americans need the Media to tell them they are IDIOTS! Besides telling them everything else about the country and economy and wars and insurance and politics and education and whatever.

But then, if one is an idiot would he/she be smart enough know he/she is an idiot?

I think the case closed on itself by itself!

Posted by: kishorgala | March 3, 2011 11:09 AM | Report abuse

The graphic says 16.4 percent is on "other" and 12.3 percent is on "domestic discretionary" which is another code word for "other." Ok, we have 28.7 percent of the taxpayer's money going towards bull. Let's chop that down to size, shall we?

Posted by: forgetthis | March 3, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Given that Americans are ignorant of how their government is supposed to be ran we can start by elimenating the Department of Education since it appears they serve no purpose. That would be a great start. Now let's move on to see if we can poll the legislators and our President and see just how much those morons don't know since they are the reason the budget is so screwed up (we really shouldn't call it a budget the Congress and President consider it their personal "spend plan", or "how I get re-elected to my cushy job" plan). Bottom line is that the entire mess has been caused by Representatives who have been in office for decades in many cases and by a President that isn't qualified to be a community organizer.

Posted by: staterighter | March 3, 2011 11:14 AM | Report abuse

This was a good article that helped put things in perspective.
***************
Something to think about is that Medicare and SS are paid for by payroll taxes, not income taxes.

Posted by: mddg7772 | March 3, 2011 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Bbbbbbbbbuuuuuttttttt.....Ignorance makes the arguments more exciting! Ignorance provides a better opportunity to heave crap at the others like the Pug Ugly Pugs!

By the way isn't all spending discretionary? Or all spending is by law?

Posted by: kishorgala | March 3, 2011 11:19 AM | Report abuse

americans are so stupid. they can't even figure out how to google a budget summary and read it by themselves. rather, they rely on the likes of pastor beck to "interpret" the world for them. and they are all up in arms about "facts" they know that are simply not true. that is why they find people like sister sarah and pastor hucksterbee so appealing. they are just like them. dumb and bitter.

Posted by: joeblow111 | March 3, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

The Washington Post chart above is worthy of several Pinnochios.

"Other" as a budget category? Exactly what is in that category? What is "Other?" That doesn't explain at all "how the government spends our money."

"Domestic discretionary spending?" Another meaningless category title. Does this include the U.S. prison system? Border inspection? Are those programs really "discretionary?"

The chart is a prime example of "statisculating," or, using numbers and charts to seem to be saying something, but not saying very much at all.

The real purpose of the chart was to 'prove' that spending on foreign aid and TARP are so small in comparison as to be trifling.

Of course, the relative size of a program has no bearing on its usefulness.

Your chart is actually a clever, and illogical argument -- not a plain, fair and truthful statement of fact.

Posted by: 1EgoNemo | March 3, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Huge chunk of the US foreign aid goes to 3 countries: Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. You get the drift, right? - No?

Let me spell it for you. The richest country in the world is, already, quite poorly giving to the needy ones in the rest of the world at large, in comparison to other well-a-do-nations. To rub it in, the US 'gives' the aid as an extension of its military policies. Almost as a DoD supplemental of sorts.

Cut the aid all you want, but until the Wall Street is fixed and taxation made to reflect reality, the problems will persist.

Posted by: JyriSulin | March 3, 2011 11:25 AM | Report abuse

"staterights", dude, what is up with your riff on cutting the department of education?

"Given that Americans are ignorant of how their government is supposed to be ran (sic) we can start by elimenating (sic) the Department of Education since (sic) it (sic) appears they (sic) serve no purpose."

seriously, brother? i thought this was an attempt at sarcasm, but realized by reading the rest of your ranting that you are borderline literate. we need more money for the department of education, my man, so that people like you can cop a better education. lmao

Posted by: joeblow111 | March 3, 2011 11:27 AM | Report abuse

What a lame article....the budget along with the bills enacted by congress/senate are so arcane by design...so that lawyers can make hay......

All should be limited to 25 pages with no lobbyists and no earmarks and no BS such as hiding the dod and security costs everywhere.....

The time has come to reduce government at ALL LEVELS- jetisoning ineffective policies and cancelling programs as well as departments and agencies, reducing pay from the top down and getting rid of every other desk sitter and reducing benefits and slashing pensions....especially dod and security and intel all these should be cut in half, bring our troops home and close nearly all foreign bases and cancel all weapons development.....

If congress and senate and all politicians and department heads and execs don't take action they risk the people of America taking to the streets....do what is right FOR WE THE PEOPLE and as well RESTORE THE LAND OF THE FREE......

Posted by: ticked | March 3, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

This is a ridiculous article.

It isn't the public's job to understand the budget.

---

Wrong. The basics of the budget are not that complicated, and every citizen has a responsibility to understand these. Falling back on arguments that this is solely the job for our representatives is just a little lame and irresponsible because it leaves us as their whim.

Bumps on a log are a dime a dozen. Don't be one.

Posted by: JamesSCameron | March 3, 2011 11:33 AM | Report abuse

This is a ridiculous article.

It isn't the public's job to understand the budget.

---

Wrong. The basics of the budget are not that complicated, and every citizen has a responsibility to understand these. Falling back on arguments that this is solely the job for our representatives is just a little lame and irresponsible because it leaves us as at their whim.

Bumps on a log are a dime a dozen. Don't be one.

Posted by: JamesSCameron | March 3, 2011 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Your chart is actually a clever, and illogical argument -- not a plain, fair and truthful statement of fact.

Posted by: 1EgoNemo | March 3, 2011 11:25 AM
=========================================
Then how about a pie chart representing one line item -

100% - Approved by the Congress and Signed by the President

Posted by: kishorgala | March 3, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

RE: "This is a ridiculous article.

It isn't the public's job to understand the budget."
--------------------------
On the face of it, this is a dangerous view. How do you make an informed voting decision if you are willfully ignoring one of the basics of our government?

Posted by: MidwaySailor76 | March 3, 2011 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Any suggestions for addressing this sort of questions in another forum that is moderated to eliminate all the flame-fests and silliness?

Posted by: VirtueTriumphs | March 3, 2011 11:38 AM | Report abuse

Another idiocy of the Americans......

They are the ones who select/elect/send the politicians to DC to do things for them and then blame the politicians for not knowing what they are doing!

So what is your defense for selecting the politicians in the first place?

Posted by: kishorgala | March 3, 2011 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Americans bought into this anti-Obama - "he is a Socialist garbage" Now they understand we are all Socialists who want and need social security, home mortgage deductions, medicare, medicaid, Va benefits for wars over decades ago and student loans, and on and on. Now, when its time to cut, cut nobody wants it and frankly don't care if they are sucking at the socialists trough. These anti-Obama "Lemmings" were sold a bill of goods and now they see a little so-called government goodies are not so bad. The radio demagogues and FOX News have really lead these lemmings to the edge of a cliff..LOL.

Posted by: october30 | March 3, 2011 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Well, the public in general, and Teabbagers and Republicans in particular, confirm the old saying: "never underestimate the stupidity of the American people."

