The government in Washington is spending at unprecedented levels and it’s still not delivering results. Our military is being hollowed out. Our roads and bridges are in bad shape. Government assistance is trapping recipients in generational poverty not moving them to a life of work and independence. The cost of college continues to explode even as graduates struggle to find work with degrees of dubious value.
Recent data from the Heritage Foundation shows dramatic shifts in federal spending. Since 1970, government spending has grown 12 times faster than median income. Spending is up 288%, while median income is up only 24%.
Since the Great Society began in the 1960s, the budget has been restructured. Today, entitlement spending makes up about 62% of the budget:
- Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care 22%
- Social Security 21%
- Welfare programs and other entitlements 19%
Discretionary spending makes up 38%:
- Defense 19%
- Interest on the Debt 6%
- Education 4%
- Foreign Aid 1%
- Everything Else 8%
To give this historical context, in 1962 defense was 49% of the budget.
On our current path, by 2050, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and Obamacare will consume 19% of our economy (that number was 10% in 2010), enough to consume every dollar of tax revenue if revenues remain at their historical average.
In addition, welfare spending has skyrocketed. The federal government spends just under $1 trillion. Anti-poverty spending was up 49% between 2002-12. That includes a 138% increase in food stamps.
Washington is long overdue for an overhaul of the federal budget. We need to spend less, but it’s also long past time for a wholesale reevaluation of how we spend the money. For starters, Washington should do what every family and small business in America does, set priorities. If every program is a priority, then none is.
Congress gives programs more money year after year without ever determining if they’re working, if they’ve already fulfilled their mission, or if they were ever legitimate functions of the federal government.
CSP believes Congress should pass a “sunset act” requiring that every government program, except earned entitlements like Social Security and Veterans benefits, be authorized no less than every ten years or else they expire. Congress routinely allows programs to go decades without a reevaluation.
With the right leadership, we can force Washington to set priorities as well as finally pass the critical structural spending controls like balanced budget and spending limitation Constitutional amendments. By controlling spending, we’ll preserve prosperity and opportunity for the next generation.