Boing Boing has a post linking to a pretty graphic of federal spending on discretionary programs in 2004. Pretty, but incredibly misleading. The image exists first and foremost to make a political point:
Most people are unaware of how much of their taxes fund our military, and those aware are often misinformed. Well here it is. Laid out, easy to read and compare. With data straight from the White House. I hope this makes people think and ask questions. Why do we spend more on jets than we do on public housing? Why is the Endowment for the Arts so small? Whats with all this foreign military financing?
To make this political point, the artist conveniently ignores entitlement spending to argue that half of federal spending is devoted to the military. But ignoring entitlement spending makes no sense, given the significant portion of the total budget made up by such spending.
According to the spreadsheets available at the Office of Management and Budget site, total spending in the President’s FY2007 budget is about $2.7 trillion. The Department of Defense accounts for $504 billion of the total. The Department of Health and Human Services gets $699.5 billion. The Social Security Administration is allocated $623 billion. The Department of Education gets $64.4 billion. HUD gets $44.6 billion. Include mandatory spending, which accounts for $1.5 trillion of the budget (56%) and the analysis is much different.
Why do we spend more on jets than on public housing? Because jets are expensive. Any budget that spent more on public housing than jets would be (rightly) laughed out of Congress. Why is the Endowment for the Arts so small? Because the arts should support themselves - why isn’t the allocation zero? How about this question - why have we spent so much on social programs and received so little benefit in return?