Posted by: analyst72 | March 3, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I'm an American citizen and I object to being called ignorant. See, I actually vote. And I voted for representatives who told me I could have it all and have my taxes reduced at the same time. How could I be responsible for this mess?

If the job of the newspaper is to inform, and we agree that the budget is important, then maybe the WaPo should have a graphic at the TOP of it's home page showing the slice of the budgetary pie that's being debated that day. And run it EVERY GD DAY until people realized almost no one in DC is being realistic.

Kessler, you have the best column in the WaPo. Please keep it up.

Posted by: mus81 | March 3, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

True, I don't understand the budget. However there are a few things I do understand. Medicaid fraud is estimated at 37 billion a year. Social security fraud runs in the billions. Billions are unaccounted for in Iraq and Afghanistan. Billions are lost in welfare fraud. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae costs/loses billions. We spend many billions for the war in Afghanistan, a war we refuse to (or can't)win. It took 5 years to defeat Germany and Japan in WW11. We can't beat less than 50,000 eneemy in Afgahnistan in 9 years? Illegal immigration costs billions a year in education, health, law enforcement etc. A family of 4 (2 of which are in elementary school) making minimum wage do not pay enough taxes(if any at all) to even pay for the cost of educating their children. Do the math.
My realization of government is that they refuse to enforce immigration laws, poorly monitor programs to cut out fraud, refuse to recognize the problems with Iraq/ Afghanistan, makes it too easy for a "healthy" worker to get welfare etc.
Government causes the loss of many, many billions of dollars. Of course cuts need to be made. However the cuts would be much less if Government did it's job properly.

Posted by: baz987 | March 3, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

This is the kind of ignorance you end up with when the big news is Charlie Sheen's latest meltdown.

Posted by: MidwaySailor76 | March 3, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

I'm an American citizen and I object to being called ignorant. See, I actually vote. And I voted for representatives who told me I could have it all and have my taxes reduced at the same time. How could I be responsible for this mess?

--

If you believed this, I can think of several reasons.

Posted by: JamesSCameron | March 3, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Angry: Yes. Ignorant: Not nearly as much as the commentator would like for the readers to think....especially in regards to Tea Party supporters who have been educating themselves about the budget process and the national debt problem.

The national debt is a massive timebomb that needs to be dealt with....and it is principally a spending problem, not a revenue problem.

Posted by: honorswar26 | March 3, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

baz987,

We are blowing up babies in Afghanistan on a routine basis, but looks like you not quite satisfied and want to drop the Big One on them! Because you want to "win" something?

May be the Americans are many other things besides being ignorant.

Posted by: kishorgala | March 3, 2011 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Americans are confused about much of the non-discretionary spending (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) and that any decreases to cut the deficit would affect future recepients - and not Granny, who can still blow her check in Vegas.

Posted by: CubsFan | March 3, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

PLEASE stop burying the true cost of military spending by including SS. SS is a seperate payroll tax.

Posted by: Trout1 | March 3, 2011 12:14 PM | Report abuse

To the posters writing about Social security as a ponzi scheme please read this from Saul Friedman:
the most recent report of the program’s trustees said that even if no action is taken to shore up the long-term finances of Social Security, it won’t go into the red until 2037.

But if it does (and it won’t), the trustees figure its payroll tax income will enable it to pay 75 percent of benefits until 2084. Moreover, as Alan Greenspan and the trustees have said, it won’t take much adjustment – perhaps a two percent increase in taxes or eliminating the $106,800 salary cap on payroll taxes - to keep it in the black until the end of the century.

One big reason: It holds in reserve more than $2.6 trillion in Treasury Notes which pay nearly $1 billion in interest to Social Security each year.

And that, of course, is the largest difference between Social Security and the schemes made famous by Charles Ponzi and, more recently, Bernard Madoff: There were no such invested funds earning money for either of them. Indeed, they made no investments.

But more important, Social Security is not and was never meant to be an “investment program.” It is, rather, a mandatory pension insurance program, financed by mandatory payroll taxes equally contributed by workers and employers. And, as the financial service Motley Fool reported last year, “that helps shore up its foundation far more firmly than a typical Ponzi scheme.”

Charles Ponzi was a Boston investment broker who became infamous in early 1920, when he sold foreign postal coupons promising, and even paying, returns of 50 percent or more. What he did, as we shall see, was to use one victim’s money to pay off another. Madoff did the same, promising 12 percent returns when the market was struggling and losing value.

Mitchell Zuckoff, the author of a book on Ponzi schemes, wrote for CNNMoney in the wake of the Madoff affair that comparisons of such cons with Social Security are hard to knock down but “since I for one consider real Ponzi schemes too important...it’s worth rebutting the myth.”

Put simply, he writes,

“[A] Ponzi scheme is a fraud in which money from one group of people is used to pay promised returns to another group of people. The money isn’t invested; it’s just transferred and at some point the scheme collapses because there’s not enough income to satisfy the withdrawals...

“In the case of Social Security, no one is being misled...Social Security is exactly what it claims to be: A mandatory transfer payment system under which current workers are taxed (6.2 percent each from employee and employer) on their income (up to $106,800) to pay benefits with no promises of huge returns.”
Indeed, the genius of the Social Security system’s design, as its web site says,

“For an average worker, Social Security replaces about 40% of annual pre-retirement earnings.”
That’s not much for an affluent worker, but for a low-income worker it’s enough to keep them out of poverty."

Posted by: possumlady1 | March 3, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

Angry: Yes. Ignorant: Not nearly as much as the commentator would like for the readers to think....especially in regards to Tea Party supporters who have been educating themselves about the budget process and the national debt problem...."

Posted by: honorswar26 | March 3, 2011 12:00 PM
==========================================
Yup. They (Tea Party) just recently figured out $4 billion (one-tenth of a penny on a dollar) of unnecessary spending that the President has already targeted!

And as you say, their equation has only one side, spending. Revenue does not enter the calculus. Because they gave away almost $1 trillion dollars to the wealthy people!

Real Educated Bunch, these Tea Partiers.

Posted by: kishorgala | March 3, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

How much of the "insurance" chunk goes to Social Security. I hope not much, since it's supposed to be operating at a SURPLUS, not a deficit. I.e., those contributing to it should exceed payments out of it, right?

I know that law requires that all SSA surpluses be "loaned" to the government, but unless we've reached the point where payments out are now exceeding contributions in, there should be no increase in the budget on account of the Social Security program.

BTW, I've heard from multiple sources over the years that there's no social security trust fund. Because of the aforementioned law, there is no stash of unused FICA contributions anywhere. In fact, the Fed gov't gets the "extra" and spends it, giving back to the SSA in return only (worthless) IOU's.

Could someone clarify?

