click for larger graphic

Source: national Priorities


Category: Digital Media, Taxes and Policy

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

36 Responses to “2012 Federal Spending: Where Your Income Taxes Went”

  1. marka says:

    Why are Veterans benefits not classified as a Military cost?

    • tid242 says:

      Because it shows the true cost of military spending. I recommend Chalmers Johnson as further reading on the subject (he’s written four excellent books and numerous op ed’s). In response to your specific question consider the following:


      For fiscal year 2006, Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute calculated national security outlays at almost a trillion dollars — $934.9 billion to be exact — broken down as follows (in billions of dollars):

      Department of Defense: $499.4

      Department of Energy (atomic weapons): $16.6
      Department of State (foreign military aid): $25.3
      Department of Veterans Affairs (treatment of wounded soldiers): $69.8
      Department of Homeland Security (actual defense): $69.1
      Department of Justice (1/3rd for the FBI): $1.9
      Department of the Treasury (military retirements): $38.5
      NASA (satellite launches): $7.6

      Interest on war debts, 1916-present: $206.7




      • louiswi says:

        …For fiscal year 2006, Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute calculated national security outlays at almost a trillion dollars — $934.9 billion to be exact…

        It seems interesting the chart posted refers to percent spent on Military and Veterans Benefits and yet the thread morphs this into NATIONAL SECURITY OUTLAYS or as others have stated DEFENSE SPENDING. Nothing could be furthur from the truth. It is just money spent on the MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX and citizens should be thinking about whether that is a good place to spend their tax dollars. Security or defense is not the issue. Allocation of resources is.

      • TrainStation says:

        Defense could be an issue.

        If China ever decides to build up its military we could be in trouble if we gut ours. We might be in trouble regardless.

        China has built 13 of the 33 world’s longest suspension bridges in just the past 16 years. We built 4 over the past 80 years. We probably spend 60k per military personnel for salary and benefits; they may get away with 5k per military personnel. They may be able to build a military to match ours in a short period.

    • ottnott says:

      There’s a very good reason for that. It’s because….oooh, look how much we are spending on crazy science research projects! We need to cut the junk out of the science budget to free up money to support our troops and strengthen our national defense. Every $130 million we cut can buy us another F-35 (bare bones version – floor mats and brass accents on the instrument panels would add another $749,999).

    • ilsm says:

      Note that SIPRI estimated Russian military spending at about $64.1B in 2011.

  2. So this does not include spending supported by Social Security or Medicare taxes but does include income taxes that go to support Medicaid spending at the Federal level? Perhaps just a little deceptive?

    • willid3 says:

      well it does mention that point a few times. that it only includes what is supported by income taxes

    • ottnott says:

      Not at all, in terms of the budget.

      Medicare is an entitlement program supported by a dedicated stream of payroll taxes. Medicaid is a social welfare program supported by the general fund.

  3. gordo365 says:

    Man – we need cut that science budget. Oh, and PBS…

  4. dolbydog says:

    And why is the 26.5% for military three times the size of the 20% health care chunk?

  5. erikmoss12 says:

    Thing isn’t drawn even close to scale.

  6. whatdoiknow says:

    The graphic is not to scale. The whole thing loses credibility because the size of the 26.5% military spending part looks more like 42%. Propaganda. A list of numbers with a reference to the source or method of calculation is all that’s needed.

  7. [...] Ritholtz, the National Priorities Project shows the federal [...]

  8. This chart offends my sensibilities. The disproportionate size of the military piece versus every other category, and especially health care, skew the entire perception of the graphic. The military category at 26.5% is roughly 3.5 times the size of the health care category at 20%. I am not for making accusations on a comments section, but was clearly made by either an idiot or someone who is for health care/against military.

    This is a great example of why data literacy should be taught right after reading.

  9. g.crose says:

    Has anyone else noticed the difference between the pennies (percentage) and the graphic? Could it be is trying to make a point on how they feel about the military?

    Try this at home … fold a one dollar bill into fourths along the long edge. One fourth (25% is close to 26.5%) ends in the middle of the E in THE, not in the middle of the S in STATES. Their graphic seems to be greater than 40% of the bill. Or could it be I am cognitively impaired with one to many glasses of wine?

    • dompazz says:

      I thought the same thing when I saw the graphic. The Health Care piece should be about 75% the size of the Military piece. They show it at about 1/3 the size.

      I don’t argue with the labels (because I don’t know if they are correct), but the graphic was put together poorly. So poorly that you have to question the rigor of the data gathering and the motives of the author.

  10. debrabradley says:

    Chart is a good reflection of what the Federal government is CHARTERED to do I.e. “protecting the general welfare of the citizens” so they can freely live their lives as they see fit. (Excuse the pun.). While we hope everyone health and happiness, we might be cautious to put the Federal gov’t in the business of guaranteeing it. We may end up micro-managed to death and lose control and accountability for ourselves.

    If we do want them in that business, change the charter first and clarify what that change implies, then micro manage everyone.

  11. sensibleinvestor says:

    This is just wrong. My 11 yr old is quite disgusted about 1% for science and 26.5% for military. I agree.

  12. theexpertisin says:

    Perhaps everyone should invest two or more years of life in service to protect the country. Two main reasons:

    1. Dramatically re-educate spoiled brats with unlimited self esteem within our borders.

    2. With everyone having skin in the game, flippant foreign military adventures routinely advocated and ordered by Presidents would be much less likely to occur.

