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U.S. Federal Budget Breakdown

The Budget Components and Impact on the US Economy


The President presented his proposed FY 2015 budget to Congress on March 4, 2014. It outlined the expected revenue and expenses for October 1, 2014 - September 30, 2015. Congress approved spending levels for the FY 2015 budget on December 18, 2013.  The Bi-Partisan Budget Act set a cap on the Discretionary portion of the FY 2015 budget, as well as the remainder of FY 2014.

This is outside of the  the normal budget process. Normally, the FY 2015 budget would be debated and approved by September 30, before the next fiscal year started on October 1.  However, ever since the 2010 mid-term elections, tea party Republicans have refused to use this process. As a result, the President's budget is unlikely to be passed. However, it's a good outline of projected total spending and revenue intake.

The FY 2014 budget wasn't approved, either.  Instead, Republicans forced a government shutdown for 16 days. The government reopened when they finally agreed to enter a budget conference committee, which resulted in the December 18 compromise.

The FY 2013 budget was never approved. Instead, Congress passed two continuing resolutions to keep the government running until the end of the 2013 Fiscal Year. These resolutions also incorporated the spending reductions mandated by sequestration. Find out what was actually spent in FY 2013.

The FY 2012 budget wasn't approved until December 2011, two months behind schedule. The FY 2011 Budget didn't get approved until April 2011 -- six months behind schedule. Many government agencies almost had to shut down. 

The federal budget is important to you because it spends your hard-earned tax dollars -- lots of them! Find out where your money goes, why the government overspends each year, and how this impacts the economy and you.


US Tax Time
Photo: David Freund/Getty Images

The Federal government plans to take in $3.337 trillion for FY 2015. Most of the taxes are paid by you, either through income or payroll taxes:

  • Income taxes contribute 46%.
  • Social Security, Medicare and other payroll taxes are 32%.
  • Corporate taxes are 13%.
  • Excise taxes and tariffs contribute 3%.
  • Earnings from the Federal Reserve's holdings add 3%.
  • Other miscellaneous revenue make up the remaining 3%.

It's estimated that each taxpayer works until April 18 to pay for all Federal revenue collected. This is known as Tax Freedom Day. Can you think of any other purchase you make that you've worked as hard and as long for?


Photo: John Kuczala/Getty Images

For FY 2015, the government plans to spend $3.901 trillion -- more than the revenue being taken in. Most of this (63%) must pay for mandatory programs, such as Social Security, Medicare and Military Retirement benefits. These budget items are estimates of what will be spent to fulfill the laws that created them.

The fastest growing mandatory payment is the interest on the national debt. The U.S. has been lucky because interest rates are currently very low, thanks to a flight to safety that has increased demand for Treasury notes. When the economy gets better, Treasury yields will rise -- and so will interest payments.

The remaining 37% of spending must be divvied up to pay for everything else, known as discretionary spending. This is the amount that the President and Congress negotiate each year.

Mandatory Spending

The lion's share of Federal spending goes toward mandatory programs. Photo: Getty Images

Mandatory spending is estimated at $2.458  trillion in FY 2015. Social Security is by far the biggest expense, at $896 billion. Medicare is next, at $526 billion, followed by Medicaid at $336 billion.

Social Security costs are currently 100% covered by payroll taxes and interest on past payroll taxes that have been invested. Until 2010, there was more coming into the Social Security Trust Fund than being paid out. Thanks to interest on investments, the Trust Fund is still running a surplus. However, the Board of the Fund estimates that this surplus will be depleted by 2036. Social Security revenue, from payroll taxes and interest earned, will cover only 77% of the benefits promised to retirees.

Medicare is already underfunded. Medicare taxes don't pay for all benefits, so this program relies on general tax dollars to pay for a portion of it.

Discretionary Spending

How much do you think should be spent on education? Photo: Getty Images
Discretionary spending is projected to be $1.186 trillion.  Nearly 2/3 goes toward military spending, including the War in Afghanistan, Veterans Benefits and other defense-related functions. That leaves $491.7 billion to pay for all other domestic programs, like Health and Human Services ($74 billion), Education ($70.6 billion), Housing ($32.8 billion) and the Judicial system ($27.4 billion).



Iraq soldier
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
For FY 2015, the U.S. plans to spend $756.4 billion on defense. This is less than it spends on Social Security, but more than it spends on any other program. It includes the Department of Defense (DoD) base budget ($495.6 billion, Overseas Contingency Operations for the War in Afghanistan ($85.4 billion) and other departments that support defense, such as Homeland Security ($38.2 billion), the State Department ($42.6 billion) and Veterans Administration ($65.43 billion) . For more on total war spending, see  War on Terror Costs, War in Iraq Costs and Economic Impact of 9/11.

The Deficit

Bush and Obama added the most to the debt. Photo: Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images

In FY 2015, the budget deficit is estimated to be $564  billion, the difference between $3.337 trillion in revenue and $3.901 trillion in spending. This is less than the deficit of $973 billion for FY 2013, and the record deficit set in FY 2009 of $1.4 trillion. However, is deficit spending still necessary to boost the economy? Is it worth the increase to the national debt? What areas should be limited? Is there enough of an incentive for lawmakers to cut, or will politicians who slice popular programs be cut, themselves, in the next election? 

How the Deficit Contributes to the National Debt

U.S. Debt
Photo: Peter Gridley/Getty Images

Each year, the deficit adds to the U.S. Debt, already more than $17 trillion. Over the long run, this puts downward pressure on the dollar, driving inflation in imports, and higher costs. More important, it's a tax on our children and grandchildren. This anticipated tax slows economic growth, like driving a car with the brakes on.

Budget Process

The budget process to distribute your hard-earned cash is not being followed. Photo: U.S. Treasury

The Executive Office of Management and Budget (OMB) prepares the budget. The President submits it to Congress on or before the first Monday in February. Congress responds with spending appropriation bills that go to the President by June 30. The President has ten days to reply. Most important, the deadline for budget approval is September 30. Article updated April 6, 2014

Compare to Earlier Budgets

5 presidents
(L-R) U.S. President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton, former President George H.W. Bush and former President Jimmy Carter attend the opening ceremony of the George W. Bush Presidential Center April 25, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
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