Posted by: johnwp | March 3, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Let me first say that I'm a know nothing American. I listen to people like Senator Conrad talk on a morning show yesterday about how broke we are, and how "entitlement" programs are going to have to be cut by means of raising the age of recipients, by means testing, or by simply cutting the size of the check. Never does he raise the possibility of raising the limit of money subject to social security tax. Most of his time on the program was spent telling how we were broke, and have been for quite some time.
Then he was asked about Libya. He suddenly remarked about how we should supply the regime opponents with arms. Rifles, tanks, hand held surface to air missiles, bombers? Where does it end? Didn't we do this before with those same weapons turned on us? And in the name of what? Democracy abroad? American defense? Where is the money coming from? And this after having spent his time telling the American public that we were broke? How can he, a member of the Debt commission, a member of the senate budget committee be taken seriously? Maybe he needs to regard the deficit in social programs to be tantamount to a national threat, or a war? Suddenly, he could come up with the money.

Posted by: mcdermottmike1 | March 3, 2011 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Over a large number of years, the public has been told that certain programs are self sustaining (Social Security, Medicare, perhaps transportation). It was convinced that specific taxes were associated with specific governmental functions. That association was what permitted the bills creating these functions to be passed and the politicians elected and re-elected.

Then we started having huge expenditures (like Vietnam, Iraq, etc) that were so large that if paid for from general funds (income taxes) those sanctioning those wars would have been booted out of office at the next election.

To avoid this little problem, Lyndon Johnson had Social Security blended with the general budget. Now the social security trust fund could be used to support military action.

That is largely why we are where we are. Each of the non-income tax based programs should be kept separate. If more monies are needed for them, FICA, the Medicare payroll tax, the gasoline tax should be appropriately adjusted relative to the program supported. We need to go back to doing this.

An additional insult in all of this is that the taxes used to support these programs are highly regressive. Using those funds for items normally supported by the income tax lets the wealthy get off to easily.

Let's get back to matching taxes to programs. If a program tax needs to be raised or lowered, let's do it.

The elephant in the living room is that our pols realize that if Social Security starts dipping into the Social Security Trust Fund, income taxes will have to be raised to redeem the bonds. That's why the fuss about Social Security is so intense.

Posted by: billsecure | March 3, 2011 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I think 4 Pinocchios is unfair. It's not like we're lying. We're just stupid.

Posted by: jonawebb | March 3, 2011 12:21 PM | Report abuse

CONVENIENT

That Glenn's bias for HIGHER taxes BEFORE cutting waste got pushed.

What a coincidence! Stop the presses! Hold Page 1!

Next: OweBama and Eric Holder deny stories that they promoted the NAACP agenda.

Posted by: BHO_1_TERM | March 3, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

WOW. Americans dont understand something extremely complex? Lump in evolution along with that. Most Americans want simple, easy, and convenient. Details, paying attention is WAY TO BOORRRRING. They tune out, and rely on others to do it for them. Then they get mad when the "wool was lifted"? This dissonance is sad. Perhaps boomers, uneducated folks, and other angrys should have paid more attention to what the US Govt was doing, rather than singular focused tasks of self-gratification, ie the 1980s.

Posted by: sherlockjt | March 3, 2011 12:27 PM | Report abuse

Most people don't even understand their state budget. The number of people who don't even realize that their state receives more from the federal government than the state actually pays in federal taxes is amazing.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | March 3, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like the headline should read: "Four pinnochhios for the American media."

Where do you think Americans get their information? You don't have to simply say "The Democrats said this. The Republicans said that." You could say "The Democrats claimed this, which in fact is a lie, since the reality is that. The Republicans claimed this other thing, which in fact is also a lie, since the reality is that other thing."

I mean, most articles that mention the Republican "We're broke" line do not mention that the Republicans worked to get massive tax cuts aimed only at the richest 1% last year.

That's a complete failure by the media, only explainable by the fact that the owners of the media benefit from the tax cut, just like the Democratic congressman, the President, and their donors, which entirely explains why they "compromised" when they held all the cards in the veto pen. Obama and the Democrats wanted those tax cuts for the rich all along because the money is going to them. They do not care about the bottom 90% of the country. Period. Both parties only care about themeselves and their donors, the richest 10%, maybe 1%. It's corrpution to the core.

The media, of course, does not mention this because their owners are also benefitting from these same policies that always benefit the rich, no matter which part is in power.

Posted by: cassander | March 3, 2011 12:35 PM | Report abuse

sherlockjt, I think you hit the nail on the head.

Posted by: 12345leavemealone | March 3, 2011 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Its that .3% TARP and the big mean corporations that are the real boogymen, people don't want to think that memaw and pep pep are slowly killing our country by continuing to live and draw social security...

Posted by: ozpunk | March 3, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

honorswar26 wrote:
"
Angry: Yes. Ignorant: Not nearly as much as the commentator would like for the readers to think....especially in regards to Tea Party supporters who have been educating themselves about the budget process and the national debt problem.

The national debt is a massive timebomb that needs to be dealt with....and it is principally a spending problem, not a revenue problem.
___________________________
The ending of your second paragraph reveals what is fundamentally wrong with TP approach: our deficit is BOTH a spending and a revenue program. Virtually every economist, including those from the right, agrees on this. Oh, I suppose that such a statement qualifies me as some kind of raving leftist. Wrong. Just restore taxation levels to what they were under REAGAN, for God's sake. Was he a raving leftist?

I have no oobjection to looking for spending cuts. I agree they too are necessary (and will be painful), but the TPers miss the boat because they simply refuse to allow any discussion of tax increases (I'll let others speculate as to why . . .). Their rigid ideology prevents them from understanding that the severity of the spending cuts that would eliminate the budget deficit ALL BY THEMSELVES would create pervasive hardships leading to social unrest on a scale unprecedented for over a century.

If you're angry at the leftists who refuse to curb spending, I'm with you: they're refusing to see the big picture, too. But rational people are angry at such measures as the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy because they don't create jobs, they just explode the deficit. And insisting that they're good for the country and somehow make the economy better is, well, ignorant.

Posted by: post_reader_in_wv | March 3, 2011 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Wonder if we could fact-check this: for every one voter of political races ... there are 3.5 voters for American Idol.

Any takers?

Posted by: vmidurk | March 3, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

So, based on the above chart, it looks like the most substantive cuts to spending have to come from Medicare, Social Security, and the military. Cutting military spending by even 20% (very unlikely to happen) only amounts to $177 billion or a 10% reduction in the deficit. Cutting HHS spending by 10% (also unlikely) is a cut of about 9% of the deficit. So how do you make up for the other $1.3 trillion of the deficit when all other spending combined only adds up to $1.3 trillion?...we're so screwed.

Posted by: pswift00 | March 3, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Like others, I agree fully with the number of pinocchios, but not at all with the target.

It's true that the budget numbers are available to the public in general; however, most people rationally decide that paying that close attention to the details isn't worth their time, especially when they assume they can get the Cliff Notes version from press coverage. It makes sense for people who aren't economic experts to rely upon professionals (who they assume are more knowledgeable) to convey pertinent information.

The problem is that televised press coverage of economic news, like televised press coverage of scientific news, tends to blow. It blows chunks. There's screaming about earmarks, shallow coverage of politicians' commentary on the deficit and debt, unquestioning faith in the idea that the military budget is sacrosanct, etc.

