Friday, August 3, 2012

Entitlement Spending and Public Investment in 3 easy graphs. Hey, this is not a flashy subject but none more important...

The following sets of graphs illustrate the "Emperor has no clothes" in terms of the Federal Budget. Everyone knows the problem but no one does much about it.
Mandatory, or non-discretionary, Federal spending is concentrated in 3 major areas--Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (and its subprograms). As illustrated in the first graph, these programs over time have steadily consumed a larger part of the Federal budget---approx. 47%!


Other parts of the budget consist of non-mandatory, or discretionary, spending.  Within this category you have "Investment Spending" by the Federal government. The following is a definition of Federal Investment from HERE:
"Federal investment is the portion of Federal spending intended to yield long-term benefits for the economy and the country. It promotes improved efficiency within Federal agencies, as well as growth in the national economy by increasing the overall stock of capital. Investment spending can take the form of direct Federal spending or of grants to State and local governments. It can be designated for physical capital, which creates a tangible asset that yields a stream of services over a period of years. It also can be for research and development, education, or training, all of which are intangible but still increase income in the future or provide other long-term benefits."
The graph below shows the decline over time of Federal Investment as a percentage of the Federal budget.  The implication is that there is significantly less funding for public works projects that confer benefits on everyone that the private market does not supply.



The last graph puts these two areas of the Federal budget together.  Budget dollars are not unlimited.  Over time, mandatory transfer payments to senior citizens and the poor have significantly surpassed non-mandatory public expenditures/investment in infrastructure. 

The Federal government does not do much of anything anymore in terms of physical public goods. They pretty much just write checks.  Think about that.

How do we address this issue? I dunno, I am just a high school economics teacher.  You will have to ask the Emperor and the Court Jesters we call the Executive and Legislative branches.
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