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Politics, Videos

Where does federal spending go?

Posted: April 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm   /   by

There is so much misinformation out there, and there are so many misconceptions, about where and how the federal government spends its money.

People worry over foreign aid, NASA, and earmarks. All of those are worth talking about, but they’re a drop in the bucket.

Others worry about bloated (and overly numerous) government departments. There’s a lot of waste there, but all of that—from every department to the lightbulbs at the Capitol building—are all non-defense discretionary, which only comes up to about 18% of spending.

Some are concerned with defense spending, which, while large compared to other nations, is still less than a 5th of all our spending.

Mandatory spending is the big expense. Medicare and Medicaid (23%), Social security (20%), Other welfare and mandatory programs (13%), and interest on the debt (6%) . . . all told, more than 60% of our spending is on stuff we are supposed to touch, and which is only getting bigger. Eventually, even if we get rid of everything else the government does, and all defense, these programs will still consume every bit of revenue, and more.

Here’s another way to look at these numbers:


For another way to explore this, watch this video:


Christopher Cook

Christopher Cook

Managing Editor at Western Free Press
Christopher Cook is a writer, editor, and political commentator. He is the president of Castleraine, Inc., a consulting firm providing a diverse array of services to corporate, public policy, and not-for-profit clients.

Ardently devoted to the cause of human freedom, he has worked at the confluence of politics, activism, and public policy for more than a decade. He co-wrote a ten-part series of video shorts on economics, and has film credits as a researcher on 11 political documentaries, including Citizens United's notorious film on Hillary Clinton that became the subject of a landmark Supreme Court decision. He is the founder of several activist endeavors, including (now a part of Western Free Press) and He is currently the managing editor of and principal contributor to
Christopher Cook