Print journalism sometimes gets it right, online widgets like what the Post has simplify things in a good way, but then there's still the rest of the mainstream media to deal with. Even when they get it right, they tend to prioritize things weirdly. Any person who gets their news mostly from cable or even the nightly news is going to have a skewed perception of what the budget truly looks like.

Posted by: dkp01 | March 3, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I am stunned that some ignorant people say "we elect people to understand the budget".

People.

The Budget is about our priorities as a nation. If have no idea how we spend money, how can you make a decision to:

1) Cut Spending
2) Cut Taxes
3) Do nothing

But I blame every president. If the president went on TV and presented some charts, and the opposition party talked about the budget and how its divided, people would get it.

So if you're a conservative and you're having a polite discussion with a liberal about priorities for government, how can you do that without any idea of what's spent now, and what is proposed to be spent?

I suspect the reason people get into huge credit card debt is because they only look at the monthly payment. Well, the same thing is happening here, only on a global scale.

For shame to those who say "who cares". You are the problem.

Posted by: Skeptic1 | March 3, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

This posting itself deserves three or four Pinnocchios. It uses the U.S. Government total aid (non-military) as a percentage of GNP to argue that the U.S. under pays its obligations.

However it does not mention that the U.S. Government leads the world in foreign aid contributions in absolute terms. By eliminatinr military aid, it also ignores many contributions that go beyond weapons or force assistance. Nor does it consider other American non-profits and NGOs that have private (personal and corporate) donations.

Nor does it consider the effectiveness of foreign aid, the value of cutting aid to dictatorships or even NGOs that do not meet American objectives.

The U.S. (including American citizens) provides a very large web / footprint of aid to the world. I suggest going back, researching and then providing us with the real numbers.

Posted by: krush01 | March 3, 2011 12:53 PM | Report abuse

LET'S FACE IT. IF WE BELIEVE IN DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT THEN FOLLOW THE OPINION POLLS TO PREDICT WHERE WE'RE HEADED. FOR WHOSOEVER DARES DEFY THE MAJORITY WILL HAVE POWER AND INFLUENCE TAKEN AWAY AS FRIVOLOUSLY AS IT WAS GIVEN. IF WE BELIEVE IN A JUDGEMENT DAY WHEN WE MUST PAY THE CONSEQUENCES FOR THINGS DONE AND LEFT UNDONE, THEN BE PREPARED FOR A REACTION AGAINST MAJORITY RULE. DOWN AND OUT WILL GO THE BABY WITH THE WATER.
.

Posted by: eliseom | March 3, 2011 1:00 PM | Report abuse

American's don't understand that Wars (military spending) was/is considered as "discretionary" spending, which means that revenues (tax increses) for war's are not included in the "mandatory" budget with SS, Medicare, Medicaid spending.

SS, Medicare, and Medicaid spending are on on-going thing and have been for decades. They have been and are always including in the annual Federal budgets for years.

Anyone can create a graph, such as the one associated with this article to display Federal mandatory spending; however, the graph above is missing one big piece of the puzzle and that is, how the deficit come to be 14 Trillion, as opposed to the 3.7 Trillion shown above in the graph?

What is missing from the graph above is the cost for WAR's and the Deficit that it has created in the Federal Budget.

Unfortunately, the George Bush administration never included the cost of both war's in either type of budget. They hid it away from the American people. They also cut taxes across the board 3 times from the mandatory spending budget and borrowed money from China, the Saudis, et al to support the cost of the war efforts in Afganistan and Iraq with borrowed money that has to be paid back. This is the reason for the 14 Trillion dollar deficit and counting.


I believe by the time the military was at the height of the Iraqi insurgency, George Bush and company realized that the Iraqi war was going to be more costlier than they anticipated and they never told the American people.

George Bush and his administration had no choice but to complete the so-called mission, regardless of its cost and detriment to the country and the American people.

So, why don't we start being truthful, honest, and frank with the American people and present to them the total cost in the War efforts from 2001 until now.

Then, why don't you start doing a better job at tryig to educate the American people about the real costs of "mandatory" spending for SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and how Tax-Cuts for the RICH and across the board have negatively impacting all three, as well as revenues that could have been coming in for discretionary (WAR) spending.

Posted by: lcarter0311 | March 3, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Then, why don't you start doing a better job at tryig to educate the American people about the real costs of "mandatory" spending for SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and how Tax-Cuts for the RICH and across the board have negatively impacting all three, as well as revenues that could have been coming in for discretionary (WAR) spending.

Posted by: lcarter0311
------------------------------------------
Again attacking "tax cuts for the rich" ...

If I had to choose between keeping my money and deciding the best way to spend/save it or give my money to the government and let them decide the best way to spend my money ... I would definitely choose keeping my money.

We're all human and prone to making mistakes, but the second we believe government knows better than us, is the second we lose our independence and our brains... and become Democrats.

Obviously this article is focused on spending, but you had to add the one sliver of society that pays the most in taxes already and want to suck more from them.

Posted by: vmidurk | March 3, 2011 1:07 PM | Report abuse

One of the biggest lies about the deficits and debt is that Medicare and Social Security are two of the major causes. They will be HUGE problems in the future but as of this date both programs have collected more in taxes than have been spent ON THOSE PROGRAMS! Both supposedly have surpluses in the TRUST FUNDS. The worker (wage earner and only wage earners) have been taxed in excess of expenditures since 1983 when Reagan and the Democratic congress raised taxes on wages to MAKE BOTH PROGRAMS VIABLE FOR THE FUTURE. What it really did was decrease the actual deficits and the surpluses were spent.

Posted by: jslivesay | March 3, 2011 1:08 PM | Report abuse

hmmm. ok. I just stopped by my bank today and we worked together to balance my checkbook. there were a couple of things they did not care about:

1. What I was spending my money on.

2. How I had set-up my budget

What they were really interested in is this:

I had managed to overdraft my account by 40% every year! That is to say -- for every dollar i spent i had only 60 cents in my account.

They were very displeased and decided that I could no longer have my savings account for retirement, I could no longer have my car, and I could no longer have my home or all its furnishings.

options for me -- make more money and spend less.

hmmm. options. ok raise retirement age increase my co-pay for health care -- check i am ok with that.

and -- i intend to cut my spending by 40% -- hmmm. not that tricky. First thing I will do is get rid of my education program it did not do a thing for me. I instead started studying and reading -- that seems to work much better.

i eliminated my personal energy program -- I was paying out thousands to people who never saved me a plum nickel on my gas or electrric bill.

next I cut all my administrative overhead by 25%

after i did these things the bank said in a few years i may be able to borrow some money from them again.

btw -- they did not care one damn about the fact that i was helping a boatload of people out -- they just said: Where is the money?

OK NOW I GOT IT!

Posted by: fngVP | March 3, 2011 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Only Americans imagine ignorance to be a virtue.

