Budget shows real priorities of government

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Most of us -- those who anticipated a refund, that is -- filed our taxes long ago, but for those who didn't, today, April 15, is the deadline.

With the recession, stimulus funding and health care reform, it's easy to lose some of the basics about government budgets.

How much of your federal dollar goes to buy guns, and how much buys butter? How much goes to foreign aid? What about Social Security?

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in fiscal year 2010, the federal government is expected to spend $3.6 trillion, or 24 percent of the nation's Gross Domestic Product, but only $2.2 trillion will be financed by federal tax revenues -- those dollars you are sending in to Uncle Sam today -- and the rest, $1.4 trillion, will be put on a credit card for our children and grandchildren to pay.

As it stands today, 6 cents of each of your federal tax dollars goes just to pay the interest on the national debt.

Depending on whom you believe, that bill will either grow or decline as a result of the health care reform bill passed by Congress this year.

Already, 21 cents of every dollar goes toward medical care, in the form of Medicare for the elderly, Medicaid for the poor and the CHIP program for children.

Yes, thanks to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as many other expensive programs, 20 cents of your dollar goes to defense and security.

But the same amount goes to Social Security. Another fourteen cents goes to safety net programs that naturally grow during times of economic hardship like the present, adding to the national debt.

The federal government will spend about $482 billion for safety net programs like earned income and child tax credits, Supplemental Security Income for the elderly or disabled, unemployment insurance, food stamps, school meals, low-income housing assistance, child care, assistance in meeting home energy bills and other social programs.

Foreign aid? Other than defense-related spending, about 1 percent of the federal budget goes to programs like humanitarian aid.

Other pennies from your federal tax dollar go toward benefits for federal retirees and veterans (7 cents), scientific and medical research (2 cents), transportation and infrastructure (3 cents), education (3 cents) and all other expenditures (4 cents).

Your state dollar has different priorities, with nearly 40 cents going to operate the Department of Health and Human Services, 20 cents for education, 9 cents for roads, 7 cents for the University of Nebraska, more than 3 cents each for the Department of Revenue and the Department of Administrative Services and 2.5 cents for the Department of Corrections, and 14.6 cents for everything else, according to the official state Web site listing for the 2009-10 budget.

Candidates who spend time going over the minutiae of the federal budget won't get very far on the campaign trail.

But government budgets at all level show where our real priorities are, and where the real changes have to be made if voters want their government to be responsive to their priorities.

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  • Great editorial! This really breaks things down. The national debt is a big concern and it is growing rapidly. The feds need spending restraint and a line item veto.

    -- Posted by dennis on Fri, Apr 16, 2010, at 8:26 AM
  • Wasn't the line item veto ruled unconstitutional when Clinton was using it?

    -- Posted by McCook1 on Fri, Apr 16, 2010, at 11:06 AM
  • It has never been a line item veto on the federal level.

    -- Posted by dennis on Fri, Apr 16, 2010, at 1:28 PM
  • A federal line item veto was passed in 1996 and ruled unconstitutional in 1997.

    -- Posted by croswind on Fri, Apr 16, 2010, at 3:09 PM
  • Good editorial, spending is out of controll and needs to be cut period. I am in favor of a 10% across the board cut.

    Crosswindfs is correct the Line Item Veto was found to be unconstitutional because it shifted too much power from the Congress who is suposed to do everything budget related to the executive branch. They have to either take it all or veto it all was basically the ruling.

    -- Posted by Chaco1 on Sat, Apr 17, 2010, at 8:32 AM
  • Correct, there has never been a line item veto at the federal level as although passed it went directly to court and was overturned before it could be implemented.

    -- Posted by dennis on Mon, Apr 19, 2010, at 8:32 AM
  • Yes, but Clinton used the line-item veto 82 times on 11 bills before the challenge was ruled upon.

    -- Posted by croswind on Mon, Apr 19, 2010, at 9:45 AM
  • i believe they call them "signing statments" now. Bush used them several times.

    -- Posted by president obama on Wed, Apr 21, 2010, at 12:54 PM
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