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.

During much of the post World War II period, large deficits were incurred only in a time of war (e.g., Korea and Vietnam) or as a result of recessions.  Verify at Page 5
 The federal budget was generally in surplus throughout most of the Nation’s first 200 years.  Verify at Page 5
For our first 60 years as a Nation (through 1849), cumulative budget surpluses and deficits yielded a net surplus of $70 million.  Verify at Page 5
The 1930’s began with Federal outlays (spending) equaling just 3.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).  Verify at Pages 7-8
Total spending has increased substantially as a percent of GDP since the 1950s.  Verify Page 9
The decline in defense spending as a percentage of GDP that began in 1973 was more than offset by increased spending on human resources programs during the 1970s – due to the maturation of the Social Security program and increases in education and training, general and Federal employee retirement and other income support programs, such as food stamps (due largely to recessions) unemployment assistance, as well as a takeoff in spending on Great Society programs (such as Medicare and Medicaid), so that total spending increased as a percent of GDP, averaging 20.1 percent during the 1970s (also reflecting, in part, the substantial increase in grants to state and local governments during the 1970s).  Verify at Page 8
Economic growth in 2005 and 2006 produced a sharp increase in revenues, helping to reduce the deficit to $248 billion (1.9 percent of GDP) in 2006 and even further to $161 billion (1.2 percent of GDP) in 2007.  Verify at Page 6
Major programs in the programmatic mandatory spending category include Social Security, Medicare, unemployment insurance, deposit insurance, and means-tested entitlements (Medicaid, SNAP, (formerly food stamps) Supplemental Security Income, the refundable portions of the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits, and other programs subject to an income or asset test.   Verify at Page 10
Programmatic mandatory spending (which excludes net interest and undistributed offsetting receipts) accounts for the largest part of the growth in total Federal spending as a percent of GDP since the 1950s.   Verify at Page 10
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