Posted by: lonquest | March 3, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

@krush01

The fact that US foreign aid is 'biggest' in total terms does not chance the fact that in real terms it isn't. Practically all European nations have their foreign aid budgets at least twice that of US, some more than 4 times that of the US.

If we would count the difference between the US and EU budgets on foreign aid (similar sized economies), it would not look good for the good ol' USA.

Add to the misery the fact that US aid is merely a supplement of the DoD's aims, as I pointed out earlier, and the picture gets even more crazy and twisted as far as 'aid' goes.

It really is imperative that the people in the US starts to educate themselves with facts based on the realm of reality and not in the realm of creationism of fantasy. The poor country is messed up enough as it is.

Posted by: JyriSulin | March 3, 2011 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Then, why don't you start doing a better job at tryig to educate the American people about the real costs of "mandatory" spending for SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and how Tax-Cuts for the RICH and across the board have negatively impacting all three, as well as revenues that could have been coming in for discretionary (WAR) spending.

Posted by: lcarter0311
------------------------------------------
Again attacking "tax cuts for the rich" ...

If I had to choose between keeping my money and deciding the best way to spend/save it or give my money to the government and let them decide the best way to spend my money ... I would definitely choose keeping my money.

We're all human and prone to making mistakes, but the second we believe government knows better than us, is the second we lose our independence and our brains... and become Democrats.

Obviously this article is focused on spending, but you had to add the one sliver of society that pays the most in taxes already and want to suck more from them.

Posted by: vmidurk |

~~~

Being upfront and honest about Tax-Cuts is NOT attacking the RICH, Rush Limbaugh Gooberhead.

It's about educating the American people and just because you don't want them to be educated.

Well... let me just say that's your damn problem, Gooberhead.

Posted by: lcarter0311 | March 3, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

while its great to see where we spend tax dollars. and we can also tell that it seems like every time one party gets in charge or motivated to cut, its always those programs they don't like. and its always less than 10% of the budget being addressed. that said i wonder if any body has bothered to look at funding vs spending, and the source of funding vs spending. ex. social security has its own tax. so showing its spending in the regular budget is disingenuous since cutting its spending will not help the budget any since its funding is restricted to only fund it, and can't be used for other things. though we have seen lots of borrowing (because it bought treasuries etc) to fund other things. but then those are the most secure investments possible. as we have learned, the others are barely worth being called assets

Posted by: willid3 | March 3, 2011 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Then, why don't you start doing a better job at tryig to educate the American people about the real costs of "mandatory" spending for SS, Medicare, Medicaid, and how Tax-Cuts for the RICH and across the board have negatively impacting all three, as well as revenues that could have been coming in for discretionary (WAR) spending.

Posted by: lcarter0311
------------------------------------------
Again attacking "tax cuts for the rich" ...

If I had to choose between keeping my money and deciding the best way to spend/save it or give my money to the government and let them decide the best way to spend my money ... I would definitely choose keeping my money.

We're all human and prone to making mistakes, but the second we believe government knows better than us, is the second we lose our independence and our brains... and become Democrats.

Obviously this article is focused on spending, but you had to add the one sliver of society that pays the most in taxes already and want to suck more from them.

Posted by: vmidurk |

~~~

Being upfront and honest about Tax-Cuts is NOT attacking the RICH, Rush Limbaugh Gooberhead.

It's about educating the American people and just because you don't want them to be educated.

Well... let me just say that's your damn problem, Gooberhead.

Posted by: lcarter0311
--------------------------------------

Gooberhead ... hahaha, nice one!

You mentioned tax cuts for the RICH (your capitalization) ... so how is that not an attack? The so-called "rich" maintained the same Bush tax rate as before ... just as every other tax bracket. Everyone's tax rates stayed the same ... so they did not get preferential treatment.

If you're against tax-breaks in general ... then let's just let tax rates go up across the board ... AND mandate that those 50% of U.S. Households that paid $0 in taxes last year now are subject to a minimum tax of 10%.

The so-called "rich" already pay the highest income taxes, and if they are wealthy enough to invest, they are double taxed on capital gains and dividends. They use their after-tax savings to buy a stock, and are taxed again on any earnings that after-tax asset creates.

There's a little education for you.

In public finance, never forget the givers and takers. The so-called "rich" are the biggest givers (not by choice) whereas 50% of the country only takes from the public purse.

Posted by: vmidurk | March 3, 2011 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I keep hearing that many military expenses, starting with Mr. Bush, were not included in the budget. If those are included, what % is the military then?

Posted by: OftenPuzzled | March 3, 2011 2:04 PM | Report abuse

"Cut funding for all things related to liberalism

There, see....I understand."
Posted by: georgedixon1 | March 3, 2011 8:02 AM

Go, George!

Posted by: tely | March 3, 2011 2:19 PM | Report abuse

And even this graph is misleading. Let's take out Social Security, which is paid for by individuals and was meant as a trust fund, not a piggy bank. Now let's take out the portion of Medicare that is taken out of paychecks FOR medicare. How much then is spent on "entitlements"? Now lets look at the military. Is there a military tax that is set aside from each paycheck? No, we ALL pay for that and it is bloated and wasteful and prone to cronyism. Cut the military budget by 20% and they would barely feel it.

Posted by: wd1214 | March 3, 2011 2:28 PM | Report abuse

On the bar chart above, what's "other?" It's a pretty big chunk - $606 billion.

On the "nifty interactive web page," medicare and health are listed as two separate categories, both huge. Is "health" medicaid?

One of the hazards of "charts for dummies" is that the information becomes so watered-down and generalized, it's useless for any accurate understanding.

Like the old Clinton-Gore "plan," where slogans on the order of "Making America Competitive" were listed as budget line-items. Huh?

I voted for Clinton (I even paid money for the stupid book), but stuff like that was a joke (and still makes me angry). Doesn't make me a Republican--but I don't like being spoken to as if I were a kindergartner, by anyone.

So if we're going to break down the budget "for dummies," can we lose the vague, condescending generalizations and convey some information that's actually useful?

What's covered in "other," for example? I think $600B in spending deserves more than a "miscellaneous" category, as if it were petty cash.

Posted by: notewrangler | March 3, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

2010 Budget numbers from the Treasury Dept ... http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/tg911.aspx

Anyone know where more detailed data can be found?

Posted by: vmidurk | March 3, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

notewrangler,

The WaPo tools are not official Federal Government tools. For you, there are several thousand pages of the budget published by OMB to read.

Then provide a summary here.

Posted by: kishorgala | March 3, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: wd1214 | March 3, 2011 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Maybe not. But we do understand enough about the budget to know that $5,400 a month for a two bed room apartment is waaaay over the top. We also know that mindless spending like this is why it cost so much to run our government.

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | March 3, 2011 3:20 PM | Report abuse

I do not want to sound like anti-rich here, but when folks making millions a year have maximum tax-rate under 40% of their income, dividends and capital gains -- and to top it off, they have excellent tax advisers at their disposal to dodge many items before the IRS gets hold of the rest, it seems to me that the rich protest a bit too much.