    Defense spending would be worth every penny…….

    • constantnormal says:

      If we had not already conducted that experiment, I would agree with you, but throughout the Viet Nam “flippant foreign military adventure”, we had a draft in place that took (more or less) everyone, and I observed no change in political behavior, with our exit being more to avoid being overrun than in response to political consequences back home — of which there were plenty.

      Eisenhower saw this coming, and I doubt that, at this point, there is any way of shaking loose the M-I complex’s grip from the federal budget. With bases and employers in virtually every state, the Congress will never go against the defense contractors.

      Look to the sorry example of the F-35 for verification of this. Unworkable and unstoppable.

      • theexpertisin says:

        Actually, there were loads of deferments and exceptions for millions of potential draftees. By in large, poor white southerners and blacks scarred by racism in their communities and seeking an out carried an inordinate share of the burden in Viet Nam while going to college, or having a rich mom and pop fund an extended vacation to Canada, exempted you. Not enough children of the rich and politically connected had skin in the game. An ancillary consequence was the political turn of the military from moderate political blends to a more conservative organization…the military by in large still does not think the more progressive element of society has their back. Look at the above comments on this thread and the distrust is grounded in a continuing reality.

        I respect your thoughts, but I maintain my position on both counts.

      • Biffah Bacon says:

        I think the military creates liberals and statists because “conservatives” have avoided service for decades-Cheney, Pat Robertson, W’s disappearing act.

        What greater argument for socialism is there than cradle to grave support and care at public expense?

        That leaves us John Kerry, Sidney McCain, Al Gore, the other Kerry.

  13. Chad says:

    I agree the graphic isn’t to scale, but that’s rather obvious when you see the $.01 science piece. That’s obviously not to scale either and, at the same time, is just complete BS.

  14. TrainStation says:

    Per has defense at about 23.5% of the budget.

    Defense spending as a percentage of total federal spending for past years:


    • constantnormal says:

      @TrainStation … the site you cited lumps in Social Security and Medicare (which are not funded with federal income tax revenue, but through the FICA tax, and are not part of the budget process, to the best of my knowledge) … you have to drill down into the “Pension” category (which is truly what Social Security is, a national pension fund) to uncover this, they hid it well.

      When you account for the pre-boomers living well past the point at which they were expected to stop drawing Social Security checks, the soaring increase in health care expenses (even more-so for the elderly), and the flood of boomers now beginning to draw upon Social Security, that separately-funded spending balloons up to make defense spending seem like a smaller portion of the income tax pie … the graphic here specifically states that it represents money collected from income taxes only, and does not include FICA.

      That makes excellent sense, as the FICA tax does not do to fund any of the items in the breakdown above. If one were to shut down Social Security and Medicare tomorrow, the graphic above would be just as accurate as it is now.

      Mixing up FICA and income taxes is a favorite ploy to make defense spending look smaller than it is.

      • TrainStation says:


        I see your point.

        Another way to look at it is defense spending as a percentage of the GDP. Extrapolating off the same site:


  15. James Cameron says:

    This is one of those graphs that I detest because there’s no clarity on its source or what its various elements really are. Take Health. There’s no component on the discretionary side of spending of that size, so this could only include/be Medicare. The data on the graphic is from here: (Budget of US, 2014, Table S-4, column for 2012)

    where defense expenditures for 2012 are shown as 671 and Medicare as 466 . . . but these numbers don’t jive with the percentages on the graph aside from the fact we’re mixing discretionary with mandatory outlays. And then there’s the interest on the national debt for 2012. That was 220 according to the budget doc, less than a third of the defense outlay . . . yet the graph has it at half.

    Meanwhile, the source of the graphic is here:

    yet I wasn’t able to immediately find it.

    A waste of time IMO . . . you’re better off going to the source of the data:

  16. rjensen65 says:

    What a biased and misleading graphic. The pieces of the puzzle (in terms of area) are not even proportional to the proportion of each dollar spent. It would seem that the purpose of this graphic is to unfairly beat on the military.

    A much more meaningful graphic that puts spending in perspective is at ”

    • constantnormal says:

      The graphic is perfectly clear, it clearly states that it does not include Social Security and Medicare,, as those are separately funded (via the FICA tax). This ONLY pertains to the INCOME TAX. Not the FICA tax, not the state income tax, not the gas taxes or property taxes or sales taxes, only the INCOME tax.

      Why? Because that is the revenue source that pays for the items shown, and the one that is effected by changes in the income tax rates.

  17. Kevin_In_Philadelphia says:

    Are you people really quibbling over the size of the pieces in the graphic?? Read the fucking numbers associated and forget the pictures! More to the point, and I think what BR is trying to say, is that for all the bluster of the deficet and debt hawks, the biggest financial isses that we face as a nation are continuously increasing military and healthcare costs. Ignore the pictures, we’re not pre-schoolers.

  18. Ronald Reagan: “Social Security has nothing to do with the deficit.”

  19. AnnaLee says:

    And the first step to pay off debts incurred by these expenditures is to take it out of granny’s Social Security check? What a country we live in!

  20. victor says:

    Military students are on President Obama’s radar when it comes to the effects of the budget cuts known as sequestration.

    “The Department of Defense … has to figure out how the children of military families are going to continue with their schooling over the next several months because teachers at these bases are typically civilians; they are therefore subject to furlough, which means that they may not be able to teach one day a week,” Obama said in a news conference March 1.