Federal Spending – Fast Facts

All fast facts for federal spending are from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Although they represent many of their most recent reports on this subject, they do not represent all of their reports on this subject. Occasionally minor word adjustments may have been made for clarity or to reflect the updated nature of the statement.   As always, verify and view statements in their full context as often as possible.

Receipts are income that results from the Government’s exercise of its sovereign power to tax, or otherwise compel payment.  Verify at Page 4
Gross Federal debt is composed both of Federal debt held (owned) by the public and Federal debt held by Federal Government accounts, which is mostly held by trust funds.  Verify at Page 15
Federal debt held by the public consists of all Federal debt held outside the Federal Government Accounts.  Verify at Page 15
Federal debt held by the public would double under the President’s budget submitted in March of 2011, growing from $10.4 trillion (69 percent of GDP) at the end of 2011 to $20.8 trillion (87 percent of GDP) at the end of 2021.  In all, deficits would total $9.5 trillion between 2012 and 2021 under the President’s March 2011 budget proposals he submitted March 2011 (or 4.8 percent of total GDP projected for that period)—$2.7 trillion more than the cumulative deficit in CBO’s baseline.  Verify here
With the exception of periods of war (when spending for defense increased sharply), depressions, or other economic downturns (when receipts fall precipitously), the Federal budget was generally in surplus throughout most of the Nation’s first 200 years.  Verify at Page 5
Prior to 1913, income taxes did not exist or were inconsequential, other than for a brief time during the Civil War period, when special tax legislation raised the income tax share of Federal receipts to as much as 13 percent in 1866.  Verify at Page 6
Subsequent to the enactment of income tax legislation in 1913, these taxes grew in importance as a source of Federal receipts during the following decade.  By 1930, the Federal Government was relying on income taxes for 60 percent of its receipts, while customs duties and excise taxes each accounted for 15 percent of the receipts.  Verify at Page 6
Between 1901 and 1916, the budget hovered very close to balance ever year.  World War I brought large deficits over the 1917-1919 period. The budget was then in surplus throughout the 1920s.  Verify at Page 5
Throughout most of the Nation’s history prior to the 1930’s, the bulk of Federal spending went towards national defense, veterans benefits and interest on the public debt.  The efforts to fight the Great Depression with public works and other nondefense Federal spending, when combined with the depressed GDP levels, caused outlays and their share of GDP to increase steadily during most of that decade.  Verify at Page 7-8
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