The simple fact remains that since the '70's income inequality has grown in the US. Where the middle-class and the poor has, at best, flat-lined qua income, the rich folks have had a party time and have gone up and up. It is this fact that has led to the enormous fiscal mess that the US is in, coupled with corporate tax avoidance (loop-holes) and the outright theft by Wall Street with the legalized robbery by their paid representatives.

Ah well, if it makes you feel any better...the rest of the world is following similar path and soon we all are sold down the river for a dime, but, hey, as long as the rich can live in a gated community and look down on us, no biggie.

The trouble with that though is that throughout the history it has had a bad ending....for the rich.

Any bets as when the bell rings this time around? -- I'd say starting in 2012 (or maybe Wisconsin was the start sign) and ending by 2020. By that time the tax rates are well above 50% for the wealthy and many rich robbers have lost it all.

Posted by: JyriSulin | March 3, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I don't think that OLD people (Baby Boomers) be they Republican or Democrats will be willing to cut the "liberal" spending of Social Security. I'd love the see the Tea Party Conservatives in Congress make the proposition to make massive cuts to social security and let us YOUNG folks reinvest what we have paid into it in our own individual retirement accounts.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | March 3, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

This is a ridiculous article.
It isn't the public's job to understand the budget.
We elected officials to do just that...
Posted by: pjclarkfour
************
How truly ignorant. And what sad commentary on the state of the American citizen.


Posted by: overed | March 3, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

This article deserves five Pinocchios!

Social Security contributions are only paid by workers who earn less than $106,000 a year excluding cops, fire fighters and teachers.

The biggest "entitlement" in the federal budget is the Home Mortgage Tax Deduction which is of course actually an enormous subsidy of the banking and real estate industries (and the cause of our housing bubble and bust.)

Most of the 1% Foreign Aid budget is our $7 million dollar a day subsidy of Israel, not aid to third world countries.

The issue with the Defense budget is not what percentage it is of the federal budget but the fact that it is:
(a) More than al other countries in
the world combined
(largely waste i.e. mostly a boondoggle

Posted by: smi2le | March 3, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

The Teapublicans ran a wholly disingenuous 2010 campaign, which obviously had NOTHING to do with creating jobs, encouraging economic growth, replacing Health Care Reform with a viable alternative, or even reducing the debt/deficit in a serious manner. It's the disingenuous nature of the GOP agenda that really gets me.


If they were about solving serious problems and we disagreed on policy, that would be one thing. But as it stands now, it is obvious that they have no intention of acting in a serious manner. They are consumed with smacking Democrats as their ideological opposition and preventing Obama from getting any political wins. That is what drives them and it does nothing but actively undermine the country in which we all live.


The Teahadists are out to destroy our freedom and decades of policies to help the average hard working American. 2012 is payback time, and I can't wait.


.

Posted by: DrainYou | March 3, 2011 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Trust me, the budget isn't the only thing Americans are ignorant about. See if they can find their hometown on a map.

Posted by: jckdoors | March 3, 2011 4:19 PM | Report abuse

I do NOT understand why the MORONS in the US Congress vote to borrow money from China and give that money to the war criminals of Israel, while cutting money for Americans. See how far the Zionist scum has penetrated our government??

Posted by: usnr02 | March 3, 2011 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: usnr02

I do NOT understand why the MORONS in the US Congress vote to borrow money from China and give that money to the war criminals of Israel, while cutting money for Americans. See how far the Zionist scum has penetrated our government??
************************
If you ARE in fact USN retired, then we also see how far racist scum penetrated our government.

Posted by: overed | March 3, 2011 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Before you start dumping on the ignorant American public, where does the ignorant American public gets their numbers from. Obama and his administration. From the CBO, to the Labor Dept, to Gates, Geithner, The Treasury, and Obama himself, gives the public doctored numbers to make it look like there's a recovery and then three days later they come out with the truth. First they force feed the public bogus numbers to make it look like there was some sort of recovery, but the weather, to the protest in Egypt, to China has something to do why the economy is failing again. Obama deals in theory, not reality and that has a lot to do with the budget. The ignorant American public got all their information about the budget after two years from Obama. That's not being ignorant thats being mislead by this administration.

Posted by: houstonian | March 3, 2011 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Americans are almost completely ignorant of how their government works?

HA!!!

I don't need a poll to tell me that. Read the message boards here for fifteen minutes and you will discover that Americans are pretty much complete morons regarding their government.

And that's the ones who can write and use a computer.

Actually, the less they know, the more they get on here and scream about it in outrage.

Posted by: info53 | March 3, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Come to think, the Republican party owes it's very EXISTENCE to a misinformed public.

If you could educate a Republican, he'd be a Democrat.

Posted by: info53 | March 3, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

@houstonian

Are you freaking kidding me? - I am not a big fan of President Obama, but if you imply that the US fiscal troubles are his doing, you gotta pass me some of that stuff you smoke, man....

Bush the II is the dude who single-handedly doomed the US economy. Obama is the sorry figure left holding the punch-bowl once the party was over. Now that he is cozying up on big business and Wall Street isn't helping - and I disagree about many steps taken since he took the reins in hand, but to lay the blame of the current mess on him is just hilarious.

Come to think of it, I believe we have to go all the way back to Kennedy to find a president who at least had the best interest of the folks in his mind...we all know how that ended.

Seriously folks, you gotta start thinking for yourselves and stop listening to useless and misguided one-liners that my 9 year old kid knows to be utter non-sense. There are a lot of sources available to get pretty broad view on all matters. Even if you are not the smartest guy in the room, you can still pretty easily see where the beef is. Please, for your own sake.

Posted by: JyriSulin | March 3, 2011 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Americans are almost completely ignorant of how their government works?

HA!!!

I don't need a poll to tell me that. Read the message boards here for fifteen minutes and you will discover that Americans are pretty much complete morons regarding their government.

And that's the ones who can write and use a computer.

Actually, the less they know, the more they get on here and scream about it in outrage.

Posted by: info53 | March 3, 2011 4:52 PM |
------------------------------------------
Amen -- but if you really want to get depressed, read the comments on the Wall Street Journal. You'd think that people who could afford to subscribe to the Journal and who were interested in its content would be at least a notch more knowledgeable and capable of rational thought than most Americans. Well, you'd wrong, very, very wrong. Americans are "ignorant and angry" says the headline. How true that is, especially the first part.

Posted by: Bob22003 | March 3, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Basic ignorance about the US budget never ceases to amaze me. In this information age, it takes about 2 seconds to look up the major segments of the budget.

Posted by: seaduck2001 | March 3, 2011 5:46 PM | Report abuse

It appears that many people when voting for House Members understood the budget (wait - The Democratic Controlled Congress did not have a budget)process when they voted the Dems out of the house and would have voted the Dems of the Senate with better candidates in Nevada and Delaware. California voted for the Democrats because they just want to go bankrupt before cleaning house.

Posted by: sales7 | March 3, 2011 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Social Security & Medicare are self funded. Defense is not self funded. Makes a difference.

We desperately need a separate "Defense Tax" to balance the budget or, failing that, defense & defense related ($1.5 Trillion) needs to be slashed by 50%.


Posted by: Maddogg | March 3, 2011 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Americans are almost completely ignorant of how their government works?

HA!!!

I don't need a poll to tell me that. Read the message boards here for fifteen minutes and you will discover that Americans are pretty much complete morons regarding their government.

And that's the ones who can write and use a computer.

Actually, the less they know, the more they get on here and scream about it in outrage.

Posted by: info53 | March 3, 2011 4:52 PM
_________________________________________

You absolutely nailed it, info53.

Posted by: seaduck2001 | March 3, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Of course they do, or are you saying the educational system has failed?????
November did happen, the sky has fallen.
Tell me Maddogg,(by the way Medicare is NOT self funded) how exactly (other than by calling them names) do you expect to make the GOP in the house give your programs the money you want? Hmmmmmm.
LOL.
If you think all this is funny, wait until Obama starts having to veto bills the senate agrees with...paybacks are hell dudes

Posted by: Saladin3 | March 3, 2011 6:00 PM | Report abuse

but even the newspaper articles foster ignorance of the issues.

Social Security does not use one penny of the general fund that comes from income taxes and yet virtually all of these "ignorance relieving" articles fail to make that distinction.

This is absolutely NOTHING that you can do to Social Security RIGHT NOW that would change anything with respect to the budget and the deficit because Social Security is funded from FICA - a separate, dedicated funding stream for Social Security and Medicare.

People don't understand this and articles like this fail to make the distinction either.

Medicare is PARTIALLY funded by FICA and is a serious problem because the other 1/2 of it that is not funded by FICA is funded from the general fund/income tax side of the budget and like all healthcare, it has problems.

But how much of the 1.5 trillion is due to Medicare?

how many people know the answer?

Is the amount spent on Medicare (not SS) larger or smaller than Defense?

Posted by: larryg1 | March 3, 2011 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Medicare is about 493 billion. About half of it is funded from FICA and the other half from the Income tax.

Defense is 700 billion - TWICE as much as Medicare and 4 times as much as the portion of Medicare funded from the general fund/income taxes.

People don't know this and no where in this and most other articles does it make this clear.

And no where does it show MedicAID which is wholly funded from the general fund.

Without making the numbers and the sources of their funding clear, the average person cannot possibly make informed judgments.

Posted by: larryg1 | March 3, 2011 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Fact check on your "facts". My info come from 2010 1040 instruction, pie chart of government outlay, http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i1040.pdf. Social Security, Medicare, and other retirement - 34%, Defense - 22%, Social Programs - 21%, Physical, human, and community development - 15% (I read that as more social programs, for a total of 36%), debt interest - 5%. So social programs are near as big, if not bigger than defense.
And why stop here - more myths, poor people pay most of the taxes, truth - bottom 50% pay 3% of taxes.
Liberal medias are not any better than FOX in news report, they propagating fictions just as efficiently.

Posted by: AT_MD | March 3, 2011 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Are you freaking kidding me? - I am not a big fan of President Obama, but if you imply that the US fiscal troubles are his doing, you gotta pass me some of that stuff you smoke, man....

Bush the II is the dude who single-handedly doomed the US economy. Obama is the sorry figure left holding the punch-bowl once the party was over. Now that he is cozying up on big business and Wall Street isn't helping - and I disagree about many steps taken since he took the reins in hand, but to lay the blame of the current mess on him is just hilarious.

Come to think of it, I believe we have to go all the way back to Kennedy to find a president who at least had the best interest of the folks in his mind...we all know how that ended.

Seriously folks, you gotta start thinking for yourselves and stop listening to useless and misguided one-liners that my 9 year old kid knows to be utter non-sense. There are a lot of sources available to get pretty broad view on all matters. Even if you are not the smartest guy in the room, you can still pretty easily see where the beef is. Please, for your own sake.
___________________
Agree 100%, but lets remember the point of this post in the first place. Most Americans are uninformed dolts.

It is just like the people who blame Obama for the "huge" annual deficit, when the only difference between him and Bush is that Obama puts the war spending on the books. Bush kept it separate and held Congress hostage with supplementals every year to fund the troops.

Of course for some of these fine people, Obama could submit Bush's exact 2008 budget and they would say he is trying to torpedo America with his dumb budget.

For the next poll, lets ask people what they think the definitions are for the following words: Socialist. Communist. Fascist.
A certain voting bloc seems to have no clue what they mean and toss them out there all the time.

Posted by: BurtReynolds | March 3, 2011 9:02 PM | Report abuse

This is a ridiculous article.

It isn't the public's job to understand the budget.

We elected officials to do just that.


By the way, anyone else wondering why this just deals with percentages?

Well, it's because NO ONE understands these budgets as far as how they will truly affect us in the future. If it was cut-and-dry, there wouldn't be any confusion.

Posted by: pjclarkfour | March 3, 2011 7:49 AM |


pjclarkfourm,
I think your reponse is ridiculous. You prefer the tea party's cut, cut, cut, unless it cut into my benefits attitude. You should least understand the "Continued Resolutions" as well as the basic yearly budget that it takes to run the country.
The infrasture in this country is falling down all around us and still people want to cut without investing. We are lagging behind in inovation and education and tea partiers want to cut. The debt ceiling has to be raised and the tea partiers are saying no as if the United States will be the only Country affected. You need to know a little about the budget just to keep an eye on representives who vote on where your money goes when and if a yearly budget is passed. If you don't you get Palin's Alaska, "A bridge to no where" and "A road to no where" all paid by taxpayers dollars.

Posted by: MILLER123 | March 3, 2011 9:06 PM | Report abuse

I'm going to bookmark this link for all those posters who still think the majority of the Federal budget goes to defense.

Posted by: moebius22 | March 3, 2011 9:16 PM | Report abuse

in terms of "fact checking" - take a look at your pay stub. Most people are going to see a box for Federal Income Tax, then a box that says FICA SS and FICA Medicare.

SS is funded ENTIRELY from FICA and you can cut SS until the cows come home and it will not reduce the deficit one thin penny because it has nothing to do with the Federal Income Tax which is what funds the Federal Budget.

FICA/SS has actually run a surplus for most of the 60 years it has been around and is often the subject of discussion about it's "lockbox" getting "raided".

Well.. there would be no "lockbox" to "raid" if FICA had not generated surpluses to start with.

Many, many "charts" even ones from the IRS simply mix together all the things that are funded from FICA + Income Taxes but it causes budget illiteracy because not a penny of FICA goes to the regular Federal budget but rather it goes to SS and is sometimes correctly referred to as "off budget".

Those who do not understand this - don't understand the budget nor the things causing the deficit nor what needs to be done.

By the way BOTH Deficit Commission reports DO KNOW and DO treat the two separately as they should.

Posted by: larryg1 | March 3, 2011 9:18 PM | Report abuse

"Many, many "charts" even ones from the IRS simply mix together all the things that are funded from FICA + Income Taxes "
Not a problem. Social programs are still within 1% of defense spending if you don't count "community and human development". If you do count that additional 15%, social programs are way bigger piece of the pie than defense.

Posted by: AT_MD | March 3, 2011 9:27 PM | Report abuse

" The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states that three-quarters of taxpayers pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Insurance_Contributions_Act_tax

" There has never been any change in the way the Social Security program is financed or the way that Social Security payroll taxes are used by the federal government. The Social Security Trust Fund was created in 1939 as part of the Amendments enacted in that year. From its inception, the Trust Fund has always worked the same way. The Social Security Trust Fund has never been "put into the general fund of the government."

http://www.ssa.gov/history/InternetMyths2.html

" First, don’t consider the budget as a whole, but break it down into parts and lets research and discuss the parts. Don’t think of it as one giant problem, but many smaller problems.
Remove Social Security from the annual Federal Budget. Consider it a separate insurance system paid for by FICA. Don’t allow the Federal budget to use FICA income and make it pay back what it’s borrowed. Consider Social Security a separate issue."

http://jameswharris.wordpress.com/2011/02/19/balancing-the-budgetpart-1/

Posted by: larryg1 | March 3, 2011 9:29 PM | Report abuse

So if you really want to understand what is causing the deficit - don't let FICA/Social Security confuse you because they don't have a thing to do with the deficit.

The Defense Department is funded from Income Taxes. Social Security is funded from FICA.

"cutting" Social Security has absolutely no impact on the current Federal deficit.

Why is this so hard?

Because not one newspaper or politician in a 100 gets this right and that in turn screws up most of the citizens who don't have the motivation to find the facts - but the facts are there.. you just need to spend a minute or two with a search engine and the keywords FICA, social security, budget, income tax, etc.

So cutting SS to help balance the budget is a totally false concept.

Posted by: larryg1 | March 3, 2011 9:35 PM | Report abuse

Its not only the budget that they do not understand. They cannot think critically. How else do you explain the tea party and Palin getting traction.

Posted by: tafari1_20001 | March 4, 2011 2:45 AM | Report abuse

That's why the Tea Party was born. Many don't understand the budget and the Democrats in congress can't even read the trillion dollar pork bills they put their X on.

Posted by: thejames1225 | March 4, 2011 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I would argue that the misunderstanding on foreign aid is somewhat a matter of degree. We spend 703 Billion on defense--and a significant portion of that is in some way spent abroad.

I don' have the ledger, but where did the billions to Halliburton and others get ciphered in for bogus and inefficient infrastructure in Iraq? How about the billions we gave to Mubarak?

Americans rightly have a sense that we are spending an awful lot of dough in an awful lot of countries. Most for guns and bullets, not butter and bread.

Posted by: kazou | March 4, 2011 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Well said. Please keep driving home the basic arithmetic with all of your publisher's might.

Posted by: crasshopper | March 4, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

"That's why the Tea Party was born. Many don't understand the budget..."

The Tea Party is made up of the people who don't understand the budget.

Posted by: steveh46 | March 4, 2011 4:11 PM | Report abuse

People can make the budget say anything they want depending wholly on how you group things.

When you take out the program (SS) that has a direct tax associated with it (meaning if you eliminated the program, you'd be expected to eliminate the tax), what happens to the budget?

Well...
Interest spikes to 32.4% of remaining revenues - (You'd need to pay interest to SS instead of calling it "net").

Defense (when you include defense related items - Nat'l Defense, Veterans, Foreign Aid) spikes to 63.4% of Revenues.

Health (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, etc) 61.5% of Revenues

Income Security (Unemployment, etc - not to be confused with SS) 46.5% of Revenues

Everything Else 19.7% of Revenues

Posted by: cjhowe | March 4, 2011 9:12 PM | Report abuse

You're All Avoiding the Issue.

A critical question never raised in discussions concerning the national budget and our "sovereign debt is, "Why should the government need to borrow at interest funds required to serve the commons?” The act of borrowing money becomes the origin of all public sector debt incurred by "sovereign governments." Were that not the case there would be no public sector deficit.

The right to "coin money" in America was transferred from the public sector to the private sector in 1913, in the Federal Reserve Act. However, our history of popular opposition to private and or foreign control of our currency begins in 1732 when attempts were made to establish Land Banks. Colonists opposed those banks favoring instead the issuance and control of currency be a primary function of government, as it was in England until 1694.

The colonists feared the specter of perpetual debt. It was in 1690 that Mass. issued "Bills of Credit," not backed by anything. These Bills were not legal tender but everyone accepted them and they served the purpose as legal tender. They remained in circulation, spurring economic progress after the disastrous economic consequences wrought by the Crowns forced coinage redemption during 1659-1691.

While Bullock and the Austrian School economists misread and therefore misunderstand the contributions of paper money, they do admit the Continental and…"Thus the Bills of Credit of this era, which ignorance and prejudice have attempted to belittle into the mere instruments of reckless financial policy, were really the standards of the Revolution. They were more than this: they were the Revolution itself!"¹

¹Alexander Del Mar, History of money in America, (repr.,New York:Burt Franklin, pp.20-30.

After the Revolutionary War and under the new Constitution the 1st Bank of the U.S. was chartered and bankers assumed a degree of centralized control over the nation's money. They charged the government 5%-8% interest and were eager to collude with foreign bankers in fomenting war which would guarantee perpetual interest payments.²

²Stephen Zarlenga, "The Lost Science of Money."

Jefferson wrote to Gallatin, "I deem no government safe which is under the vassalage of any self constituted authorities...except that of the nation, or its regular functionaries."³ The 1st Bank of the U.S. folded in 1811.

³ Thomas Jefferson, Letters and Addresses, edit. William Parker, (New York:Putnam, 1905), december 13, 1803 letter to Albert Gallatin.

Inclusion of this history would serve to broaden the discussion to "First Causes" (such as being forced to borrow) rather than limiting the discussion to symptoms. The Federal Government has historically, successfully spent rather than loaned money into circulation.

A policy of Interest free funds only in the public sector is the bane of all bankers. National & State budgets would be fully funded, taxes could be reduced and personal incomes increased in real terms.

Posted by: robbrian_06 | March 6, 2011 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Ok great fact checker how about stating the truth about SS and Medicare being self sustaining to this point. The shortfalls are coming because the other parts of the pie are spending more than they are bringing in. If you removed SS and Medicare from the pie you would still have a huge shortfall but taken alone SS and Medicare are ok right now. They won't be for long though because the idiots that be want to use the reserves SS has been self sustaining since it began. I would really like to see you write a responsible article here.

Posted by: bugslooneybunny | March 6, 2011 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Apples to Oranges comparison.
Before comparing Social security costs with other programs of the general budget take out the premiums paid by FICA. It is only the difference that is attributable to the general budget.

SS is an insurance program. It is pay-as-you-go just like any other insurance program. Ins. cos. pay current claims out of current premiums.

Posted by: RayReality | March 7, 2011 7:55 PM | Report abuse

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